Y2K watch spoils New Years plans

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Y2K watch spoils New Years plans: Execs will join working stiffs on job in case tech bugs bite

At least a million Americans will be at work when the new millennium begins, according to one estimate.

Fancy dinners, champagne toasts and Auld Lang Syne are not on the agenda for more people than usual this New Years Eve. Theyll be packing briefcases and lugging laptops  heading to work. Utilities and hospitals, police departments and software companies, banks and stock markets are all piling on workers just in case the Y2K 2000 computer bug bites.

THIS NEW YEARS EVE, AT&T Chairman Michael Armstrong, Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers, Hewlett-Packard President Carly Fiorina and Microsoft President Steve Ballmer will join the long-suffering ranks of police, fire and medical personnel who always work holidays.

(Microsoft is a partner in MSNBC.)

Well have about 20,000 employees at work when midnight comes, said Hewlett-Packard Co.s Brad Whitworth. And I dont think well have champagne. There will be time to party later. PARTY PLANS ARE CANCELED Hewlett-Packards president will be spending at least part of her New Years Eve at the companys Y2K command center, a huge, wired conference room backed with electrical generators and stocked with bottled water and emergency supplies at corporate headquarters in Palo Alto.

Thousands of AT&T Corp. employees  forbidden to leave town between Dec. 15 and Jan. 15  are also preparing to spend their New Years Eve watching digital networks and standing by in SWAT teams at the companys Basking Ridge, N.J., headquarters and other facilities around the world.

At Cisco Systems, the CEO will spend his New Years Eve at Ciscos San Jose, Calif., headquarters answering customer calls  if any come in. Obviously the customer at Cisco always, always comes first, said spokesman John Earnhardt. 24-HOUR-SHIFT Dave Johnson, a public relations spokesman for the AT&T Network Operations Center in Bedminister, N.J., will begin his News Years shift at 6 a.m. on Dec. 31. He expects to leave the center 24 hours later.

During his shift, Johnson expects to answer hundreds of phone calls from reporters asking if the center, which handles 280 million telephone calls each day, is still functioning.

New Years actually starts for us at 6 a.m. (eastern) when it becomes Jan. 1 in New Zealand, Johnson said.  By the time midnight rolls around on the east coast, we will have already passed through 17 other time zones in the world, so we should have a pretty good idea of whats going on.

And while some people would be less than thrilled about working on New Years Eve, Johnson said hes looking forward to it. John Gantz, a senior researcher at International Data Corp. in Massachusetts, has been studying the worldwide impact of Y2K. He said 90 percent of the large companies in the United States will have extra staff on duty even though most dont foresee major problems. He estimates at least a million people will be at work at midnight.

Some companies, Gantz explained, have gone so far as to tell their key employees that they must be alcohol-free on New Years eve  even if they arent working.

Everyone I know knows someone who has to work because of the millennium, he said. Whats surprises me is how willing people are to come in. I would have never believed that. LITTLE SYMPATHY Some workers accustomed to pulling shifts on big family holidays have little sympathy for this years Johnny-come-latelys. Edward Martin, a 20-year veteran with the Los Angeles Fire Department, will spend his New Years Eve sitting at a desk inside the departments dispatch center. He has worked 16 of the last 20 New Years eves.

It will be just like a normal day for the people here, said the 48-year-old father of five. Someone still has to send out the fire trucks.

Martin said that he hoped all the executives who work this New Years eve come away with a new appreciation of what shift-workers do on a regular basis.

PARTY AT MICROSOFT At Microsofts headquarters in Redmond, Wash., 300 programmers, developers and managers will be standing by in case of trouble  and spending the evening partying with Ballmer.

We didnt think it would be good for morale to have them just sitting around waiting for something to happen, said Don Jones, Microsofts director of Y2K readiness.

There isnt compensation time or extra pay, but the company is serving everyone champagne and dinner, a disc jockey and child care are provided, spouses are welcome, and time capsules will be given out.

Chairman Bill Gates will be spending the evening with his family, but Ballmer and other top executives will be playing host  in typically casual attire  through the midnight shift.

Jones said party invitations have been a hot item.

We had to turn people away, he said. Where would you rather be than Microsoft on New Years Eve?


Is that a trick question?

-- Steve (hartsman@ticon.net), December 09, 1999


In Denmark, Oracle (the Database company) have invited all their employees and families to an overnight party (in the Oracle offices) on the 31st Dec/1st Jan. But they've insisted that anyone who comes should dress up in 1900 costumes. And they say that there's going to be a surprise 'which they won't reveal' at midnight.

-- Risteard Mac Thomais (uachtaran@ireland.com), December 09, 1999.

And the travel industry wonders why no one is traveling, staying in hotels or attending concerts - its simple - everyone is working!

-- Sheri (wncy2k@nccn.net), December 09, 1999.

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