Does anyone out there take this problem seriously?greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Speaking as a technical professional, I am appalled at the manner in which your Discussion Forum is being used. I approached the Forum expecting to participate in serious discussion and commentary that might enlighten me about potential sources of the Y2K problem, and possibly even include proposed methods of diagnosing, handling, or solving such problems. Instead, I have encountered alarmist, irrational, and even silly, messages that (for the most part) appear to be motivated by ignorance and fear rather than a genuine interest in investigating and resolving the Y2K problem. The discussions are primarily sensationalized speculations about what kind of Armageddon the millennium might bring about and what kind of extreme measures might be required to survive in the fictitious anti-utopia aftermath. Presumably, the fact that the Y2K problem happens to coincide with the millennium, has struck a chord with a significant number of quasi-religious / militant / survivalist-minded individuals which seem to be using the Y2K issue to justify their own extremist points of view or to claim prophetic fulfillment of one kind or another. This is nonsense! The truth regarding the Y2K issue is that no one really knows what the impact of Y2K will be. Yet the distinct impression I get from your discussion forum is that no scenario, other than the worst possible scenario, is possible. Starting with only this information (and taking into account a public that is largely ignorant when it comes to detailed technical issues) and you have the making for a very serious public threat; not from the Y2K issue itself, but from a frightened, half-informed mob that thinks the sky is falling. I am not trivializing the Y2K issue; quite the contrary. The Y2K issue is a big problem. But it is a problem that will not be addressed by burying one's head in the Arizona sand in a "survivalist" gesture. This problem will only be resolved (or minimized) by the serious application of the best technical minds, many of whom have contributed to the problem to begin with. I urge you Ed, to use your position as a highly respected Software Engineer to try to inform and assist the public, and not to try and incite them to frenzied, irrational, unproductive, extremist behavior. Sincerely, Paul Bender Senior Electronics Engineer Pulse Electronics A Westinghouse Air Brake Company
-- Paul Bender (email@example.com), April 21, 1998
First of all, I believe that being prepared for what might happen is not irrational, unproductive, or extremist. To not prepare is unintelligent, and down right ignorant. Don't get me wrong I hope the problems are solved, but I don't have much faith in our government, and people should be informed of worst case scenarios. Who is going to help the unprepared? The government? Give me a break. People need to know, and they need to prepare. Don't come knocking on my door if you weren't ready; you should have known better. Too many people don't even know a probably even exists.
-- Frank Anderson, Jr. (Zanazaz@AOL.com), April 21, 1998.
I applaud you, Paul for calling to our attention how much time we are wasting on frivolous 'chatter'and endless debate over tinker-toy ideas. Granted, we need to prepare and do what we can to minimize the impact y2k may have on us, but to accent the negative to the point of stampeding folks into panic spending and health-threatening stress is uncalled for and counter productive. Perhaps we should simply ask a question and evaluate the response b-4 engaging in what could be unproductive, time consuming discourse. Anyone else agree??
-- Roy Cave (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 21, 1998.
Obviously you have not considered the prospect that Y2K COULD become a "kind of Armageddon" for our modern society. What you seem to find so appalling and distasteful is that some (who you appear to regard as inferior, alarmist idiots) have arrived at that conclusion based on extensive review of the available evidence. Your arrogance and disdain for those of us who don't rank among "the best technical minds" offends and angers me. As you point out, "the best technical minds" are the ones who created this problem in the first place. So if the "alarmist, irrational, and even silly messages" you find on this site offend you, please feel free to move on to another forum.
-- Nabi Davidson (email@example.com), April 21, 1998.
Hmm...perhaps you were looking for a forum where you could discuss specific issues related to your technical field? If so, what you seek is not here.
I believe Ed set up this forum to see what the reaction to his book (TB2K) is. While the level of intelligence here seems better than most, I would put the percentage of computer professionals here at less than 50%.
For us in the majority, what should we do in reaction to Y2K? Perhaps we should just be quiet and go on with our lives, ignoring the looming POSSIBLE problems.
I would put forth two thoughts. 1) The consequences of NOT preparing for serious problems far outweigh the cost of the preparations if Y2K is NOT too bad. 2) I was once asked why I choose to carry (legally) a weapon when leaving my home. "Do you expect to get mugged today?" My answer? " Of course I do not expect to get assaulted today. Neither do I expect to die today, but I did not call and cancel my life insurance this morning."
