CBSN

Millennium Bug Bites UK

Y2k bug
CBS
Attention shoppers. Post-Christmas sales in London have produced something neither customers nor retailers had bargained for. At about 10,000 outlets in the city the supposedly Y2K-friendly credit card machines have stopped working.

"This is our new machine," says retail manager Polly Rissen. It is supposed to be Y2K proof. But if you put a credit card through, what happens? "Nothing," Rissen explains. "It doesn't work at all."

The bank says it's just a glitch, CBS News Correspondent Mark Phillips reports. The machines' software looks ahead four days and should fix itself after New Year's Eve when all the dates agree. In the meantime, the bank says a few extra keystrokes should make it work.

"But if you hit a couple of buttons, you enter and clear twiceÂ… and it's blank. Nothing works," Rissen says.

What does work is the old card swipe machine, and pen and paper.

After assurances from banks and governments that everything was under control, it turns out it's not. Computers that were supposed to handle the conversion to the year 2000 have become confused. It's not a full-scale infestation of Y2K bugs, but advance-scouting parties have arrived. Watchdog groups say they may not be the last.

"What we are worried about is what we've described as death by a thousand cuts, or maybe death by a thousand glitches. In other words, a whole lot of small problems like this. Nuisances, easily resolved, all happening around the same time, could become unmanageable," says Robbin Gruenier of Taskforce 2000.

In the shops, they've managed.

"If anything's going to happen it's going to happen," Rissen says, with a shrug. "You just have to deal with it when it happens."

It's a lesson for the millennium that we may all have to learn.