Suggestions for 2nd edition of TimeBomb 2000? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Jennifer and I are planning to publish an updated second edition of our Time Bomb book at the end of this year, and we would enjoy hearing suggestions and advice on things that we should add, delete, expand, or modify in the current material.

The main reason for doing this, of course, is that the subject is changing on a daily basis. The fundamentals are still the same, and I think the outcome is likely to be more-or-less the same that we predicted last fall; but there's a lot more information about the details of the problem in core infrastructure areas, the government, the banks, etc.

We plan to do most of the writing this summer, as we did last year; we'll need to turn in a final manuscript to Prentice Hall no later than the end of August, in order to ensure that the books will actually be in the bookstores by Thanksgiving of 1998.

Obviously, we have access to the usual Internet-based sources of articles and reports on the "mainstream" issues of Y2K; we'll do our best to incorporate that information. But we'd like your ideas on what YOU think is most important in a 2nd-edition version of the book, in order to make it most effective and practical for helping your friends and family cope with the Y2K problem.

Once we begin working on the project, we'll probably post draft chapters on my web site, somewhat like we did last summer. It's possible that our publisher may ask us to have "controlled" access to the draft material, in order to avoid cutting into the sales of the existing hard-copy version of the book -- but if that's the case, we'll certainly invite members of this discussion group to participate. We may also start a separate discussion group to discuss and debate the material in the 2nd edition, using the same Q&A forum technology that Philip Greenspun has so graciously provided to us. More details on that later...

Meanwhile, start thinking about what we can do to provide a more helpful book -- there's no question that the feedback and commentary that we got on our manuscript last summer made an enormous difference!

Thanks, Ed

-- Ed Yourdon (, April 13, 1998


Since my second occupation is farming (the first being computer consulting), I haven't seen anything yet that "guesses" as how this will affect the average farmer.

You have discussed the food distribution system, but many large farmers are very computerized. For example, the hog factories that produce most of our hogs today, many have computerized systems to make sure that the temperature is correct and to feed and water the hogs, etc. If that system goes down, the hogs will die without manual intervention and I am not sure that is possible, but we could lose a substantial portion of the hogs in this country, therefore no ham or porkchops. Chickens and turkeys face the same problems, since they are also locked up in big buildings for the duration of their lives. Cattle in feedlots aren't much better off. Another issue is that these animals receive large amounts of antibiotics and other medicines because of being confined. If that was disrupted, there could be large loses due to illness of the animals.

Another issue are the big shiny new tractors that do just about everything or new combines that measure everything and use GPS for precision farming - how many embedded chips are in those? Will they work after 1/1/2000?

Most of the food is produced on mega-farms that require a lot of equipment that uses fuel and a lot of computerized equipment. The family farm is almost dead. Those that run the big farms, don't farm, they manage a business, many have never even been on a tractor. The people that work for them, don't farm, they know how to do labor intensive tasks like kill hogs that don't gain enough weight for their standards.

As for planting crops, they are planted with large amounts of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. They also use hybrid seed, which won't reproduce true if it reproduces at all the second season. It takes a tractor to plant more than 80-120 acres (which is all you can do with one man and a horse). It take a combine to harvest. Trucks to get to the elevator, trains to get to market, etc.

I guess my point is that if the electricity goes out and the farmer can't get fuel, seed and chemicals, we may lose a large portion of our agricultural base and it would only take one season to do that for most of these farmers. Too many farmers owe too much money and if the banks still exist, they may end up owning the farms.

Sorry this got so long and yes I have a complaint about the way farming is today. I don't feel our food is safe or healthy. Also if you look at Geri Guidetti's Grain Supply Reports (The Ark Institute), you would realize that this country has only a few months of grain on hand, that would not get us through a bad season.

Ed and Jennifer you have said that utilities, telecommunications and banking are the 3 most important businesses to look at, but they don't produce the food. People have to eat.

-- Rebecca Kutcher (, April 14, 1998.