I also have fire extinguishers in my home. I also have medical and auto insurance. I also keep a first aid kit at home, in my vehicle, and at work. I also teach my kids about drugs, bad people, and power tools. I also listen to NOAA weather service when storms are heavy. I EVEN pay attention when the warning tone goes off on the radio.
I ALSO PREPARE FOR Y2K !
As an aside, I have devoted some thousands of hours to studying Y2K in the last six months, and *I* place the odds squarely in the 'serious social/financial/technical problems' catagory. I am NOT an expert and I am NOT saying 'for sure'. I am saying I believe the ODDS favor serious problems. What is your opinion? Serious problems? Minor problems?
-- art welling (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 21, 1998.
Mr. Bender:You above all here,should be clear on the subject of Y2K Since you are a Senior Electronics Engineer,You truly understand the scope of our problem.I will not fence with you on this matter. I have Been a Rich man,Poor man,Beggar man,"Chief", I work for a college in Bklyn ,NY as a Hw,Sw,Network,Admin, self taught programmer C, C++ Visual B, VRML,Personal Cobol.I Have been an Electrician for most of my life 20yrs, A Teacher of Electrial installation for George Westinghouse H.S. 2yrs. 9th-12th.I realized about Y2K 3-1/2yrs ago, have done the simple tests on my machines here at home and at work,which when I purchased them for the college was told they were Y2k complaint.Both machines failed simple tests that I performed to my suprise! Be it the rollover test then the wordproccessor test. you understand right,simple tests,basic tests,just by me having to test, You and I understand,wether the topic is hiding in Arizona or I have the FIX, people will or will not care. I EXPLAIN to colleagues of mine 25yr,35yr,Programmers or to ANYONE who will listen,I get A smirk A shrug an Oh Well.Their is only one person preparing that I work with for the worst case scenario.When you say that you are apalled at the manner of this forum or that Ed is assisting the public to "incite them to a Frenzied,Irrational,Unproductive, Extremist Behaviour, Well COUNT ME IN.Because you and I Know tsightf.I've been working on Y2K for 3-1/2yrs at work and in my personal life and I'm just getting a disaster recovery program together,by purchasing 30 acres building a home,solar,defense.I would of never thought I would be doing anything of this nature,but I am. Paul, what are you preparing for?
Concerned for ALL
Albert Rosado S.I.N.Y.
P.S. I could have kept typing but enough's enuff.
-- Albert Rosado (ARESURRECT@aol.com), April 21, 1998.
Mr. Bender- When my wife comes home at night complaining about all the bugs in the program her employer- our county purchased for several million dollars (a program dealing with highly sensitive law enforcement , court and children's services information), when I see my state cancel a $41 million DMV software project because it couldn't be implemented (the $41 mil was entirely spent), when I read that the IRS cancelled their upgrade program(I'm not sure of the figure but I think they'd spent about $4 billion)' I am forced to come to the conclusion that this software stuff is kind of tricky. When the CEO of the largest software Co. in the world says that Y2k isn't a major problem and that outside of a few applications his software is year 2000 compliant; then he backs up and says his wares are 2000 ready; then backs up further and says they will provide free all the necessary upgrades, I am forced to wonder further about this computer stuff. I search the web for details- and find a site set up by the big 3 automakers. They have an online survey for their 50,000 suppliers. After repeated phone calls I am able to reach someone involved with the tabulating. He is not able to give me any details (confidentially was promised- another big problem when searching out for details. But the chap did say they were disappointed with the response- even the hardcopy questionaire sent to each vender.. I can only speculate, sir, but I'd say the picture doesn't look rosey. When I see a stock market that doesn't even seem to take into account the known costs of mitigation or the Asian crisis, when I think back to Greenspan's comments about an overexhuberant market (at 7000) then I don't feel I'm the one being irrational. If I'd been on the Titanic I think I'd have let the women and children depart first, but I would have been mighty upset to learn there weren't enough lifeboats for all. Sir- I feel betrayed by the IT industry right now- this problem is more than a technological faux pas- there has been a glaring moral failure also. This is not some eschtalogical fantasy for me. I don't even believe in an afterlife. Please show me why I should not be ready for major problems, please.
-- skipper clark (email@example.com), April 21, 1998.
