A 34-year-old year 2000 expert, who sold his first company to Microsoft and travels around the globe dispensing advice on how to prepare computer systems for the date change, predicts there will be inconvenience, not chaos, after New Year's Eve.
"The biggest effect in the US will be the reaction of people to media overhype of the problem and this overreaction is actually going to cause more problems than the [year 2000] problem itself," said Karl Feilder in a telephone interview from Tokyo last week.
"For example, I expect that some banks will have problems in providing the same service that they do at the moment, but . . . this does not mean that there is any risk to your money".
"What it does mean is that if you go to the bank and there would normally be a queue of five people in front of you, there will be a queue of 20 people because the systems are slower," or things are being done manually.
The media coverage of this, showing lines of customers at banks, could result in panic and a run on the banks for no reason, according to Feilder.
"Ninety per cent of it will be inconvenience - having to wait four times longer to cash a cheque at the bank," he predicted.
Feilder is well versed on the year 2000 situation. In 1995, after selling off an earlier network management software firm to Microsoft, Feilder founded Greenwich Mean Time, a UK-based company that offers software tools to help diagnose year 2000 problems.
Feilder also travels around the world researching how organisations are dealing, or not dealing, with the year 2000 situation.
So what will happen on January 1?
Things won't come to a standstill, but problems will accumulate over time if they are not resolved, Feilder said.
"The data in computers becomes more and more corrupt as you move forward. Computers won't stop working. It will start off as a few annoying glitches, and that level of inconvenience will increase," he said. "By the end of January companies will start to see strange anomalies with their data, particularly their invoicing systems, computerised employee payment systems" and their systems related to customers and suppliers.
Just as it is said that there are no computer errors, only human errors which computers are blamed for, companies will use the Y2K problem as an excuse for all sorts of woes, Feilder said.