Futher to the Farming response by Rebecca Kutcher, I also agree that mass production of food and the contingent computer programs, have been overlooked in the overall assessment of Y2k. In the ICE STORM in Quebec and NE USA this winter, farmers were having volunteers come in to milk the dairy cows, which were in computer regulated barns. They had to be milked and the machines did not work because the power was off. The stress also on the animals caused the milk production to fall off dramatically. Because Canada and the USA are so intertwined with power, trade and natural resource supply, this may be another aspect to cover. If for any reason natural gas lines stop flowing the gas to California, New York and Illinois, how will people and business cope in mid-winter. Maybe the aspect of MID-WINTER and its accompanying problems could be addressed. In -30 deg, without heat, nothing lives....

-- Laurane Nash (, April 14, 1998.

As a Y2K evangelist from Asia - Hong Kong, where the killer chicken flu was found. We definitely understand a life threatening situation when we see one. The Government here killed millions of chickens just to stop a flu from spreading. Y2K actually start everywhere and can re-contaminate compliant systems easily.

My suggestion is how do we ensure the spreading and the re-contamination of the Y2K problem that might keep coming back like a virus.

Asia is lagging behind in a lot of ways on the Y2K front, we are playing catch up right now. I was actually told by a major utility company that they just started the inventory phase. Another major transportation company in HK is only just doing their assessment. With late comers like these, we desperately need suggestions on how to plan for late start Y2K project, risk management and contingency planning might not be feasible any more, we have to plan for catastrophe and how everyday people or work force of these companies should react.

-- David Wong (, April 14, 1998.


I might suggest a section dealing in more depth with social infrastructure issues. For example:

1. If a city's traffic lights fail, or even start operating on the wrong schedule, massive traffic snarls may ensue. This might be annoying for the person trying to get to work, but it could be life threatening for the patient in the back of the ambulance or the person needing immediate assistance from police or fire services.

2. On a related note, what is the state of preparedness for 911 systems?

3. Even if the electricity is flowing to the pumps, are the public water utilities using control devices that might have problems? We might be able to get by without electricity for a few days, but people get thirsty awfully quickly.

4. What happens if the water is flowing but the sewage handling facilities shut down for a few days. How long will it be before the toilets start backing up? (Would that even happen? I don't know.)

I'm sure there are other issues, but you get the idea.

-- Paul Neuhardt (, April 14, 1998.

Thoughts that have poppped into my dark, crowded, little mind:

1) Response in case of residential,business fire. What are the possabilities?

Imagine the power going off for only a day or two. In the middle of Winter. People will want heat, and they will do what they need to do to get it. That means stoves, fireplaces, portable fueled heaters, BBQ grills (?, )etc. If a Northern region loses power how many house fires will there be due to long unused fireplaces, faulty chimneys, rarely used Kero heaters dug out of the basement, etc. I think we need to examine the recent events in the Northeast and the midwest where power was lost due to storms/flooding. I have heard tales of multiple house fires overwhelming small town fire companies. What about larger cities?

Perhaps a 'firefighting' fallback needs to be discussed. Fire extinguishers, chimney inspections, sand buckets, battery powered smoke/CO2 detectors....... My family is looking at these and more. (last night I mounted two more extinguishers in strategic locations in our home.)

2) I will echo the other suggestions on a hard look at food production. I come from a small farm background and live in the small farm capitol of the world. Things have changed drasticly in the past few decades. Our food production systems are fragile things, just as most overstressed systems run at the ragged edge are.

3) Perhaps now as more information comes to light on Asian and European business readiness for Y2K we might delve deeper into the global nature of our economy? Frankly, Asia appears to be in deep deep trouble. How about Germany? How about Switzerland? How about....? Lets examine what strategic raw materials come from countries in trouble and what effect their loss might have on our economy.

