CH00 (Preface) Question from author : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

If you've read through the preface of our book (which you can find at if you don't have the hard-cover version), I'd like to know whether we've painted too alarming a picture of the possible scenarios for Jan 1, 2000. What impact did the preface have on you?

-- Ed Yourdon (, December 22, 1997


If "insurance" is such a well-understood concept, why are we having such trouble convincing people to approach the Y2K problem in this fashion? I suspect it's because insurance for the worst-case scenario is a lot more difficult than just stockpiling a few days' worth of extra food.

-- Ed Yourdon (, December 23, 1997.


Wow -- I think you've formulated the essential test of "are you really, REALLY serious about Y2K yet?" with your comment that

> The "premium" that will cover what I've labeled a "Category IV or V" > post-y2k scenario, is the most expensive I can imagine, short of > paying > with your life. It involves selling out your nice > suburban home, quitting your job, moving to the boonies, finding out > where you can find out > about the info you need to get up to speed on a host of > technologies that are variably obscure, obsolete, out-of-print, > non-available except by > word of mouth, of questionable efficacy, then spending > mucho time on the Internet &/or libraries searching it all out, > evaluating the info, then > spending $$$$ accumulating the goods & knowhow, and > then, finally, the highest price of all: -------- > > ------ standing up to your spouse, kids, rest of your > family, neighbors, superiors, inferiors, & friends & saying, "I > really believe all of what I'm > doing is appropriate for what MAY happen." Are you > certifiable in the eyes of all around you? Darn tootin'.

As with so many other things in life, the first step is usually the hardest. For me, it occurred at the beginning of last summer, when I began working on our "Time Bomb 2000" book; it dawned on me that if I believed what I was writing about, and if I was serious, I should acquire a stockpile of emergency food. It wasn't the cost that made me hesitate, but rather the psychological commitment and the realization that friends, neighbors, inferiors, superiors, etc, might well label me as a kook.

But having made the first commitment (a three year supply of food for four people), the second step was a little easier. And the third step was a little easier...

I still have moments of hesitation, because there are still some pretty big decisions to make (e.g., do I really want to leave my IRA/Keogh funds locked up in such a way that they could become impossible to liquidate as we move into 1999?). But one thing has made all of it easier: the noise level about Y2K has been steadily increasing, and there have been more and more "respectable" people and media articles suggesting that maybe, possibly, this stuff really could be serious. Last week, my mother told me that one of our relatives commented to her, "Maybe Ed isn't such a kook after all..."

-- Ed Yourdon (, December 27, 1997.

Frankly, I thing the preface fully covered the level of uncertainity in this situation. And your comments on "insurance" are right on the money. If we plan for the worse and it doesn't happen, so what?; but if we don't make any plans it could get very bad very fast. As a lecturer I heard said, "Loosers know what they will do if they win; but only Winners know what they will do if they loose".

-- James A. Cobbs (, December 23, 1997.

It is impossible to know whether the preface paints a picture that is too alarming. And a major part of the problem is that no one is going to be able to make an accurate assessment because the information that we need to make informed decisions will not be made available. Companies are too afraid of litigation or a drop in the value of company stock.

Is the scenario in the preface plausible? Unfortunately, yes. I'm not a software engineer, but I do deal with complex, interdependant systems. After a while, you begin to get a sense for when the system is going to break down. Unfortunately Y2K has that "deal's going bad" air about it.

What effect did the preface have on me? Like most people who are going to be to be visiting this forum after the book is published I'm very new to all this (it really hit my awareness about a month ago). So I'm randomly oscillating between optomistic denial and despair. Ask me again in June when I've had the chance to take some concrete action.

-- Nancy Ulrich (, December 24, 1997.

Ed & Jen -

The preface was certainly not "too alarming." The popular media has focused on catastrophic Y2K scenarios. We all know it is not likely that elevators will plummet to the basement or that airplanes will fall from the sky at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31st, 1999. What will likely happen will be less dramatic, but more insidious. I envision things not happeing with a bang, but a whisper, an unsettling rustling before the truly serious economic consequences become apparent.

