Challenger, Thermodynamics and y2k : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Challenger, Thermodynamics and y2k

In 1985, Roger M. Boisjoly, P.E. had over 25 years of engineering experience in the aerospace industry. He, and other engineers, persistently warned supervisors and the management of Morton Thiokol that the O-ring seals of the Space Shuttle solid rocket boosters were dangerously flawed. His warnings were based on experimental testing plus examinations and analyses of O-rings from boosters recovered from previous launches. He was using data, science, technical expertise and experience to form his opinions.

He was particularly concerned about cold weather launches. He went so far as to write a memo stating that a launch in temperature conditions under 53{F could result in losing the Shuttle and the launch facilities. His warnings were unanswered by management.

The management of Morton Thiokol was "aware" of the problem. NASA was "aware" of the problem. Their response was to "manage" the problem, not "solve" the problem. That's what managers do. (Is this beginning to sound familiar?) Morton Thiokol management and NASA management used a different set of criteria to form their opinions. Both knew that a fix was necessary but time would be required to develop the technology. We hadn't lost a Shuttle yet and there were other management considerations- money.

Morton Thiokol was paid by NASA. NASA was paid by Congress. Members of Congress were elected by people who were beginning to think the Space Shuttle program was boring and costly. So, Morton Thiokol management told NASA they were working on upgrading the O-rings. (sound familiar?) NASA did not want to admit to Congress that the Space Shuttle program had any problems. (...?) Everyone was putting a management spin on the problem - except Mr. Boisjoly, P.E.

In the search for companies and experts to help solve the problem, Morton Thiokol engineers were instructed not to reveal the urgency or seriousness of the problem. The responses mirrored the tone of the inquiries - no urgency. Everybody knew, but nobody knew.

The night before the launch of Challenger, NASA required a launch decision from it's contractor, Morton Thiokol. The temperature forecast was 18{F. Mr. Boisjoly, P.E. vigorously opposed the launch. In the telephone call with NASA, Morton Thiokol expressed their reservations and were told by NASA that they would respect the decision of their contractor...but they were "disappointed" to hear that.

The mute button was pushed and the most senior executive present suggested that the decision to launch should be a "management" decision. Mr. Boisjoly, P.E., again, vigorously opposed the launch. His co-workers, who had previously supported and agreed with his position, sat silent in the face of the passive pressure of management. The Engineering Manager was told to take off his engineer hat and put on his manager hat. Mr. Boisjoly, P.E. was excluded from the vote.

The next morning, a blase public, lulled into believing that our computerized marvels of high-technology will always work, watched as Challenger and crew exploded into our memories.

The complex system of Challenger failed because of one flawed part: Character.

As I wrote this synopsis of Challenger's fate, I didn't even have to plan my words to parallel the current condition of y2k. As naturally as I wrote it, the parallels were there. I'll let you fill them in to suit your experience. Once again, we have failed to learn the lessons of history. Once again, the warnings from the people who designed and built the system are being managed. Everybody knows, but nobody knows.

Mr. Roger M. Boisjoly is a Professional Engineer (P.E.). Being a P.E. means he is registered by one or more states as meeting the educational, experience and character requirements for licensing. He is bound by a code of ethics. He is subject to disciplinary action by a board for negligence and/or incompetence.

I know of no professional registration or license for managers. They are not bound by a code of ethics. They meet no educational, experience or character requirements.

Why is there such a disparity between the programmers and engineers versus the managed statements of companies and governments on y2k? I suspect a disparity in character. If I asked you to name one statesman alive today, who would name? I didn't say politician, I said statesman. Character is my way to separating the two.

There are some laws that cannot be broken by anyone, regardless of character: The Laws of Thermodynamics. One law is the conservation of energy. Energy out equals energy in, minus some losses - your monitor is radiating light and heat energy (we won't talk about the other...).

Just for the sake of argument, let's pretend that reasonable progress is made within the U.S. power generation and distribution system. Just for fun, let's say the work-in-process now will result in only localized and nusance outages starting the end of next year. Great. Now, where do you get the energy in? You know... the fuel for the generating stations? The U.S. generating system and economic system doesn't work without Mid-East oil. The U.S. is just as dependent on Mid-East oil today as it was during the oil embargo of the 1970's.

Energy is power. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait because he wanted Kuwait's oil. Could you imagine if he had taken Saudi Arabia also? The Gulf War was most definitely fought for oil. Why isn't the U.S. leading a coalition into Bosnia to save the thousands of people dying there? Bosnia has no products the world needs. No oil. Iraq was punished by denying it the right to sell oil. Oil and energy are power.

