THE 1972 SOLUTION TO Y2K

Can you remember the good old days? Don McLean's ''American Pie'' was on top of the charts. The ''Godfather'' (Part I, that is) was in the movie theaters. The Miami Dolphins went undefeated and won the Super Bowl. Richard Nixon made his historic trip to China, but then the Watergate scandal broke. Swimmer Mark Spitz was making the U.S.A. proud by winning seven Olympic gold medals in Munich.

The year was 1972 and it's worth noting for more than nostalgia reasons. 1972 is an important year for the Y2K bug. Or at least that's what some information traveling around the Internet is saying to folks who own VCRs.I wouldn't be surprised if some of you have already lost some sleep over this, but others of you may not have awoken yet to the great problem that is before us. What is going to happen with our VCRs in the year 2000? Will they think it's the year 1900 and not be able to receive any more television signals because there were no televisions then? Or will they just never again display the right date and day of the week?

Well, you don't have to worry too much about not receiving signals, but what about getting the days of the week right? If you point your browser to http:// 2000andyou.com/ 2000/articles/gf.html you'll find a simple enough solution.

''If you really want your VCR or other device to get the day of the week right, there's a simple fix. Just set the year to 1972. That year started on the same day of the week as 2000, and is also a leap year. So the year will display incorrectly, but everything else will work fine.''

This sounds pretty good, but there is one little problem. Most VCRs don't know the first thing about 1972, which was, after all, before there was a video store on every corner. Video machines were then still a pretty exotic item primarily used by professionals, and watching a movie still meant going to the movie theater.

Most VCRs were manufactured after 1972 and apparently the manufacturers felt, not surprisingly, that it wasn't necessary to design machines programmed to handle dates before the machines in question existed. In fact, most VCRs are only programmed to accept a limited number of dates, usually about 15 years. How many of you own a VCR that has lasted that long anyway?

And do we really care if our VCRs know exactly what the date is? Many of them don't even use a date and are only programmable for the next week or so. And, so what if the date is off, as long as you're successfully programming it to run on the right day of the week at the right time? This is just not the stuff of which great Y2K problems are made.

The real Y2K issue involves machines that were made back in 1972.

Or, at least that's what the U.S. State Department seems to be saying in a report released this week. The report contains country-by-country Y2K warnings for Americans living or traveling in 194 nations.

The countries cited for relatively high risk of major Y2K failures are Russia and the former Eastern bloc countries where technology still lags well behind the West. India and China are also nations that officials believe may have problems.

So, stop worrying about Y2K and start living. At least you're lucky enough to be in the good ol' U.S.A.

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