-- Jeff Gainer (, December 24, 1997.

I think there are a couple of psychological factors that make it difficult to deal with Y2K prep as a form of insurance:

1) Conformity. All my friends and neighbors are carrying on business as usual, so it can't be all that bad. Besides, if they find out I'm preparing for some survivalist scenario, they're going to think I'm a kook. And if it doesn't happen, I'll look like an idiot.

2) Since Y2K prep is so difficult, I probably can't (or won't) do much at this late date anyway. If I've been thinking the problem is very serious, then there is a conflict between my actions and beliefs. This is called "cognitive dissonance." The general response is to change your beliefs to fit your actions, rather than the other way around. Hence, "Well, it probably won't be that bad."

-- Dennis Peterson (, December 27, 1997.

Ed, I answer as a heavy contributor to the Gary North y2k Discussion Forum (you know, the one with all those kooks raving & ranting about God's judgment, etc., etc.)

Also, as an erstwhile programmer (back in the '70s), and an admirer from afar of one of my software heroes, Ed Yourdon.

A brief comment on your preface which is really worthy of extensive comment. BTW, what has already been posted above is quality stuff.

I will focus only on the "insurance" concept, for starters. Here's my take: America is fairly well "insurance conscious," altho nothing to the extent of my Swiss friends. Yes, we pay premiums for auto insurance, car insurance, earthquake insurance, life insurance ---- even tho we don't expect a catastrophe in ANY of those areas. So why do we pay the premium? Because it's C-H-E-A-P.

The "premium" that will cover what I've labeled a "Category IV or V" post-y2k scenario, is the most expensive I can imagine, short of paying with your life. It involves selling out your nice suburban home, quitting your job, moving to the boonies, finding out where you can find out about the info you need to get up to speed on a host of technologies that are variably obscure, obsolete, out-of-print, non-available except by word of mouth, of questionable efficacy, then spending mucho time on the Internet &/or libraries searching it all out, evaluating the info, then spending $$$$ accumulating the goods & knowhow, and then, finally, the highest price of all: --------

------ standing up to your spouse, kids, rest of your family, neighbors, superiors, inferiors, & friends & saying, "I really believe all of what I'm doing is appropriate for what MAY happen." Are you certifiable in the eyes of all around you? Darn tootin'.

Many, many of appreciate what you are doing with publishing your book, aside from "making millions profiting on outright scare tactics."


-- William J. Schenker, M.D. (, December 27, 1997.

Msg to Mr. Schenker: Although you provided excellent input to this discussion group and received a marvelous set of comments from Ed - I was saddened to see your comments about Ed's "new" website as being " atmosphere over there too unreal to be able to hang around for long." It would seem to be more appropriate to let others make their own decisions - it's hardly necessary for you to do it for them. It helps to see where you're coming from when you called yourself the "veteran" on y2k....WOW...and you think you are "up to speed". I don't believe anyone's crystal ball is so good that 3-day, 30-day,1 year and 10 year scenarios aren't all individually possible depending on the subject of discussion. In time this Website should be outstanding and as Ed stated early on, it'll take a couple of months. Too bad you coul;dn't hold your fire and judgement for a bit longer. Happy that you are happy to be back at North's discussion group.

-- Steve Alley (, December 28, 1997.

I've read the preface before and after the release of your book. I don't agree that cars will be unable to start anytime in year 2000. But I do agree that Y2K will likely be a whimper in year 2000; however it is nnot likely to happen on the very first day of year 2000 (or Jan 3rd, 2000).

There is another anomaly indirectly related to Y2K, called Time Dilation (TD). This is a misnomer, because it doesn't accurately describe the problem as seen by others, but is being used as a point of reference. The problem exhibits itself on 286s, 386, 486s, and some Pentiums without a PCI bus. It only occurs when the date is set to year 2000. It's more likely to occur on a 286 than on a 386, etc, but they do occur. This is being investigated by a group in a private e-mail thread. This is considered less serious than Y2K, but it can still affect the date on computers. Specifically, a TD anomaly will cause a computer date to advance (or possibly go backwards) in time months ahead of the date in year 2000 or beyond. We are still investigating it, and going public with it is still premature at this stage. More later, if responded to this post.

