Compaq in millennium bug debacle

Compaq is still in the millennium bug wars as the UK Advertising Standards Authority ponders a decision on whether the world number one PC vendor's systems are truly compliant.

Although the complainant in the case - Cambridgeshire-based software tools maker Prove It 2000 - last week welcomed the end of a Compaq advertising campaign that claimed its product were Y2K-compliant, the PC maker said the ad campaign's termination was irrelevant to the case. "We're not running the ad anymore but they're completely wrong in the other respect," said Steve Torbe, Compaq desktop product marketing manager. "That campaign came to a natural end but we're still running ads and will run ads that say we're Y2K compliant. The best solution is to go to the BIOS to check Y2K compliance which is what we've said all the way. What we're trying to do is stop confusion and this isn't helping."

The spat relates to Compaq's lack of compliance with the PC Real Time Clock which Compaq says isn't necessary but Prove It sees as key to Y2K issues. Prove It says that if the Real Time Clock is not fixed then systems left powered up overnight at the Millennium will return a date of 1900.

"If you're going to produce a machine that returns a date of 1900 when it's the year 2000, that's not Y2K-compliant," said Richard Coppel, Prove It chief executive. "Companies of our size don't pick on Compaq for fun but we seriously believe they are deceiving - albeit unwittingly - the public by advertising their systems in this way."

Coppel said Prove It offered Compaq a free fix for the issue but the offer was declined. By contrast, IBM had accepted Prove It's help, Coppel said. "Compaq went into a defensive mode. Their attitude was that we were a small company and how could we know anything about it."

Meanwhile, the case rumbles on. The ASA has struggled to find experts to help make a judgement on the matter and a decision is not expected for weeks. Compaq's Torbe said the firm "has not ruled out taking it further".