Computer consultants warn that the cost of adjusting programs will skyrocket if researchers wait until after their systems crash
Jan. 1, 2000, is coming. While self-proclaimed prophets are out pounding pulpits to warn against impending cosmic doom, computer programmers, engineers, and information specialists are wringing their hands over a far more mundane issue-how computers will handle the switch from the year 1999 to the year 2000. Many fear that some instruments and applications won't handle the change, because the programmers have instructed computer programs to track the year using just the last two digits (such as 98), leaving the century ambiguous. After Dec. 31, 1999, computers won't know whether the new year is 1900 or 2000.

Sounds pretty harmless, doesn't it? But picture yourself on Monday morning, Jan. 3, 2000, the first work day of the new year. You sit yourself down in front of your DNA sequencer-coffee in hand-to...

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