Japan has no energy resources. Zero. 100% of all energy is imported. Japan is extremely sensitive to any disruption in the supply of oil and gas products. How would a disruption in the flow of Mid-East oil affect the world's two largest economies?

This week, I was in the Tokyo office of the man who wrote probably the definitive Japanese book on y2k. His background is intriguing. His background is SCADA. Japanese SCADA. That's right...the Japanese bid and installed SCADA systems for the Mid-East network of oil wells. Custom Japanese systems for monitoring and controlling flow meters, valves, pumps, etc. He is convinced that the SCADA systems he bid years ago will not be remediated in time. He is convinced the oil and gas supply from the Mid-East will be disrupted.

Our planned one hour meeting lasted three hours. Just as I was leaving, he asked me if I was planning to be in Japan at the turn of the century. I told him I was. In a very quiet and serious voice, he advised me to leave. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Last week, I told you that staggering events are about to unfold in the Japanese financial industry. Today, Japan's second largest bank, The Long-Term Credit Bank, was nationalized. The hidden debts and secret paper transactions to hide the debts will eventually be uncovered and amount to over 20,000,000,000,000 yen ($160,000,000,000). I suggest you read that number again, slowly.

Rule #1 in Japanese banking, business and government: Real losses = published losses x 2. By extension, all situations are twice as bad as reported, or half as good as reported. Mr. Koskinen is pleased with the Japanese government's y2k progress. Another unarmed man in a battle of wits.

This is only the beginning. That $160 Billion is just the tip of the iceberg. Remember the wave in "Deep Impact?" The "Deep Impact" wave of debt from Japan is on it's way to New York and Europe. Where are you going to go?

The major flaw with the Japanese government's economic stimulus package is that 50% of the money is supposed to come from local governments. The two largest cities in Japan, Tokyo and Osaka, may have to declare bankruptcy within the next 5 months. The local governments are broke. Japan may be forced to sell part of it's massive holdings of U.S. T-Bills. Who is going to buy them and at what price?

PNG from Japan

-- PNG (, October 23, 1998


Thanks, PNG. This is a refreshing break from people arguing about whether embedded chips are chips or systems, or if it is "immoral" to head for the hills. The shuttle analogy is perfect - right up to the end - and lays the blame squarely where it belongs: not at the feet of the technicians, but with the managers. For all of you that still have money in the "bank" or the markets, wake up and take heed.

Some of us have been labled "paranoids" "alarmists" and "doom-mongers" simply for storing food, and recommending that others do so. I have seen this cast of intellectual catamites go from saying Y2k is "nothing" to saying it is a "bump in the road" to saying it is "a real problem, but you doom-mongers are a worse problem!" A lot of you who have been making these attacks are going to get your lives rearranged by some very angry, and hungry, people - and I for one am going to choose the moment of your comeuppance to do and say precisely NOTHING.


-- E. Coli (, October 23, 1998.

Wow, this is a fabulous analogy. I hope it gets widely read and understood as indeed being The Cookbook of Y2K Denial.

-- Jack (, October 23, 1998.

If you can read this and still believe that Y2K is "no big deal", then you are beyond hope. (Y2K & Challenger or Nature Cannot Be Fooled

-- Hardliner (, October 23, 1998.

Sheesh. Just when I go on record as believing it'll be a 4-5 on a scale of 10, PNG and pound my quasi-optimism into the ground. At this rate I'm gonna go Milne by the end of next week.

That said, PNG, you've done us all a service with your Japanese perspective. Yours is the first overview I've seen of oilfield production problems. (The suspected y2k glitch in Saudi desalinization plants is bad enough.) The U.S., incidentally, is even more vulnerable to oil/energy disruptions now than it was in 1973, during the first oil crisis. Domestic oil production has dropped steadily since 1972, and we now import considerably more oil than we pump in the U.S.

BTW, PNG, do you plan to take your friend's advice? Will you stay in Japan for 1/1/00?

-- J.D. Clark (, October 23, 1998.

Micheal Hyatt (author of Surviving the Millenium Bug) also expects gas to be a problem. He says the issue is that if electricity goes out, the refineries can't operate. It won't take long to run out of gas. Once there is no gas, trucks can't deliver food. When you think about that, you realize that it is quite plausible.