I'm a programmer as well as an engineer in satellite communications.


-- Michael D. O'Connor (, December 29, 1997.

I got to the Preface as the first step in doing research on Y2K as a result of some questions from a couple of my "senior" collegues, who have great depth in computer design. They are alarmed and uncertain about what to do. The Preface enormously broadened my knowledge and the book contributed to the depth. Like many others I vacilate between despair and resolve to do something in the next two years. As a first step I'm putting together an 8 session seminar to increase the factual aware- ness of my senior citizen compatriots and to try to elicit their thinking on possible solutions - some of them lived thru 1929-1930's. As seminar examples, I'm using my own experience: e.g. insurance agent - "you're the first person to ask" Equitable Assurance webmaster - "we'll think about adding the link; you're only the 2nd person to ask" Honda service manager - "you're the only person who asked about the ECU" My hope is to get the participants to barrage their servers and demand answers.

Strategy: There's enough of us participating in these forums to get the process started; report back to the forum on the answers.

-- Art Scott (, December 30, 1997.

Your preface was well balanced I thought. I wish to enclose a response to a previous posting.

>>>I've read the preface before and after the release of your book. I don't agree that cars will be unable to start anytime in year 2000. But I do agree that Y2K will likely be a whimper in year 2000>>>> >>>>I'm a programmer as well as an engineer in satellite communications. >>>> Answered by Michael D. O'Connor ( on December 28, 1997.

Mike, I respect both your opionion and your credentials. I am a financial professional (MBA/CPA) involved in very complex financial and computer systems. I am very interested in your reasoning behind your conclusion "that Y2K will likely be a whimper". I am trying to make my own assessment on the Y2K Impact issue. Most of the people I have spoken with "face to face", minimize and even "Pooh Pooh" the entire matter. This includes some programmers, but no one has provided "tangible/solid evidence/support" for their very casual concern and conclusions. That, is the one point that Gary North makes that is begining to cause me to lean toward the more "extreme" scenario. There are plenty of circumstances, which he [and others] enumerates, e.g. software, hardware, embedded systems, etc., that clearly and logically support a very high probability for the "worst case".

There seems to be a "dirth" on the web and elsewhere, of support for the view you have expressed. I am very hopeful though and would appreciate if you could enumerate the basis for your conclusions and any other resources that I could access.

Thank you .....Abe Speiser

-- Abe Speiser (, January 01, 1998.

Dear Mr. Yourdan, Many thanks for your fine work and the courage it must have taken to write the book. It was the preface of your book that convinced me Y2K was a "real" issue back in 5/'97. Somehow your credentials and the matter of fact presentation really got my attention. You were not ranting--nor did you seem to have an axe to grind or agenda to promote. After scores of hours and thousands of pages of research, I now believe that your preface may have been slightly understated, rather than being too "alarmist". Having read some of your subsequent comments on Y2K, I believe you share my concerns about the great majority of blind optimists without facts or history to support their flowery scenarios. Thanks again for your genuine concern for humankind and for the courage to state your convictions.

-- Philip Larson (, January 05, 1998.

While the following is coming from a slightly different direction, it seems apropos: On the front page of Wednesdays Le Monde of Paris (, the famous French economist and former presidential adviser Jacques Attali said the world was on the edge of an abyss and could plunge into a planetary recession of which democracy, in several countries, could be the principal victim ( The reason, he said, was that society was ruled by the laws of panicthe sheep-like movement in which everybody imitates the madness of everybody else. In economics, as in psychoanalysis, understanding is the first step towards a cure.  We must therefore learn to live with panic; that is to sayto use a fashionable Silicon Valley metaphorlearn to surf on an avalanche,  Attali wrote. He listed six other steps for averting disaster: 1) equipping international institutions with the research facilities to stop lying and to tell the truth about the real state of the world economy; 2) taking the worst-affected countries into international trusteeship before financing them; 3) multiplying the fire breaks by sealing off the worlds most volatile foreign-exchange markets; 4) taxing international speculation to increase the financial resources of international organizations; 5) taking counter-panic measures by, for example, getting governments around the world to make public international investments to show the global communitys confidence in its own long-term future; 6) encouraging in the markets a taste for being different, for finding it fashionable to be unfashionable, for going against the grain.