Paul, I have been a computer professional for much of the last 37 years. After looking into this Y2K situation for a lot of hours over the last few months, during some of my daytime hours and most of my weekend and evening hours, I have concluded that we already know how to fix the problem - it was to start the job several years ago and apply all the professional resources in the world to grinding out the fixes. Since that didn't happen, some of us are convinced that there is no way to fix the problem (like there was no way to repair the holes in the Titanic), and that our families deserve to have us building lifeboats if we can find the materials.
At the risk of repeating myself from an earlier response, many of the statements of impending catastrophe are not by ignorant rabble-rousers.
On April 2, speaking to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Alan Greenspan said that the Fed's efforts to head off a meltdown of the nation's banking system at the turn of the century are on track. Therefore, we have the word of the chairman of the Fed that there may be a financial system meltdown.
The Institute of International Finance warned in a report on April 6 that if only a few of the international players are not ready, that could cause havoc in the financial industry around the world. They warned that European (because of conversions to the euro in Europe) and Japanese institutions are the ones most at risk to fail the transition. They also pointed out three main risks: liquidity risks (funds flows being interrupted), credit risk (major client's inability to meet debt-service obligations) and legal risk (including the risk of shareholder lawsuits for failing to disclose the potential liabilities of Y2K problems). Among the task force members describing these potentially catastrophic problems were Credit Suisse First Boston, Deutsche Bank AG, Royal Bank Financial Group, the Securities Industry Association and Swiss Bank Corp.
On April 7, Dr. Edward Yardeni, Chief Economist for Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, a world renowned economic forecaster, said in a speech to the Bank for International Settlements (the central bankers central bank), "Let's stop pretending that Y2K isn't a major threat to our way of life. There is too much at stake for such uninformed wishful thinking". He also said "You are in a poition to prepare the world for the coming upheaval.". Also "The division of labor could be radically upset by Y2K. This process is the very foundation of economic prosperity and progress...". And "The current Y2K global battle plan is virtually guaranteed to fail..."
All that warning of calamity came in only a couple of weeks.
I'm getting programs fixed at my company. I'm telling friends to ask their employers how they are doing on fixing the problem. But I'm also spending a lot of time planning an "insurance" program in case the disaster can't be prevented, and I'm urging my kids to make sure they and our grandkids can eat and stay warm if the lights go out.
. Answered by Dan Hunt (firstname.lastname@example.org) on April 15, 1998.
-- Dan Hunt (email@example.com), April 21, 1998.
To be DEAD SURE That Y2K Will NOT be a disaster on 1/1/00 DO NOTHING and you will be DEAD SURE.
-- Joe Stout (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 21, 1998.
Would you please give me SOME factual reason as to why I should not assume that y2k will wreak havok? If you cannot, and so far no one else has, then why would you call me alarmist for figuring that y2k WILL wreak havok?
A serious consideration of the state of affairs now leads me (and I believe that I am rational and not overly pessimistic) to conclude that it is much too late to fix the y2k problems, that it is probably too late to mitigate y2k problems enough to make a noticable difference from doing nothing, and that the resulting fear and unrest will be used as an excuse for draconian measures by the powers that be. Is this alarmist? I don't think so. Is it realistic? Based upon what I know now, YES. Is my opinion subject to change? Yes, provided some factual information is presented. All I see now are "It's too awful, therefore it cannot happen" and "I don't think it will happen, therefore you are a fool for thinking that it will." I put your post in the latter category, and I ask you to give me some facts to change my mind. Don't just call me names for not looking at the world through rose colored glasses.
By the way, y2k has very little to do with the millennium except that it is incorrectly called the millennium bug. After all, the new millennium starts 1/1/2001. It is more a roll-over problem, like the GPS week roll-over due 8/99.
You bash survivalists. I am not one. Nevertheless, I ask you to consider that it might be only survivalists who have the courage to face what may be coming and therefore feel able to talk about it, how to minimize its effect upon one's lifestyle, etc. There are three types of people: those who want to survive and know how to, those that want to survive but don't have a clue, and those that don't care to survive (presumably because the world would just be too, too terrible if it changed that drastically). From your post it seems evident that you fall into either the second or third category.
If you can give me any indication as to how the y2k problem can be attacked so as to be relatively sure of at least mitigating its effect, please do so.
By the way, I think that your barb about the best technical minds contributing to the problem is way off base. More likely, it is the next-quarter-bottom-liners that had both the responsibility and authority to direct "the best technical minds" to focus on something that would give positive, tangible results that is the reason the problem has not been addressed until now.