4) (PREPARE TO FLAME) Perhaps we might discuss how our own government might react to a minor/medium/massive failure of the infrastructure? What procedures are in place to deal with it, if any, and what will happen when those procedures are used? Lets look back at history as a guide, and research a bit into what documents might be available to give us a hint. Here we may be entering the confusing world of 'politics'. Maybe an area more dangerous than y2k itself! Coming into 2000 we are also faced with a major national election and I believe that will play a major role in what happens. Then again, National election votes are counted by Computer. IS THAT EQUIPMENT GOING TO WORK?!? WILL there be an election?!?

5) I think it would be a useful tool to pick a few objects and trace back the effect Y2K will have on them. Something as simple as a sheet of paper, or a gallon of gasoline. Track in reverse from the page in hand back to the raw materials from which it came. Look at how interlaced and interdependant things are from that point of referance. I do this sometimes with people in trying to explain how troubling Y2K is.

6) Having back traced a few items to see how their production can be effected by Y2K, lets now forward trace them to see what might happen if we lost that item for a month or two. Try, say, newsprint. What would it mean to America to lose almost all newspapers for a few months? What about toilet paper???!!!!

I have regurgitated enough here to keep someone busy for a few minutes. Thoughts ?

-- Art Welling (, April 14, 1998.

I posted this in the Technology section, but it pertains here. I am very interested to know how the embedded code in orbiting satellites will fare. Such systems have very strict memory restrictions, just like the original mainframes, and it would have been tempting for programmers to compress their clock-calendar code by using only two digits. So how will the embedded code on communications, GPS, spy, etc. satellites react to the date turn-over?

-- David Palm (, April 14, 1998.

Add a fictional scenario based on the best available information with the central characters being skeptics, say with a "true believer" co-worker or neighbor. What will Y2K be like at Y2K + 1 hr, 8 hrs, 24 hrs, 48 hrs, 7 days, 1 month, 3 months, etc.

-- Greg Lawrence (, April 15, 1998.

Has there been any discussion of the inflation caused by any possible 'fix'? I have read numbers in million, billions, trillions. What does that mean in terms of the cost of a loaf of bread, a gallon of gas, or the pair of shoes. As we keep preparing for a breakdown in the delivery system of food and other things, I wonder how much they will cost if Humpty Dumpty gets put back together. With all the estimates of the cost of code and embeded technology repair, the average person would like some idea of what will happen to prices. Thank you, julienne

-- julienne (, April 15, 1998.

I am truly impressed with your book. One section that must seriously be considered for for the next edition is the topic of hysteria (bear with me as I explain). I have no backround in sociology or any other social science for that matter, but I am a human being and I know how they react in times of extreme stress or circumstance.

Maslow's heirarchy of needs dictates that the most basic instinctual needs for survival are food/water and safe shelter. I live in an average sized city in the downtown area, with a population of around one million people. I have a certain feeling that if the power/water was out or there was no food for a few days, there would likely be panic, markedly increased theft, and gerneral lawlesness. When I try to convey this idea to friends or family, I have a hard time convincing them that this is a likely outcome of such a traumatic event as Y2K. As you stated in your book, I think that such a scenario is simply too terrible for most people to accept.

But let's face it, people behave very differently when they perceive that they are in danger. I have an uneasy feeling that the usual rules for conducting oneself in society after 12/31/99 are going to be vastly different than we know them today. When people are hungry/thirsty/injured or have a friend or loved one who is, they will begin to act out of desparation. The Y2K problem stems from computers, but its implications are very human in nature.

What is the best way to cover this subject? I simply don't know, except to make people aware that the possibility exists that a state of hysteria could cover much of the country depending on how severly they are affected by Y2K shutdowns. The best advice I could think of giving is the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Hopefully most people can remember to abide by this divine, time-honored philosophy.

-- Jon O'Dette (, April 17, 1998.

