WASHINGTON _ Will your coffeepot blow up on New Year's morning 2000? How about your VCR? Your answering machine?
Some household items could catch the “millennium bug,” a term for possible year 2000 computer troubles. This problem occurs in older computer calendar chips, which will read the year 2000 as 1900.
The average home may have 20-25 of these chips in various electrical appliances, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. So which ones should you worry about?
In a nutshell, if products use month, day and year in their calendar function — like your camcorder — the machine's computer chip may not read dates correctly. In general, this will only cause minor inconveniences — like the wrong date on your pictures.
Products that do not use the year in their date – only the time of day and day of the week, like your answering machine – should be O.K., said Ann Saybolt, staff director of communications at the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association.
Here are what experts say might happen to your household electronics in the year 2000:
For those made before 1988, you may not be able to set them to automatically tape programs. Some early models have an option to manually change the date to 2000. That would get rid of the glitch.
To check whether your VCR will work in the next millennium, set the date to Dec. 31, 1999. The next day, check to see if the date turned to 2000. If not, you'll need to manually set it. To do that, check your instruction booklet or with the manufacturer.
Camcorders, cameras and fax machines
Anything made before 1988 might have little problems. They'll still work, but the date on photos and faxes will be wrong. Unfortunately, there's no fix for that, say industry spokespeople.
Home security systems
The company may tell you your house system will work fine, but check that the company has its internal networks ready for the year 2000. Make sure you do this before you sign a lengthy contract with them.
TV's, microwaves, answering machines, coffeepots, radios, ovens and cellular phones
Rest easy. They will be unaffected by the millennium change.
“Generically speaking, don't worry,” said Saybolt of the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association. “But if you're concerned, you can always call either the manufacturer's 800 number for customer information or check them out online.”
For more general help with Y2K questions, the Federal Trade Commission and the General Services Administration's Federal Information Center has established a hotline.
This free service, 1-888-USA-4-Y2K, offers free information about topics like power, telephones, banking, government programs and household products. The information comes from government agencies, companies or industry groups. Recorded information is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you have more questions, you can speak to an operator from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday – Friday.