-- Art Scott (, January 19, 1998.

Looks like someone's catching on: 2000 -- THE YEAR OF THE LAWYER It looks like the Year 2000 problem is going to be good for at least one segment of society -- the legal profession. A presentation at a recent underwriter's conference sponsored by Lloyd's of London estimated that $1 trillion or more will be at stake in Y2K litigation. "Almost every reputable law firm has established some Year 2000 law practice," says one attorney, and computer companies that sell systems to local governments are among the first vulnerable targets, says another. (Investor's Business Daily 28 Jan 98)

-- Art Scott (, January 30, 1998.

Finally, something may happen: 2/5/98 *** Clinton establishes 'Millennium Bug' council

After repeated calls from Congress to pay more attention to the year 2000 computer problem, President Clinton set up a council Wednesday to oversee government efforts to exterminate the Millennium bug. The move came on the heels of a report from the General Accounting Office that the nation's air traffic control system could be crippled by the bug because the Federal Aviation Administration has fallen behind in upgrading its computers. Clinton named John Koskinen, former deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, to chair the new council. The order required agencies to assure no critical federal programs experience disruptions because of the year 2000 problem. See Lawmakers doubt FAA can fix 2000 glitch in time, See

-- Art Scott (, February 05, 1998.

The first thing we do, lets kill all the lawyers, King Henry VI, Part II, Act IV, Sc. 2.

So far all my attempts to find facts, rather than conjecture, about potential Year2000 problems have met with frustration. Some people who know what is happening are willing to talk about what is being done but, when it comes to documenting the conversation, no one wants to be named or quoted.

Remembering my own experience working for a large corporation, the orders were not to talk about whats happening within the company until it was cleared by the legal department. At the time this seemed to make sense; no one wanted the company to be inadvertently embarrassed.

My experience with the local electric utility confirms that companies still dont want to be embarrassed by or subjected to litigation because they disclosed some potentially damaging information. By the time the lawyers get finished dotting the is and crossing the ts, one wont be able to know enough to make intelligent decisions. Under these conditions to be most prudent well have to expect the worst and hope for something better.

Some financial institutions are making carefully crafted public statements about their operations to calm the fears of their customers. The statements Ive seen are so general as to preclude any detailed analysis.

Even Peter de Jagers, Project Damocles, which I understand to be a project to put pressure on manufacturers [who] are slow to come clean with the known details regarding systems which will fail... refuses to make public the facts he turns up. He says, Here's a handful of samples with the identifying marks filed off so I can't be sued for libel, slander or malicious intent:

Chemical plant manager describes an embedded chip which, if not fixed, will cause explosions involving Chlorine gas.

Airline Y2K manager indicates that they plan not to fly on Dec. 31st 1999 to 2nd week of 2000.

A list of some 30 medical devices, including model numbers, and a description of how they will fail in 2000.

Large chip manufacturer has identified embedded systems which will fail. The decision on whether or not to inform its customers is being made by the marketing department.

If these allegations are true, the public desperately needs the information but de Jager says, Some of it is unverifiable hearsay and some is unfounded rumor, but some is undoubtedly accurate reporting. While this may make us feel morally superior, I fail to see how it is of much use in preparing for Jan 1, 2000.