I read the on-line version of your book "Fall Back" in August. I have also since read Timebomb 2000. One thing that struck me in the Fall Back book was the uselessness of the 10 year sections. It was obvious that you just couldn't imagine that scenario. (Who can? Perhaps Gary North comes close ;-) I thought that concept would be either removed or more developed when the book was printed. It was more developed in parts but remained largely the same.

The 10 year sections take some serious thought. With what is going on in the world financial markets, however, the 10 year financial disruption seems extremely likely. I loved your huge chapter on banking. Most of that was not in the Fall Back version. It was excellent... Imagine the whole world as a big roulette wheel. All of the money is going to be riding on the US Dollar come 1/1/2000. We'll then see where the wheel comes to rest.

When I recommended Fall Back to folks back in the summer I said "Read the chapter on government. It is great." Now I say that about the same chapter in Timebomb 2000 - but it is now really great.

Another thing that is striking is the seeming schizophrenia when it comes to assessing likely damage. We go from discussing the meltdown of world governments and financial institutions to discussing home appliance dependability. I think the book could do with a "weeding" of the more trivial aspects of the problem that cause people to think it is too silly to spend their time on. The tame stuff can just be stripped out to make room for more important stuff (food preparation, wealth protection, water purification, etc).

I love your book Ed and Jennifer. I don't know if I'll spring $20 for the next one though. By that time I might be a little more concerned about the loud sucking sound coming from the Far East.

-- Rod Swab (, April 18, 1998.

IMHO the most important chapter in the current book is the last one re: the domino/ripple/network effect. This is a much bigger and complex problem than the internal problem[fix all of the systems within our corporate walls].

Please provide info on what is being currently done in this area. Any 'Best Practices' out there?

P.S. I loved the diagrams in the last chapter, they visualize the problem so well.

-- Valdis Krebs (, April 20, 1998.

I folowed this situations for a long time. I have the entire pre-publication of the book, and have followed Gary North since he made his first snail stuff in early 1997. Would like to believe that this is a joke, but once again like many others, I am the only one who is preparing that I know, and most people I do know are simply tired of hearing about y2k from me. When I need to be re-reminded of how important this all is, the thing that has the most impact is comments from actual programmers who are struggling with the problem. Ed, if I were you I'd look for programmers working on the y2k problem who will give varied and substantial views about how things are working in their attempts to solve the issues. JS

-- Joseph Smith (, April 21, 1998.

Everyone wants to know "what will happen", yet there is so much we can only guess at ...

Perhaps if you had a series of scenerios, each with a slightly different emphasis, for example "no electricity for a month, then full power" a second one might be dominated by a total tieup by rail traffic for 3 months. Another one might explore if the predicted stock market meltdown happens in 1999 instead of 2000. Perhaps when worked through, several of these might take us to the same place. That would be interesting.

-- David Holladay (, May 04, 1998.

One more idea.

There has been a lot of discussion about how to prepare *for* Y2K, but almost none on preparing for life *after* Y2K has passed and most problems have asserted themselves. Of course, in-depth discussion would require knowing how Y2K will pan out, but if you were to use a little imagination you can probably envision some scenarios and play them out, at least for speculation's sake.

There could be several long term impacts of Y2K not directly related to the problems caused by abberant systems, and the severity of the Y2K problems might determine the reaction. If western civilization really is brought to it's knees for months or years, could the Luddites actually become reality in the civilization that follows?

Assuming no societal collapse, what will happen to the overall public's trust in systems? The more the public suffers at the hands of quirky systems, the lower the acceptance of new systems and new technology is going to be going forward. This has a whole slew of possible impacts: Economic problems due to a massive slowdown in technology sales. Severe slowing of scientific and engineering advances as the technology we once depended on for these tasks becomes more scarce, more expensive and less trusted. Fewer students interested in pursuing technical educations might carry the previous problem through the next generation or two.

Of course, there could be an upside to this situation. Software development has generally lacked the rigor of the engineering disciplines. Y2K might help spur wider acceptance and use of better practices throught the discipline. In fact, I would guess that the harder the fall from Y2K the more likely this will be to occur. Beyond that, engineers may get the hint and make embedded systems more servicable in future equipment, helping to prevent or at least mitigate some of the issues we face now.

