Look - Up In The Sky! A Plane, a Jet, an Embedded Chip?

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Sputnik starting it all ... the Russians are really to blame.

I've been thinking about the possibility of embedded chip in our satellites. Then ... there's the ocean-floor communication systems. Will Charlie the Tuna or Superman help? Thoughts have been flooded my neuron-defective brain suffering from synapse degeneration. So many questions, so few answers. I'm in a complete quandry. A syntax with coherent explanations would be encouraging!!! In other words: Hold me hand ... guide me ... tell me if any person, organization, corporation, government or Power Great than Self has addressed this issue. I really don't know. Thanks much.

-- S. McDonald (clinton@infowest.com), January 06, 1998


Mr. McDonald,

You'll need to read Chapter 11 of our "Time Bomb 2000" book, which discusses embedded systems in detail. (end of sales pitch)

In summary: there are now approx 50 billion embedded chips that have been embedded in everything from your digital wristwatch to your VCR and microwave oven, to more serious examples like elevators, PBX telephone switchboards, security systems, satellites and oil-drilling platforms in the North Sea.

Current estimates suggest that approx 5% of these embedded chips are date-sensitive; the other 95% don't know, and don't care, what day, week, month, or year it is. But even 5% is a big number; and because the logic has been "hard-wired" into the embedded system (as compared to the software in a typical mainframe or PC), the problem can usually only be fixed by physically replacing the defective chip. To do that, of course, you need to first be able to find the damn things!

Most organizations didn't think about this issue at all when they began working on Y2K, because it wasn't part of the "charter" of the traditional IT department. And even today, the Y2K budget of many companies only covers the repair of mainframe and PC systems.

This is not the complete story, but hopefully enough to give you an idea of what's going on...


-- Ed Yourdon (yourdon@sprintmail.com), January 10, 1998.

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