Will our "modern" appliances become obsolete?

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My mind is full these days. Just wondering, will a lot of our modern appliances, TV's, video games, ect. become useless junk after Y2K becomes a reality? I mean, does most of our home appliances have embedded chips that will fail? Will we wait years to get the chips replaced, if that is possible or even affordable? I was considering having a big garage sale! Mary

-- Mary Howe (shy@thistime.com), October 14, 1998


Mary: While I'm not investing in much new high-tech stuff right now, I'm also not selling what I do have. Here's why:

Even the gloomiest, most pessimistic estimates say that 'only' 10%-20% of these chips will fail - mostly this figure has been hovering between 1%-4%. And more significantly, these failures will not occur uniformly either in terms of industries/products nor across time (i.e. not everything fails at midnight, Jan 1, 2000 It's clear from the Frautschi paper that embedded systems failures will peak on this date but that some failures will occur for years to come).

Finally, a large percentage of these failures, when they do occur, will be of the 'oh darn' nature, meaning the product will still function in some diminished capacity. So, the odds are very good that, given sufficient electricty, most of your household electronic products will still function just fine. Unless you are in desparate need of the cash the sale of such items might bring, I'd say you risk very little to bet on the most likely outcome here and hold on to your stuff. In fact, if the odds were anywhere close to that good at my local casino, I'd quit my day job! :)

It's not the 'oh darn' problems that are our biggest concern. It's the critical infrastructure (power, telephone, transportation, banking, etc.) that deserves the focus. If these are protected through a combination of remediation, disclosure and solid contingency planning, we can collectively survive billions and billions of 'oh darn' problems.

To digress for just a moment, it is today's lack of full disclosure and independent verification on the status of critical public utilities which gives me the most cause for concern at the present time. I am no longer comforted by the "don't worry, we'll be there" statements being made by the public relations officers and CEOs of these utilities. My background in information systems development tells me that many of these statements are wildly optimistic and simply not based on facts. Without true independent verification of their status, such statements are essentially worthless.

If "Joe's Widgit Corp" wishes to make such wildly optimistic statements and they turn out to have been wrong and, as a result, Joe's Widgit Corp goes under, that just too bad. Unless I'm an investor or a customer or a supplier or an employee or unless they are a major employer in our city, I'm not likely to care much whether poor old Joe has deluded himself or not.

But because our very lives depend upon the public utilities, I believe we have the right, even the obligation, to insist upon full disclosure and independent auditing and verification. In return for such full disclosure and auditing, I believe full immunity from litigation should also be part of the package. They cannot be treated as you might treat Joe's Widgit Corp.

End of digression.


-- Arnie Rimmer (arnie_rimmer@usa.net), October 14, 1998.

Right on Arnie. Disclosure is a necessary thing and I wish they would get off the stick and do it.

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), October 14, 1998.

I read something a while ago (but I don't have the URL, I'll try looking for it) about a test on a microwave which had failed completely when tested and advanced to 2000, that they couldn't turn it back on at all and the chip had to be replaced. Has anyone seen this one? Have the URL?

I've been wondering how one goes about advancing a chip's date to test. Is it possible to do at all in a home environment? I'd be willing to get the tools needed if someone could provide me with instructions. I'd sacrifice an appliance or electronic item gladly if I could test any one of them myself. Our house has been completely renovated, and -everything- is digital; heating, lighting, security system, outdoor lighting with sensors etc., kitchen appliances (all from GE who won't answer our questions!). I'm convinced that at least one of them will fail.

-- Chris (catsy@pond.com), October 14, 1998.

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