Do you not think that exposing the public (or at least as much of it as is on the net and interested in reading this forum) to the diverse opinions and facts concerning y2k is informing them. Would telling a person that the house he is in is on fire be called inciting to frenzied, irrational, unproductive, extremist behavior? I don't think so, either. Therefore, neither is the content of this forum. Listen carefully, the rumble you hear is the world-wide earthquake of y2k coming.
-- George Valentine (email@example.com), April 22, 1998.
Anyone who claims to know for sure what will happen is an idiot. The simple fact is that there's no precedent for this kind of event anywhere in human history.
By the same token, anyone who refuses to look at human history when attempting to evaluate this issue is also an idiot.
The problem is that history -- as a scholastic subject -- isn't really taught any more. It sort of fell by the wayside while I was in school some fifteen years ago, along with reading, writing, and logic. Therefore, most people don't have a background for evaluation. All they have is their own limited perspective.
However, if you're able to apply some historical perspective, I think you tend to get very nervous about the whole issue.
The historical perspective I like to apply is pretty simple: how do software projects typically run? The unfortunate fact that most IS/IT people don't like to think about is that most projects are pretty shaky. It tend to take a long time to create truly functional software -- particularly in-house software. It's why people typically avoid "1.0" release products: you never know what kind of bugs you might find.
There are some pretty good figures from the Gartner Group indicating that a majority of projects beyond a certain scope tend to come in either late -- or not at all. I don't have the figures in front of me, but they're all over Ed's book and web site.
Using that historical perspective, you have to be skeptical of rosy assurances about Y2K.
Some of the institutions we depend on most (government, utilities, banking) face a re-writing and debugging task that is far more complex than any other software engineering project ever undertaken. In many cases, these entities are re-writing and debugging software that's been in use for decades.
Now, you're an engineer. You must have some experience with software maintenance. What happens when management gives a sweeping order to make changes in some old, established piece of code? Typically, the code gets changed, but bugs get introduced that then take some time to work out.
Apply that to the current situation, only magnify it several orders due to size of the project, impact on other systems, and time remaining to do it in.
If you do that, I think you can only be pessimistic about certain entities.
Govenernments, for example:
Here in Illinois, our state government isn't even through with its "inventory" stage -- they admittedly have no idea where they stand. Worse, they don't think that having no idea where they stand is even a problem
The Federal government has released some figures, but they're murky. By Congressman Stephen Horn's astimation, some agencies won't be Y2K-compliant until a couple of decades into the 21st century. He estimates that Department of Treasury -- the guys who cut the checks for all the other agencies -- won't be compliant until about 2009.
Think about that for a second: the Congressional committee with oversight on this issue doesn't think that the government agency which cuts their own paychecks will be compliant until 2009.
One has to wonder: if Treasury isn't compliant, will they be able to cut checks? Checks for Congressmen? For Social Security? For tax refunds? For Welfare? For student loans? For Mediacre/Medicaid? For anything?
If they're not, doesn't it follow that there will be a negative impact on the economy?
I realize that your interest is in solving the problem, but I put this to you:
Here are some facts about the Federal government that you might not be aware of:
- It is an entity that typically moves slowly in the first place.
- It has a code base in excess of 35 billion lines
- It uses millions of non-compliant hardware systems.
- It uses another unknown millions of non-compliant embedded systems.
- Many agencies haven't even started renovating code.
Given these facts and the aforementioned historical perspective, is it rational to conclude that most Federal agencies are going to make it. I propose that it's wildly irrational to come to such a conclusion.
Now, if the sudden removal of IS/IT from the Federal government's arsenal doesn't make you wonder about the impact on the economy, we could always get into electric utilities. One-third of the industry hasen't even started yet, while another third will admit to being "behind."
I don't know about you, but that published fact alone makes me wonder whether I will have power if their IS/IT systems fail. Indeed, there's some testing which supports the idea that reactors and delivery systems fail pretty consistently with a date roll-over.
Again, I put this question to you: given the historical perspective, is it rational to conclude that an organization with a non-compliant code base in the hundreds of millions of lines can renovate and adequately test it all in eighteen months?
I can't come to that conclusion. From a historical perspective, the facts simply don't support it.
I can only conclude that for governments and utilities at least, the problem has now passed beyond the soluable.