Alexander Wolfe in an article in a Canadian paper on Embedded Systems on Jan 14, 1997 says, "The problem is everywhere, from large logging sites scattered across British Columbia to a city where they've determined half their fire trucks won't run after Jan. 1, 2000," said Jennifer McNeill, president of Cipher Systems, in Calgary, Alberta, a company that's focusing on embedded year 2000 problems. One would think that information about fire trucks that wont run would be vital to fire departments all over the world but people are afraid to disclose the details or how to find out the details for fear of being sued. Incredible! The circle is complete and Im back where I started. The first thing we do, lets kill all the lawyers, King Henry VI, Part II, Act IV, Sc. 2.

-- Art Scott (, February 12, 1998.

May people are preparing for disaster at the end of 1999. I don't think we are going to have that long. Government agencies close their financial books and switch to new fiscal years before 12/31 of each year. Around mid-1999, many government agencies will be switching to fiscal year 2000. I believe that we only have about 15 months left until problems start to appear in the government sector. I am personally preparing to be ready by 1/99. Hopefully this has not already been discussed.

-- Mark Preston (, February 24, 1998.

Here's what worries me:

The Y2K problem turns out to be manageable. There are lots of little glitches, but power stays up, transportation is OK, the phones work. People work around the problems using good old human relationships, keeping some paper records, calling suppliers directly. They get by.

But - there's so much fear about Y2K in late 1999 that people panic. They pull their money out of banks and out of the stock market.

The result - what would have been a manageable problem because a terrible economic crisis. Banks fail, markets crash. Not because of the Y2K bug, but because of FEAR of the Y2K bug.

If this happens, the Yourdons are going to have a lot more to feel bad about than a bit of embarrassment when their predictions don't come true. If you yell FIRE in a crowded theater because you imagine the smell of smoke, and hundreds of people are killed in the panic, you've got blood on your hands.


-- Pat Smith (, March 10, 1998.

Ed, I'll go with the preface understates things. I think that it is useful to keep it that way since if you paint a darker picture people will not read the book and then they won't learn.

Pat, I would love to know where you get your optimism about Y2K. I am serious, I really would like to find hard information that Y2K is not going to be a problem. Instead I keep reading about FAA officials that decide to fix what IBM claims that even IBM can't fix, etc. As for Y2K panic causing a stock market crash. How is this possible? The only way you or I can sell our stocks is if somebody is willing to purchase them. When I sell a stock the NYSE doesn't buy it from me, nor does my broker. What happens is this Person A has stock shares & Person B has money. Person A Y2K panics and sells stock. End result is Person B now has the stock shares, and Person A has what used to be Person B's money (reduced by broker's commission). As for the banks.... Well if Person A pulls funds from bank and purchases gold, or land, or tools, or seeds, or books, or medical supplies, etc., the same thing occurs. HOWEVER, if Person A pulls out of the bank and puts the pictures of dead presidents under his/her mattress, if 1.65% of all bank deposits go out in that manner, the entire banking system collapses. This of course assumes that the United States and other nations continue to use that absurd fiat monetary system with not only a central reserve bank, but fractional reserve banking as well! What sane country would use that! Opps all of them. Say you might have a point here somewhere. We may never beable to know if your thesis is true. If Japan doesn't stabilize its current financial crisis, the Japanese might withdraw all of their funds from US banks to shore up their own banks, insurance companies, real estate firms, construction companies, etc. This would be more than 1.65%, end of the present US banking system, begin of the new US banking system.

Art, You say that Clinton's E.O. orders dept. heads to assure that Y2K won't be a problem. Fine, they'll assure everybody that Y2K will not be a problem. Now if only he ordered dept. heads to actually take action that Y2K will not be a problem......

To all, how many small problems does it take to make a big problem? How many big problems does it take to make a disaster? Or nore appropriately, how many small problems plus how many lawyers does it take to make a big problem? If anybody plans on running to the hills on 12/31/1999, waiting just 5 days to see what happens, they're missing the point completely. It is not all going to blow up at midnight (well maybe if the electric grid and gas pipelines go down....). It will be like a coal fired steam railrod engine shoveling its last shoveful of coal from the hopper to the fire box at 12:59 12/31/1999. It will still be running for a while, but then.....

-- Ken Seger (, March 11, 1998.

