"If Y2K was a heart attack, this will be more like heartburn," says Charlie Greenwald, a spokesman for the Information Technology Association of America, a trade organization in Arlington, Va. "The early change to Daylight Saving Time is limited to software and systems that process date and time as part of their functionality whereas concern with Y2K was code at all levels of the system. This isn't a hard or expensive problem to solve - it's mostly a matter of awareness."
This year’s early change to Daylight Saving Time is mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and will be made at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday in March - the 11th - rather than April 1, the first Sunday in April. Daylight Saving will end on the first Sunday in November instead of the last Sunday of October. President Bush signed the bill into law two years ago and it takes affect this year.
Experts say computers won't crash, but without the required software patch there could be a range of annoying problems, including:
- Calendaring applications may be thrown off, showing incorrect times for recurring meetings.
- Incorrect arrival and departure times may be common in the travel industry.
- Bank transaction dates may be incorrect and result in late fees.
- Timed stock trades might not be completed on schedule.
- Time locks may not function properly. Deadlines for time-sensitive enrollments may be missed.
- Billing errors may incorrectly charge cell phone users peak rates during non-peak hours.
"It's going to be widespread," Cameron Hait, vice president for research at Garter told CNBC's Squawk Box. "We've heard it described as a 'mini Y2K' or 'Y2K-7.' That's probably a bit of an overreach, but there's going to be a rather large annoyance factor associated with this."