John Bryant
Arizona Computer Consultant
(602) 861-1738

THE YEAR 2000 BUG
It's the End of the World as We Know It (Not Quite)

(November, 1998)



1998 Computer ResolutionsThe turn of the millenium has a reputation historically for bringing out the Doomsayers. Even in my younger years I remember reading about the prophecies of Nostradomus, speculations from Revelations and other “End Times” stories. I thought I’d heard it all, but I never expected them to start blaming my computer!

Last week, I watched a television story about the Year 2000 bug (fondly nicknamed “Y2K”). This nationally televised news clip calmly described the Y2K bug and how it effects computers. At the end of the news brief, there was a “Y2K Preparation List” which included the following: 1) Make sure you have a working fireplace or woodburning stove; 2) Stock up on at least 3 months of wood; 3)Purchase at least 3 months worth of canned food and distilled water; 4) Have 3 months worth of cash on hand, etc, etc. “That’s it” I thought, “the end-times have reached prime time - and our computers have become The Demon.”

Perhaps the number 666 will be the processor speed of our computers on January 1st, 2000.

The Facts

The Year 2000 (Y2K) bug is a legitimate problem for larger businesses, public utilities and many branches of the government. It stems from the fact that many older systems were set up to handle the year as a 2 digit number. When the last two numbers become “00”, the computer’s hardware (and/or software) has been pre-programmed to parse those digits into a specific date. “Y2K” compliant computers recognize “00” as the year 2000. Non-compliant sytems may default to “1900” or a more recent year, like “1986”.

The Effects

For the average computer user and business owner, the Y2K bug can be detected and diagnosed in a matter of hours. Solving the problem may mean upgrading older hardware and some software. For the most part, it qualifies as an inconvenience at best. Much larger organizations, such as utilities, financial institutions and branches of the government are at a higher risk, because of the enormous cost and time required to overhaul antiquated equipment. There is sufficient legitimate concern that there is now a Congressional Committee dedicated to the Y2K problem.

Predictions

With tongue firmly planted in cheek, I predict the following for January 1st, 2000:

  • Massive Business closings will occur. At least 60% of Americans will stop working - for New Year’s Day. After the holiday is over, these businesses will resume as always.
  • Public Utilities (whom have been warned about this problem for at least 3 years) will somehow find the resources necessary to resolve their Y2K problem, rather than shutting down completely. Call me a renegade on this one, but my hunch tells me that someone at APS and SRP is trying to avert unprecidented disaster.
  • Certain areas of local and national government will be caught unprepared for the Y2K problem. Does this surprise you? Actually, I’m not convinced that a shutdown of certain government institutions qualifies as a problem. Hmm......

The Solution

For most people, the Y2K bug can be diagnosed and resolved in short order. For news and information about the the Year 2000 problem, take a look at www.y2k.com. Personally, I think everything will be back to normal by April 1, 2000. That’s the day I plan on coming out of my bomb shelter to re-stock on Spam, Perrier and chord wood.


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