In short, even if society survives intact it might be changed for years or even decades after. Those changes could be negative or they could be positive, but one thing seems likely, at least to me: The larger the impact of Y2K the longer the after-effects will shape our future and that of our descendants.

-- Paul Neuhardt (, May 07, 1998.

Based on what I read on your website last year, not the actual book:

- Use more humor as you do in several places on your website

- Add data from status reports on Y2K projects from any size organization (or should I say the lack of status reports?)

- Add a few pages to convince readers the Y2K problem can be solved: Today the assumption that Y2K can be solved "manually" by humans (rather than computers doing sll the find & fix work) is wishfull thinking -- an opinion based on faith and hope. Where are the data to prove Y2K can be fixed in the one to three years most organizations are devoting to remediation and testing? Or even proof Y2K can be fixed in five years?

- Add a caveat that you and your daughter are not Y2K "experts" -- I'm not trying to insult you but there are no Y2K "experts" in the world who can say they've led a sucessful Y2K effort at a large organization -- meaning there are no Y2K "experts" at all! Even a Y2K project leader who claims to be 90% done can't claim to be an expert -- I'm sure you know many large software projects spend more time getting from 90% done to 100% done then they spent getting from 0% to 90% done! Some large projects never get past 90% done!

- Good luck with your book and thanks for helping to alert our nation which seems much more interested in Monica Lewinsky. And where is Al "high tech" Gore when you actually need him?

-- Richard Greene (, June 23, 1998.

There are many thoughtful comments above, some of which I'll second.

1. Many authors have used the 'trivial' cases to bring Y2K into the household, e.g., microwaves, VCRs, etc. As a result, people have tested VCRs, found that they didn't turn their toes up, and declared Y2K to be a hoax. I believe that we now have a substantial number of reported embedded system failures that these could be used, including large ships that could (according to Shell Oil) suffer up to 5 points of failure per ship. The Fortune article on GM provides another good real life example.

2. Definitely expand the food chain section. I agree with the comments about the farmer being impacted. My neighbor is a dairy farmer who would be really wiped out by a fuel shortage that prevented his buyer picking up milk on a daily basis. I see a real threat in getting the year 2000 crop planted because of delivery of hybrid seeds, and I see a real problem in getting anything that was grown to market, based on the performance of the merged UP/SP railway, leaving tons of grain along side silos in the fall of 1997.

3. I have a hard time with the duration of disruptions. There's a big gap between a month (30 days) and a year (300+ days). I know you were trying to do things on a log scale.......each duration being 10 times the previous.......but a year or more really stretches a benign viewpoint. My guess is that 6 months is about the breaking point between being able to recover the civilization we know now and awakening to civil war.

4. Comments on state and local government would be appreciated. I still am bangin on my local governments in the hope that enough survives so that I can survive along with it.

Good luck with it, Ed and Jennifer.

DeAlton Lewis

-- DeAlton Lewis (, June 24, 1998.

Hi, Ed and Jennifer, Having read this site daily for the past month, and seeing people's concerns, I have a very practical suggestion... Worst Case Senario: It's Oct. 1, 1999 and the Federal Govm't computers have shut down. Although Senator Robert Bennett stated (today on 700 Club) that Social Security should be o.k., the checks are cut by the Financial Management Services, or whatever the department's title is. No checks go out, no welfare checks, no checks to any government employees. Within a few days there is a run on the banks (as predicted by some on this forum). Next, there is a mandate to turn in all cash, gold, and silver. (Remember: "Worst Case Senario") In view of this possibility, instead of stashing money, would it not be wiser to stock in food, water, paper goods, first aid, etc.? Surely there could not be an edict to turn ;in those things!!!

-- Holly Allen (, June 24, 1998.

