Wall Street's 10-day-old project to test how its computers will cope with the transition to the new millennium moved forward Wednesday to Jan. 3, 2000, the first trading day of the next century, with no major glitches.
"It's gone much better than we anticipated," said John Panchery, Year 2000 project manager for the Securities Industry Association. Indeed, Wednesday, as on the earlier days that simulated trading on Dec. 29, 30, and 31, 1999, the only problems that cropped up involved miscommunication unrelated to the date between the various computers set up for the testing.The carefully scripted project, which began July 16, covers stocks, options, corporate and municipal bonds and securities known as unit investment trusts. Although the simulation is no more than a low-volume rehearsal for a much broader trading test next spring, computer experts around the world are scrutinizing the test because it involves 29 brokerage firms, all major stock exchanges and the corporations that clear and process trades for them. The $270 billion securities industry is the first to move beyond individual companies testing their own computers and programs toward testing conditions where computers link many different businesses.
The participants have been looking for signs of electronic foul-ups that could occur if computers or programs running on them fail to recognize that the first days of the year 2000 come after the last days of 1999. The problem is a vestige of the once-common programming technique of using just two digits to refer to the year in dates - 98 for this year, for example. Many programs do not recognize that 00, for the year 2000, or 01, for 2001, represent valid, later dates than the 99 they see for 1999.
Year 2000 problems can result in inaccurately generated data, faulty calculations and computer shutdowns. In some cases, computers may function normally when confronted with a date in 2000 but fail to restart after being shut down.
The testing is scheduled to continue with a simulation of Jan. 4, 2000, for mutual funds and Jan. 22, 2000, an options expiration date.