Australian IT
You just wait, Y2K man warns
      By STEPHEN ROMEI in New York

REPORTS of the death of the millennium bug are greatly exaggerated, according to the man who first alerted the world to Y2K computer problem.

Legendary American computer programmer Bob Bemer, 79, has rejected suggestions he was the genesis of what Y2K sceptics are calling the last great hoax of the 20th century.

"I have not made any money out of it, so why the hell would I be complicit in fraud?" he asked The Australian from his home in Texas.

Mr Bemer, who warned about the computer date problem in 1971, challenged people who thought it was a con to sue.

"Let them put their money where their mouth is. Let them hire a lawyer and sue. Otherwise, shut up," he said.

Mr Bemer said the estimated $100 billion diverted to Y2K compliance globally was money well spent. "It was insurance. It could have been a real catastrophe," he said.

Although Mr Bemer's warnings about the Y2K problem were dramatic, he consistently said it would not hit home on the stroke of January 1.

He said the problem would manifest in ordinary but upsetting circumstances, such as errors in bank accounts. He warns the real damage will emerge over the first quarter of the year and will touch the day-to-day lives of ordinary people.

Mr Bemer also warned Y2K-related glitches would emerge further down the track because the problem had not been properly fixed.

"They didn't fix the problem, they patched it. In another 15 or 20 years from now it will all fall apart," he said.

Mr. Bemer became a computer programmer in early 1949. He is considered the father of ASCII, the method computers use to translate letters and numbers into digital language.

He first warned about the date problem in 1971, in an editorial in an in-house publication. Eight years later, he published "Time and the Computer" in Interface Age magazine.

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