If you have a different, credible perspective, I'd be interested to hear it. To date, no one in the industry is able to provide any evidence that's persuasive. Lots of rhetoric, but no real evidence
That in mind, I can now only concern myself with how to prepare for what might happen with the failure of those two entities. Unfortunately, there is no specifical historical perspective to rely in as a guide.
Frankly, using this forum for any purpose other than preparation for possible disaster and moral support is a waste of time. I mentioned to someone privately a couple of months ago that I have no interest in attending Y2K conferences. What's the point -- for some of the entities I rely on, it's already past the point of no return. Unless the conference is involved in the specifics of personal preparation, why should anyone care what they have to say?
I've given this issue nearly two years worth of ongoing thought. I've watched and I've waited for some sign -- any sign -- that the situation was turning around. I've not seen anything but more and more of my colleages coming to the same inescapable conclusions I have:
This is now an unavoidable problem. It's no longer a question of "if", it's a question of "what."
Nobody knows what will happen. We know something will. Historically, any kind of drastic change is economically painful, and this has the potential to be so drastic as to be deadly.
-- "John Smith" (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 22, 1998.
Dear Paul Bender S.E.E.P.E.A.W.A.B.C.,
As mentioned in a previous post Mr. Yourdon did not set this site up to talk about technical solutions and strategies for Y2K fixes. Yes there are some silly posts here, a different kind of silly than I see when I tune into Brokaw, Jennings, and Rather, but silly none the less. So what? I've spent many, many hours looking into Y2K, there are dozens of websites for different levels of Y2K investigation. As for resolving Y2K, I think mitigating would be a more apporpriate choice of words.
When I first found this forum I nearly abandoned it because so many of the posts were ( and to some degree still are ) in the, "where shall I put my 401k funds" vein. One person posted on the idea that history is no longer being taught, other than to just attach some dates to some events. It is much worse than that really. Most people are so ignorant of monetary history and theory that they have no clue what the difference is between gold standard, gold backed, and fiat are. They don't know what fractional reserve banking means much less what it causes. They don't understand multipliers and velocity. They don't know about the differences between Napoleanic and confederate money(for two strikingly different examples that occured in close time proximity over the last 3,000 years). They couldn't tell you the difference between M1, M2, and M3 if their lives depended on it. But their lives do!
Until a person understands Ed's "ripple effect" and applies that to our fractionally reserved, central banked, fiat monetary system, they will continue to be clueless as to what is going to happen in Y2K. Yes, I said going to happen, not might. Now like Bohm-Bawerk my prediction is accurate but useless. Bohm-Bawerk could tell you what but not when, I can tell you when but not what (inflation or deflation). However, with our current monetary system (which has only been in place since the early 1970's) the economic result is overall the same - miscommunication of demand, misdirected resources, financial failure, huge wastes of assests, and a lowering of economic output, profoundly.
If a person seriously wants to get up to speed on Y2K they should read the following books in the following order: Timebomb 2000,1997 - Yourdon, Fiat Monetary Inflation In France, 186? - Andrew Dickson White, The History Of Banking In United States 1800-19??, 196? - Friedman & Schwartz, and if they are feeling up to it after all that Human Action, 195? - von Mises. The first two can even be found on BBSs or the Internet.
-- Ken Seger (email@example.com), April 22, 1998.
John in Chitown
I thot your last post to be spot on (quibbles aside), so I forwarded it to a Fortune 500 CIO that I have been sparring with as to the serioucness of all this. With the note, "There's a danger in either under- or over-statement of risk, thereby either promising false security or raising needless alarms. I think you are in the "under" category and are contributing to a false sense of security." I didn't suggest that his public position earned him the "Theremon 762 - Contributing to Public Compalcency Award for the month, as I don't yet know if he reads science fiction in general or Asimov and Silverberg's 1990 novel, "Nighttfall", in particular. (no tthat I think 00 and beyond will getas bad as Nightfall, but it helps makes the point. But I digress.
He only responded to one part of your post (ignoring the hard data) and said, "The flaw in his [John's] statement is that this is the most complex software engineering task ever undertaken. Y2K is nowhere near as complex s writing and debugging a new business system, which is nowhere near as complex as scientific applications (I began as a physicist), which is nowhere near as complex as writing compilers (I wrote Univac's FORTRAN compiler), which is nowhere near as complex as writing operating systems. We need to keep Y2K in proportion. It is for the most part fixing bugs in COBOL programs."
