A UK hardware manufacturer claims to have come up with a "straightforward" workaround for the year 2000 date change problem.
Bournemouth-based FernLink 2000's solution is a plug-in 8-bit ISA card for PCs equipped with BIOS chips unable to handle the year 2000 rollover.
The Millennium BIOS Board acts as a BIOS extension and intercepts date and time functions of the PC BIOS, presenting the information to the processor in the correct, four-digit format. Its board uses embedded software created by BIOS engineer company, American Megatrends, which manufactures the AMIBIOS used on many motherboards. The company has exclusive UK rights to the software.
The BIOS is the software which controls PC devices such as the keyboard, display and, in particular, the chip that returns date and time information.
In older PCs and even early Pentium machines, the BIOS was not written to support four-digit years. Machines installed with such BIOS can potentially hang completely as they attempt to change to 1 January 2000, or revert to 1 January 1980, a hard-wired birth date of the PC.
Fernlink 2000, a division of the Fernlink group which manufacturers bespoke electronic solutions for the MoD, acknowledged that other solutions for fixing the BIOS bug on older PCs are available, but claimed its solution was the most "straightforward".
Ralph Terrill, a director of the UK company, claimed manufacturers such as Compaq would rather users upgraded the BIOS chips themselves.
He explained that while a software fix would be more elegant, "there is no guarantee the software will not be deleted" during the total lifetime of the PC. He said users could inadvertently delete a software fix, or format their hard disk.
As for upgrading the BIOS chips directly, Terrill said this can be a complex process as it is not simply a matter of buying an off-the-shelf BIOS chip. Often, the BIOS is customised by the motherboard manufacturer in order to support on-board hard disk adaptors and other such devices.
"There can be one, two or even four chips on the motherboard containing the BIOS all of which need updating," said Terrill.
He also pointed out that it is not uncommon for the BIOS ROM to be surface-mounted on the motherboard to reduce costs, which means it needs to be unsoldered.
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