Digital Winter and a Warm Room in NZ : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

In my Y2K work I have become aware of some of the wider implications of the Year 2000 problem. I am beginning to see that treating the problem as Technological Hazard could be more productive than simply considering Y2K as an IT acronym.

The first of these implications is that Y2K and associated concepts are inaccessible for most people.

I have adopted two new metaphors which may help to bring Y2K into sharper focus:

The Digital Winter and The Warm Room.

The Digital Winter now seems almost inevitable for most countries with any dependence on digital control systems (US IRS cannot complete the change to Y2K compliance in time, British Airways depends on an air traffic control system which is mainframe based and is not Y2K compliant and cannot be replaced and tested in time, Europe is involved with the EMU and has barely started on Y2K, Japan is just beginning to look at the Y2K exposure issue, Taiwan begins in the first quarter of 1999 to look at the Y2K question from Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, US Equity Research Jan, April 1998). Briefly, the Digital Winter means being 'out in the cold' as far as dependence on computing devices for any data processing and for any services that require data processing.

Having a Warm Room means taking such steps as are required to ensure that whatever data processing is dependent on digital systems does not fail in the Year 2000 or any time in the first six months in the Northern Hemisphere and nine months in the Southern Hemisphere. Having a Warm Room also means taking such steps as are required to ensure personal survival should the Digital Winter arrrive.

The Digital Winter could have a primary cause in the failure of power supply systems. Power systems depend on embedded chips for control, switching and general power management in the broadest sense over time. Embedded real time clock chips provide time related functions in the heart of control systems. They are difficult to locate and even more difficult to test because they are often part of another chip or integrated into other silicon chips. Problems arise with how the real time clock is interpreted. Should there be no means for detecting the century change at the year 2000 then systems can fail. A large but unknown number of the 25 billion embedded time control chips (on and off the planet) do not make the century distinction.

Of course everyone reading this now this already!

At the national scale it is clear that no power dependent system can have any components in its control systems that are not certified Digital Winter Safe.

At the level of every university, school, business and home, no power dependent system can have any components in control systems that are not certified Digital Winter Safe.

Without power in a western nation the means of sustenance are removed and humans simply have to move out of cities. No power means no financial systems, no trade and no commerce in the current sense, no water or sanitation, no refrigeration, no telephone, no security systems, no traffic systems, no health or medical systems, no computing systems, no Internet, no aircraft, no heat, light or air conditioning, no lifts, no trains, no petrol; in short a Digital Winter.

Without reliable power systems the whole of a nation will become like the Centre of Auckland City, New Zeaalnd, a dark zone.

With a really concerted effort some small countries such as New Zealand could become a global Warm Room for the rest of the planet. As such, NZ could also model Warm Room solutions required elsewhere in Year 2000 and beyond.

Steps are being taken at a national scale to ensure that NZ avoids the Global Digital Winter and is prepared to move on Warm Room solutions. We will also be able to continue do this because the people who will understand the Digital Winter Problem are those who will generate the Warm Room Solutions but not in the time available as of now.

Strategically, New Zealand has an important role. People with accurate news of the Digital Winter possibility should advise the technicaly competent that NZ is a great place to see in the new Millennium, is a 'Warm Room' and has the safety margin of a long warm southern summer and shortish winter. People with current Y2K expertise overseas will reach exhaustion in the last months of the millennium and will be smart enough to consider the Warm Room question and have the skills to generate solutions. New Zealand can provide these people with a technology haven.

We are not without problems of supply of embedded chips.. those currently supplied as replacements (warranted Y2K compliant) fail on test! (Mid May 1998) We also await a Unix upgrade for some of our more central IT systems (due mid 1999).

Anyone want to help keep out the cold?

-- Bob Barbour (, May 14, 1998


I am a Texan married to a New Zealander and living in Australia. New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I lived there for 14 years and another 14 would not go astray. My wife and I have yet to decide between New Zealand and Australia for the year 2000 timeframe. This is certainly a great part of the world in which to be living.

-- Mark Johnson (, May 14, 1998.

I am interested in your theories of New Zealand as a "Warm Room". I live in South Africa and over the past 2 years have been engaged with many of our larger companies in Year 2000 remediation work. As with most countries, I believe the biggest risks here are in Government and Utility systems not being ready. An additional threat, for smaller countries like ours, though and I'm sure this applies equally to New Zealand is that we are totally dependent on imports of certain critical items, specifically technology and fuel. If air traffic and shipping are seriously disrupted, we could be cut off from fuel supplies and without fuel, business and agriculture would collapse and we would be reduced to a subsistence economy. And very much alone in the Cold.

-- Rodney Lewin (, May 17, 1998.

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