Consumer Electronics Not Threatened by Y2K, says CEMA

In the children's fable, Chicken Little, the archetypal alarmist, induced fear and panic in his community by running amok and shouting, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" The hysterical fowl has many relatives among journalists and economists, who regularly issue dire warnings about the forthcoming Year 2000 problem.

Y2K, as it is commonly known, is a computer glitch that will primarily affect older computer systems when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 1999. These systems, with only two digits for the date ("99" instead of "1999"), will interpret 00 as 1900 instead of the year 2000. At minimum, the resulting confusion will delay billings, complicate interest calculations, and botch a myriad of other time-dependent record-keeping tasks. In the opposite-extreme scenario, worldwide economic depression is predicted. The end is near!

Although that may be true for many old computer systems---such as those used by the Internal Revenue Service---it certainly won't be for the vast majority of consumer electronics. A recent survey of its members by the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association found that, apart from computers, few consumer products have clocks, and those that do---like VCRs and camcorders---don't depend on their clocks to function.

With the exception of some professional digital audio products that incorporate precise time-codes, and the rare programmable tuner, almost no audio equipment will be affected by Y2K. Audiophiles can rest easy in the knowledge that their equipment will work as usual on New Year's Day, 17 months from now.

According to CEMA, the clocks in other consumer electronics---TVs, VCRs, fax machines, and security systems---likely won't be affected by the change, or can be easily reset. "We believe the number of CE products likely to be affected by the turn of the century is negligible," said CEMA president Gary Shapiro. "For older CE products, Y2K problems probably won't affect the function of the product, and will often be remedied by simply resetting the date." Shapiro was likewise reassuring about personal computers, saying, "Software fixes should be readily available, and in many cases, free of charge."

CEMA members are making information available on websites, through electronic and traditional mailings, and through their customer service centers, Shapiro noted. The survey results were filed with the Federal Trade Commission as part of its ongoing Y2K investigation. The FTC had requested comments from CEMA on May 6.