SOFT - TIAFT 1998 Poster Session 4 Friday October 9, 1998

Eric S. Lavins, Ronald L. Cechner and Amanda J. Jenkins

Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office, 2121 Adelbert Road, Cleveland, OH 44106 U.S.A.

As the year 1999 changes to 2000, many laboratories around the world will experience problems as some of their computer clocks reset to 1900, 1980 or 1983. The Y2K problem stems from computer hardware and software that will not operate properly beyond the year 1999. Because of minimal disk space and expensive RAM, early computer programmers used only century sequencing instead of the full year (77 instead of 1977). Today laboratories should be verifying that they are Y2K compliant, taking steps to do so, or designing a plan to "workaround" the problem. First, each laboratory needs to identify the problem and decide how to solve it. Areas of concern include: risk of data loss or corruption, possible litigation for erroneous "date" related errors, disclosure of Y2K compliance or non-compliance to clients and possible problems involving data exchange with non-Y2K compliant government and private sector computers. Applications that involve two-digit date calculations are vulnerable. This includes application software that utilize date fields, file manipulation based on date sequences, permanent storage of files by date and software that prints out date fields.

Y2K is a two-fold problem encompassing both hardware and software. Remedies involve replacing out-of-date software applications and/or upgrading hardware. Data management software as well as PC-interfaced instrumentation (GC, MS, LC, UV/Vis, auto-analyzers, etc.) are of concern. "In-house" software poses the most serious problem because the user is unlikely to have the staff or money to expend on major software overhauls. At the Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office the original programmer for our custom systems is still on staff. The new VIEW system, which manages the entire facility, was written in 1996 and was programmed for full date fields and is Y2K code compliant. Our old tox lab data system, based on a DEC PDP11-70 will not survive the year 2000 transition because the hardware and operating system are both non-compliant with no hope of being made compliant due to obsolescence. Fortunately we have replaced this system with a field tested Y2K compliant product, programmed by one of our staff, called TOXLAB-PC.

All our PC-interfaced instrumentation is not yet Y2K compliant. Compliant systems will include the new data base software, TOXLAB-PC and upgrades to our HP 5970/5890 MSD, 6890 GC and UV/Vis systems. However, even if we did not upgrade, sample processing will still be possible in the year 2000, only that all date related fields will be incorrect. Hewlett Packard, Inc., Perkin-Elmer Inc., Varian Inc. and similar companies have Internet sites that deal with Y2K. Costs of compliance may vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars. There is not going to be a "silver bullet" to deal with Y2K. Only a methodical evaluation of current software and hardware will provide the required solutions for Y2K.

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