Before I respond, does anyone - especially you 'John' - have any suggestions for my riposte? Beyond, that is the silliness of reducing this global challenge to COBOL bugs "for the most part". He is a very thoughtful guy, for the most part, and didn't get to his position with a GED and no experience. He is also influential in his professional and industrial circles, so I want to see where my y2k 'evangelism' might lead.
-- victor Porlier (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 22, 1998.
In response to your friend's comments about whether fixing Y2K is the "most complex" problem ever tackled, perhaps he might be happier if the use of "most complex" was replaced by "most challenging", or "most daunting" or "most underestimated". Ask him how he would describe the task of correcting all the bugs in 200 million lines of code (as at GM), with 25% of the programs having no source code (apparently a frequent condition) in up to 50 obsolete languages, in the next 8 months, with only 6 months for testing - while simultaneously having to convert the active databases and files plus all archived databases and files - while knowing that the 85,000 suppliers on whom you are dependent won't even tell you whether or not they are compliant because their lawyers won't let them; and knowing that if you do it all but the lights go out or the banks stop functioning it won't have made any d
-- Dan Hunt (email@example.com), April 22, 1998.
I guess I can understand where the CIO you mention is coming from. It is possible that, if you could count the total number of Y2K fixes required, most might very well be "COBOL bugs." The trick is to open his eyes to the other problems out there, and one way of doing that might be to make it personal.
I assume you presented the embedded controller argument. Did you ask him if the security system is his office will open the doors on 1/1/00, thinking it's whatever weekday January 1, 1900 was? How about using Ed's bank vault example from the book?
Did you ask him if he can guarantee that his company has the most up-to-date source code for every single COBOL program they run in order to fix those "COBOL bugs?" If not, what does he think his staff is going to do to fix the bugs?
Does his company use a payroll service or do they have their own system? Can he guarantee that the banks that do his check reconciliation, clear the direct deposits, cover the payroll checks, etc. will be able to accept the data interfaces currently used and get the dates right?
This approach may or may not work, but many times when a person refuses to see an issue globally, they will understand when the problems are made local to their world.
-- Paul Neuhardt (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 22, 1998.
One more argument you might try is something like this:
Yes, any one Y2K issue isn't really all that complex. Even a few hundred, or a few thosand aren't too bad. The problem is that this problem, when taken as a whole, is a set with billions of members. The issue isn't fixing individual problems per say, but is instead the need to fix *so many* problems that there simply isn't enough time.
-- Paul Neuhardt (email@example.com), April 22, 1998.
If you scan the posts here, you may notice that I frequently post remarks indicating that I believe much of the "frenzy" surrounding Y2K issues and their overall effect on society to be overstated. Still, I wonder if a blanket condemnation isn't a bit harsh.
I frequently disagree with the conclusions of many of the people here, including several of the posters in this thread. (Go ahead, ask Victor about my views on the press ;-) ) Still, the discussions I have had with them, both here and through direct e-mail, have shown me that these folks are thinking about the problem and doing more than just reacting. They are researching, analyzing and drawing conclusions.
I may (and frequently do) disagree with their conclusions as to the probable social impact of Y2K induced problems. I may disagree with their opinions as to the reliability of some of their sources of information. And yes, I agree with your sentement that the Y2K-induced revival/expansion of the survivalist movement is both extreme and counter-productive. Still, I have found this forum usefull as a source of information, new ideas to challenge my old ones with, and interesting discussion. I would urge you not to write it off too quickly.
-- Paul Neuhardt (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 22, 1998.
Let's assume for a moment that this isn't the most complex software engineering task in history. I would maintain that it is, because it includes re-engineering many of the systems that your friend suggests, along with millions of others.
But let's assume that there are more complex problems out there.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology estimates that the average programmer can write/debug roughly 100,000 to 150,000 lines of code per year. I don't have the URL i front of me, but if you do a search for this on Altavista, you'll find the NIST document that supports it.
Using that number as a guide, take the number of non-compliant lines of code in your inventory and do the math.
In fact, you don't have to do the math. A friend of mine (as an exercise in Java programming) wrote a Java app that will do it for you. It's at http://www.netwave.net/members/cyberrgg/y2k/.
By default, it uses the number of lines of code in the Federal inventory. As I write this, the number of programmers necessary to rewrite the code by 12-31-99 is 164,454 and rising (it's a real-time counter) -- and that assumes no time for debugging!
