Computers at Colorado State University Set to Sail Through Y2k

New Year’s will be a celebration of a different kind at Colorado State University. After years of effort and remediation, university officials are confident that no Y2K crashes or other millennium gremlins will hit the university’s computers when the calendar turns over to the year 2000.

And, other than $325,000 for replacement hardware for colleges and departments, the effort has cost the university nothing in additional budget money beyond about $1 million in salary reallocations, said Don Hesser, director of Information Systems and Y2K coordinator for campus.

The year-2000 problem is a consequence of the historic practice of storing years as two digits in computers due to the limits of memory and data storage in early computers. As a consequence, when the new year arrives, some computer programs may exhibit errors in applications that require date formulas, time controls or continuity of record keeping. The Year 2000 Project, started three years ago at Colorado State, has included awareness, inventory, assessment, remediation and the first phase of testing, which now is complete.

"We are in the second level of testing and maintenance to ensure the university’s information systems continue to run into the next century," Hesser said. "Overall, we don’t anticipate any problems whatsoever." When the project started in 1996, Academic Computing and Networking Services was charged with ensuring year-2000 compliance for all central servers, network devices and telecommunication equipment. All now are compliant. ACNS staff members spent several months preparing packets and disks for individual campus units to test and ensure computer compliance.

"About 7,000 computer workstations were tested for Y2K compliance," said Linda McNamara, associate director of information support services at ACNS. "While most passed, others were remediated with the software we provided." McNamara said that a benefit to the Y2K inventory and compliance work is that, when the Y2K census is over, Colorado State will have a more complete database of university-owned computer hardware and operating systems. "This project gave us the opportunity to gather more detailed information than we typically record," she said.

"Staff members of ACNS have provided exceptional leadership and coordination for the Y2K program," Hesser said. "Because of their hard work and the work of many others on campus, Colorado State’s systems will be moving easily into the new millennium."

Donn Hopkins, chief of the Colorado State police department, said the watch desk at police headquarters will be fully staffed for the new year. Although Hopkins doesn’t anticipate Y2K trouble, staff members will be continually checking security and communications on campus.

"The CSU-PD 911 phone system equipment was installed in June 1999 and certified as Y2K compliant," Hopkins said. "The CSU phone switch will work even if off-campus phone service is disrupted. Alternative phone lines on campus have been identified for emergencies if 911 service is not available from U S West."

Facilities Management has checked all embedded systems that serve the campus and has found them compliant. (Colleges and departments have been checking compliance for embedded devices operating for those separate units.) Embedded systems, which are devices that depend on computer chips that perform various calculations, have been tested and passed, including alarm systems, elevators, emergency generators, building temperature controls, ventilation and steam generation plant control systems, water heaters and cooling systems.

"Most of the building mechanical systems don’t run on dates – they just don’t care what year it is," said Ron Baker, director of Facilities Management.

Baker doesn’t anticipate any glitches in Facilities’ maintenance management systems, heating plant control systems or the central, computerized control system, which sends reports such as building temperatures to Facilities workers.

"We’ve checked with all our utility suppliers, including water, electric and natural gas utilities, and we’re confident there will be no problems with any of those services," Baker said. "To make sure all systems are running as usual at the end of the year, we’ll be posting about 10 Facilities employees on campus Dec. 31 and we’ll have 13 more on call to respond to any problems."