Year 2000 Computer Problem Countdown

((feel free to borrow/use in your new book) Here are some of the key dates on the route to the year 2000:

July 1, 1998 -- Start of Fiscal Year 1999 in 44 of the 50 states October 1, 1998 -- Start of Fiscal Year 1999 for the Federal Government January 1, 1999 -- Start of Calendar Year 1999, expect major computer problems on this day. April 1, 1999 -- Start of Fiscal Year 2000 in Japan and the United Kingdom April 9, 1999 -- 99th day of 1999, recorded as 99/99 on some systems. Mimics a system halt command on many systems. July 1, 1999 -- Start of Fiscal Year 2000 in 44 of the 50 states August 22, 1999 -- GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) rollover week. Expect numerous transportation systems to fail. September 9, 1999 -- 9/9/99 used as special key by lots of programmers. Mimics a system halt command on many systems. October 1, 1999 -- Start of Fiscal Year 2000 for the Federal Government December 31, 1999 -- The really big party January 1, 2000 -- The really big hangover. The single biggest day for computer failures. Expect embedded chip failures as well. January 3, 2000 -- The first regular business day (Monday) in the new century. January 10, 2000 -- First date that requires 7 digits: 1/10/2000 January 31, 2000 -- First end of month in new century. February 29, 2000 -- Many systems will forget about the leap year day March 31, 2000 -- First end of quarter in new century. October 10, 2000 -- First date that requires 8 digits: 10/10/2000 December 31, 2000 -- First end of year in new century.

-- David Holladay (, July 02, 1998.

Why not include a section containing real answers based on the experience of y2k fixers to the following question: What would have happened if we had done nothing? (to fix y2k) As you may note I have already asked this question in your forum. It is similar to asking for real examples of y2k. This may be another way of getting the point home. The feedback would probably have to be anonymous depending on whether it is an 'official' view. Regards Richard

-- Richard Dale (, July 03, 1998.


fantastic service!

RE; additions to the book :

Philosphy - first, last and always, philosphy; - i.e.

1) an historical treatise on the invalid philosophical premises upon which the problem was created,

i.e.- " don't worry about it, this software/hardware/system/manager/company will be gone by then anyway"


2) the philosophical conclusions some may draw from the post- 2000 society and culture we may find ourselves in : i.e.

- is man able to create "systems'' more complex than man can control?

- are nuclear power generation, the power-grid, and interlinked information/telecommunicaton/financial systems some of these?

- is there a better way to prepare a cutlure for serendipitous events like the random mis-handling of double digits....?

- is this country (USA) too large/complex for the extant political process to govern rationally? - does y2k prove this?

- if we ask questions from the position of the survival of the species : from whence have we come, where are we headed, and what will life be like for the next 10 or so generations?

- how has the y2k event changed the nature of mans relationship to his mind, his creative abilities, his environment, his technological prowess, etc? - what options can be offered for a species-oriented future that humankind might take that will in the end, provide for greater self-actuailziaton for most humans than the current systems, et al, have offered? i.e.

- how, and when, will most be able to realize the benefits of technology and division of labor and creativity and inventions, while not having to bear the burden of 50% tax rates on their labor, and political edicts that all but deprive men of their humanness?

- will the masses ever unite in such a way that they will take back for themselves, the essence of what it is to be a free, intelligent, human being? will the y2k event have been the catalyst for this?

- can the y2k event play a positive role in the future betterment of mankind? [you are, just by offering this service!]

- is it possible that this event can be the half-time huddle, where we all take a breather, re-chart the game plan, and then get out on the field with a renewed vigor to make things right this time?

[I shudder to think of the consequences if we don't...]

You catch my drift, I'm sure.. .

Again, you are doing a yeoman service. Just keep it alive!

Thanks, Perry Arnett

[i.e. -how the hell did it happen, and how the hell are we not going to let it happen ever again? for your kids sake and mine!]

-- Perry Arnett (, August 01, 1998.

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