services delivery before computers : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

How were banks, super markets, utilitities, etc. delivering service to customers BEFORE the advent of computers? Seems to me these structures should just make a clean breast of things, admit they are not going to be able to correct the problem and then use what valuable time remains to move to alternate methods of delivery similar to what they used in the pre-computer-era. Can someone tell me what's wrong with this solution?

-- John Townsend (, June 14, 1998


What you've suggested is called contingency planning. Contingency planning requires that the organization recognize that they're not going to make it. Most CEOs have barely moved out of the denial stage, if they've done that much. It will be some time before they recognize that a return to the 'old' way might work. By that time it will too late to hire all the people they need to do this. [Even if those skills can still be found.]

Computers have made things much more efficient. As an example, one ICU nurse estimated that a 100% increase in hospital ICU staff would be needed to cope with loss of embedded systems in medical electronics (without taking into effect the loss of diagnostic capability). Hospitals aren't a great cash cow right now.....the increased payroll costs might push them below the break even point. The same's true of any other businesses in which computers are used.

The result is that business have been heading toward the intense use of computers, and cutback on human beings. What you suggest is a complete reversal of heading.

Possible, but human nature weighs against it.

-- Rocky Knolls (, June 15, 1998.

Another reason.....when a company admits computers may be a problem they are admitting to a 'deficiency.' This deficiency can form the basis for negligence in a post 2000 lawsuit. So, in the name of the almighty $, lawyers advise their corporate (and governmental) clients to say only that they recognize the problem, that they're working on it, and that they anticipate that it will be fixed. The creative ones then state that they'll be OK, but they could be dragged down by their suppliers. This places the blame on the little guy before the problem is felt.

-- DeAlton Lewis (, June 15, 1998.

Stores, utilities and banks didn't have the massive customer base that they do now. Asking any large supermarket to stop using computers now would be asking it to committ suicide! How many people would it take to physically price each item, checkout with manual tills, check coupons, etc.? Even if you went all manual, what would stores do if they had no way to telephone in their orders, or if power was out? How could the big food providers and packing plants run without some computerization? Could the canning plants still can and package their food without the equipment they have now? If they went back to manual equipment could they produce enough to feed the masses? In the past, a greater percentage of people lived on the farm and had the tools and livestock to sustain them. Now with our population mostly living in urban areas makes them more dependant on the distribution system. What if oil and gas production is affected? How will things be transported? What if the trains don't run efficiently? What if food can't be harvested? In the banking sector, how long would it take just to print out, store and organize hardcopies of everyone's loans, accounts, investments? Do they have the time to do this? Do they have the space to store the files? Do they have the staff? Remember these are constantly changing. If they went back, gone would be electronic banking and ATM's. Would the general public go for that? I can't speak for the utilities, but I would think that if you went back to the way things were, you would have to at the very least shut down the nuclear plants which I think I heard once were about 20% of the power produced. I could go on, but I think I've rambled enough. Thanks for bearing with me.

-- Kay P (, June 15, 1998.

Kay, Here is an example of what would happen if a grocery store lost it's computers. A year or so ago, one of the biggest grocery stores in this area had a computer crash. The checkers had to estimate the prices of the food!! This was amazing since most of them don't even know the difference between lettuce and cauliflower. I have on many occasions been asked what I had in the bag from the produce department. Trust me.....they can not survive for long!!

-- Annie (, June 15, 1998.

Having been in aviation my entire career, I think we don't begin to understand how much computers have taken over. I was a pilot. We used to bid or preference what flying we wanted to do for the next month manually. Then others would take this and sort it out to make sure you were legal per contract, FAA regs, Etc. Quite complicated. Now computers do it. Flight planning was done manually by figuring what route to fly and looking at weather and figuring average wind and then going to a chart for the fuel you needed. Now Computers do it. Load planning the same, reservations the same in a huge way, Aircraft routing which determined when the plane needed to go in for various checks and overhaul/same with engines. Now computers. What all this means is not that it couldn't be done the old way. It would require huge amounts of time and people trained to do these functions to make it possible to work the "OLD WAY". Are the people available and are trainable? The problem I see is that every-one is going to need huge numbers of highly qualified people. They aren't there I don't think. When I mean everyone, I mean not only the airlines, but the groceries, trains, steel mills, and every other business you can think of. The sizes of these businesses now would require immense numbers of clerks and lower management types to work this all out and I don't think the people are there.

-- Gene Peterson (, June 21, 1998.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