Admittedly, this over-simplifies the problem. It doesn't take into account non-compliant hardware, political or budgetary considerations, nor the fact that every programmer I know (particularly the ones with COBOL and Assembler experience) are already employed and well-paid. And that there are only half a million or so programmers in the U.S., less than half of which have experience in the languages most at-risk.
It also doesn't take into account the fact that any sane IS/IT manager knows that the systems in question need to be on-line at 1-1-99 to allow an entire business cycle for real-world debugging.
By sheer numbers alone, the problem is becoming untenable and will only get dramatically worse. If you were to graph the curve, it becomes asymptotic: the closer you get to 12-31-99, the closer the number of programmers necessary approaches infinity. In short, the longer you wait to get started, the more difficult -- and eventually impossible -- it becomes to solve the problem.
If your friend is scientifically-oriented, he may well appreciate my friend's Java applet. He provides all the work and calculations he used to produce the page on supporting pages. He was very thorough.
I suspect that your friend is simply one of those people who will never get it. I know a lot of them -- my wife is one of them (see the thread on Jennifer Yourdon on the 700 Club for details).
Frankly, I hope I'm not lynched for being in the IS/IT industry when people figure out what the IS/IT managers did to them by ignoring this. They aren't likely to make a distinction between me and the people who actually made the decisions which led to Y2K. All they'll know is that the computer geeks caused the (recession/depression/dark age/fill in your own).
-- "John Smith" (email@example.com), April 23, 1998.
An interesting side note: after posting my last message (it took about fifteen minutes: I'm pretty good at composing on-the-fly), the real-time counter on my friend's page had incremented by three programmers. As I write this, it's nearly up to four programmer.
This means that given the number of lines in the Federal inventory, if they don't already have the appropriate number of the programmers at work debugging, they need to add another four every half hour. That's 48 programmers a day! And the longer you wait to get started, the more the number increases. By June, it will be 55 programmers. By December 100.
That fact alone makes it glaringly obvious just how untenable the situation is.
-- "John Smith" (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 23, 1998.
Oops -- sorry, bad math. 4 programmers every hour is 96 programmers a day.
I can't calculate the rate of change for that curve quickly, but my guess is by Christmas, the Federal government willl need a thousand new programmers a day.
Keep in mind that these numbers assume you don't currently have an appropriate number of programmers on-staff. If the Federal government already has, oh, 100,000 programmers dedicated to Y2K fixes, then they only need 64,000 more. Because of the math, it's actually less than the total number needed if they're starting from scratch.
The best way to use the calculator if you already have programmers working is to take the number of programmers, multiply by 150,000, and subtract that number from your code base. Then use the resultant modified code base number in the "number of lines" field of the calculator.
The result will be the number of new programmers you need.
-- "John Smith" (email@example.com), April 23, 1998.
Please see the front page of the 4/22/98 Wall Street Journal. IRS commissioner Charles Rossotti has joined the ranks of those who are concerned enough to be scared.
As a CPA, I was amazed to see such an admission by the IRS commissioner. They have had many computer problems over the years but they have never admitted it publicly.
As I was a CPA before I became a Rev., I still approach these types of things with the professional skepticism I learned as an auditor. If you think this is no big deal, go to Y2K.com and read the financial statement disclosures that are in the annual reports. It will chill you brother.
-- Rev. Stephen L. Bening (Gammadim@AOL.com), April 23, 1998.
Mr. Bender, if that is your attitude towards the Y2K problem, then I suggest that you write the "best technical minds" at the "alarmist auto manufacturers" and tell them to "stop causing panic" by installing seatbelts and airbags in their automobiles... since after all, the chances of a fatal car accident are statistically remote.
-- Jon O'Dette (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 27, 1998.
Mr Bender, Although I may not be the "serious technical mind" that you seek, I am not a religious fanatic nor an alarmist either...and perhaps this message is redundant...but ya don't have to be a rocket scientist to see "the handwriting on the wall." Getta grip.
-- Lorraine Katena (email@example.com), May 07, 1998.
I would urge you to check out the following ng: comp.software.year-2000 The participants for the most part are Engineers and systems professionals from the US and around the world. I am the most pragmatic of men. It was not until I read the postings of these educated, experienced and for the most part intelligent people, who are working on the problem as we speak, That I became convinced. (lots of technical stuff too)
-- Bill Solorzano (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 08, 1998.