Is Europe Ready For Y2K?

At an Aug. 18, 2005 fashion event, Nicole Richie flies high with her angel wing tattoos. "The Simple Life" star also has a rosary tattooed around her ankle.
GETTY IMAGES/Amanda Edwards
It's been coming since we started counting time, but is Europe ready for Y2K?

The answer varies from a smug "absolutely old boy" in Britain to a Latin "who cares" in Italy.

The British started getting ready ages ago, reports CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey. One service that began as a helpline for businesses has become a domestic advice service.

"Little old ladies ring to say 'my vacuum cleaner has stopped working, is that anything to do with the millennium bug?'" said Sharron Keightley, helpline manager.

The official committee claims utilities and telecommunications are ready for the dreaded "millennium bug," which they say should never have occurred anyway.

"How this problem was allowed to be sustained by the computer industry into the nineties still escapes me," said Don Cruickshank, chairman, Action 2000.

The whole idea of Y2K readiness nearly escaped Italy. Until a few weeks ago the country had been classed with Third World nations. And even now independent advisers are crossing their fingers.

"All the rest of the world used two years to do this, we're using four months," said computer consultant Paolo Tedone.

But the man in charge of Y2K compliance in Italy says there will be no big problems, "only many small ones."

"We are confident the main infrastructures will be okay," claimed Prof. Augusto Leggio, director of the Italian Y2K Committee.

The most vulnerable places are hospitals.

"We fear a power blackout and a water supply blackout and a drug and medical supply blackout," said Doctor Sergio Arena.

Another, many believe, is in the air. But when the much ballyhooed hour comes, there will be only seventy planes in Italian airspace normally geared to handle 200 at any given moment. So, Italians say, if Y2K worries you, come here.

As a country Italy may be the worst prepared in Europe for Y2K, but as a people Italians will probably cope best. Public services here are chaotic and inefficient at best, many people say, so anything short of total catastrophe will barely be noticed.