In response to Pat Smith's concern that the fear of Y2K alone would cause a panic. Put these dates on your 1999 calendar: April 1st, New York State rolls over to fiscal year 2000, the results will be on the evening news. June 30th, lots of other state governments roll over to fiscal 2000, they will be on the evening news. August 22nd, GPS satellites roll over to week "zero" any non-compliant GPS recievers will give unreliable information, and unprepared banks that use GPS time signals will have some surprises, also on the evening news. Sept. 9th, or "9999" which could mean lots of things to mainframe computers except Sept 9th, 1999. By October 30th, when the federal government rolls over to fiscal 2000 we will probably see Bill and Al invoking all kinds of executive orders to deal with this "unforseen" national emergency. Yes, before 01-01-00 the masses will understand and fear the Year 00 problem, and with good reason. Their cry will be: "why didn't somebody warn us last year".

-- Douglas V. Dorsey (, March 11, 1998.

Wouldn't September 9, 1999 be read as 090999, and the default code be 999999? We may luck out on that one!

-- Annie O'Dea (, March 11, 1998.

Re the postings the possibility of creating a panic by talking about Y2K -- remember that "Newsweek" did a cover story on Y2K last June, with some scary predictions. No one noticed. More recently, the March 9th issue of Business Week did a cover story on Y2K; it got nothing more than a loud yawn. By the end of March, Prentice Hall will have 60,000 copies of our book in print. Assuming that each copy has been read by a discrete individual, that still amounts to less than 0.03% of the U.S. population (obviously, some copies have gone overseas, too, but the bulk of the sales have been in the USA). So this means that 99.97% of the U.S. population is unaware of our book ... and probably unconcerned about Y2K in general.

-- Ed Yourdon (, March 12, 1998.

I dunno yet. After reading the 2100 interview and thinking about it, I got pretty durned panicky. The preface to the book obviously did nothing to reassure me. When I was finally able to read a couple of later chapters and think about processes and likelihoods, I felt somewhat better. I currently doubt the end of civilization. I even think that it's worth more staying in my community and helping to prepare the community as a whole than it is equipping a survival home somewhere. If it comes to that, I'm afraid any predictions are not very useful. It would be way hard to call whether it would be safer in the country, in a small town, or even in a larger town. People will have to band together, as they have always had to band together. Don't dream that you can go it alone for long. I think panic is the biggest danger, because it takes away our very ability to function as a group. Which is ultimately what survival depends on.

-- David Olsson (, March 12, 1998.

I was wrong about the 1.65%. According to an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis the 1.65% represents the reserve REQUIREMENTS of the overall banking system, not the present reserves themselves. What are the current reserves? It varies from day to day. Therefore the 1.65% represents the marginal rate of reserves (of banks that are maxed out). Please note that if banks max out they go to the overnight window of the fed. Now if no banks were at the window that would make me happy. The fact that the Wall Street Journal has a graph of this rate every day on page C1 gives me pause. Basically it's the same story, just move the bar a bit higher. As somebody else pointed out there isn't enough paper money in the banking system or printable fast enough to cover even a small bank run. P.S. This much leverage means that a $100 deposit can at marginal reserves *poof* into existance $6,300 of money (demand) via the reitarated loan process. That's a lot of fun during the boom cycle. The flip side is that if a person withdraws $10,000 that causes $630,000 of money to go out of existance. Back in the old days before fractional reserve banking got going there was no such thing as the business cycle. However thanks to fractional reserve banking we now live in more interesting times. Actually bank runs can't happen anymore anyway. Clinton will just invoke the 1980 Emergency Banking Act and that limits the amount of money people can withdraw from the banks to whatever the local bureaucrat says they need to withdraw. So Pat or whoever posted that silly "blood on their hands" post should be happy to know that banks runs have basically been outlawed courtesy of Jimmy Carter's pen. Those bank runs a dozen or so years back in Rhode Island, Mass., and Ohio (which by the way got just about ZERO airtime in the mass media) were not at federally chartered banks.

-- Ken Seger (, March 15, 1998.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