If the Y2K pundits are correct, you won't have to wait until the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve for the Millennium Bug to make its presence known. Experts say that minor errors should creep up in computer systems as 1999 progresses and those systems' applications require post-2000 horizon dates. So far, so good, though some minor problems were reported, like in the Swedish passport office, where read "99", not as 1999, but as computer code to mean "end of run," shutting down the application on New Year's Day. Another date to watch: Sept. 9, 1999. Some computer programs may read that date as 9999 -- shorthand for end of file or date unknown, causing data to be deleted or programs to crash.


If you haven't started stocking up on candles and flashlight batteries or invested in a portable generator to prepare for a New Year's Eve power blackout, you may want to save your money. The North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) reports that more than half of all mission-critical power systems in North America are already Y2K ready. Most should meet the government's June 30 deadline for Y2K compliance for power companies. At any rate, impact analysis so far has turned up only minor errors in electric companies' computer systems, such as incorrect dates in logs or monitor displays, nothing that would knock out power grids.