-- Amy (, October 23, 1998.

Sigh. Challenger did not need a "fix". The boosters simply were not built to be launched in cold weather. Period. The internal politics of NASA don't matter to me a whit - they had no engineering problem they had not been notified about.

America gets a minute percentage of electric generation from foreign oil. A much larger fraction is generated by natural gas in Texas. The vast bulk of US electric generation is from coal, nuclear and hydro.

While Japan is indeed dependant on oil from Saudi Arabia - most US foreign oil comes from Mexico.

I know and work with dozens of engineers (why did you think they called it the Army Corps of Engineers), have my office in a room full of professional network managers and programmers. I have discussed my worries about Y2K with many of them. Most feel that I am much too concerned - the general feeling is some US disruption esp. in financial markets and trade, no more than minor problems from embedded systems and GPS rollover. Now I don't agree that the effects in the US (AND I AM TALKING ONLY ABOUT THE US HERE) will be that minor, but I do think we will have power, water and shipping. I haven't met a single one who believes in TEOTWAWKI. So I really have a hard time buying into the idea that the general consensus among engineers is that we are going down.

As for the T-Bills - the treasury will probably buy them back. If we are really moving into a period of surpluses, that is the appropriate use for the money.

(And please don't lecture me on govt. accounting practices vs. business accounting practices. I know all about them and am not impressed by either. And just why should the govt. use business accounting practices anyway? They are not a business, and do not have the intrests of a business, the govt. is for an entirely different purpose than any business and the business model does not fit the govt. in any way whatsoever.)

-- Paul Davis (, October 23, 1998.


You have missed the point entirely.

Y2K does not need a "fix" either. Our computer systems were simply not designed to be operated in any century other than the 20th.


-- Hardliner (, October 23, 1998.

Now, now E. You're getting vengeful.

Any way, I just looked up "catamite." E., are you trying to outdo Milne? That's worse then "butthead" !!!

-- Buddy Y. (DC) (, October 23, 1998.

Thank you for the information....very sobering.

I think that is the single most critical failure model people (the world in general) doesn't understand - either can't or won't understand - I am not sure which:

There isn't anything the "government" can do to stop these upcoming troubles.

Like your report on NASA in deciding (for political reasons - they wanted to launch their teacher) - to ignore design and fundemental engineering limits. There are millions who are able (somehow) to believe in their hearts and souls that "the government won't let it happen."

Big surprise coming, the government can't stop it. And yet they still seem to want to put on a "smiley" face because it worked last time.

The solutions are out there, and more are completing every day soembody tests out a revised program. Not everything will fail, or get screwed up....but I can't tell how much and for how long things will be screwed up.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (, October 23, 1998.

Paul Davis said, "While Japan is indeed dependant on oil from Saudi Arabia - most US foreign oil comes from Mexico."

Paul, this is the second time you have made this statement. The first time I just let it slide because I didn't feel like on that thread that it made a difference. On this one, I think it does. I would love to know where you get your facts, because they are WRONG!

According to the American Petroleum Institute:

1. U.S. petroleum imports (crude & products) in August were 11,074,000 barrels per day (b/d); imports in the same month last year were 10,465,000 (b/d). (API). 2. Total imports in August as a percentage of total domestic petroleum deliveries 57.6 percent; imports as a percentage same month last year 56.4 percent. (API). 3. Persian Gulf petroleum represented 20.5 percent of total imports in June; 16.6 percent same month last year. (DOE).

Did you read that? It said 20.5% of total imports in June came from PERSIAN GULF PETROLEUM!

Estimated crude and products imports by the US from leading supplier COUNTRIES is as follows:

June 1998 Imports (MB/D) % of Total Imports % of Domestic Product Supplied Canada 1,683 15.7% 8.9% Saudi Arabia 1,631 15.2% 8.7% Venezuela 1,565 14.6% 8.3% Mexico 1,400 13.1% 7.4%

Mexico represents ONLY 7.4% of our domestic product supplied. That is out of 57.6%. Paul, how can you say we are NOT in trouble concerning our oil????

-- Gayla Dunbar (, October 23, 1998.

Gayla, Paul never lets the facts interfere with how he "feels". He is also wrong about the Challenger. The O-rings had had partial failures at relatively warm launch temps. The design was faulty, but relatively tolerant- until Challenger.

Perhaps Y2K is a macro example of information entropy. In any process,the participating objects entropy sum ALWAYS is increased. Perhaps an information crunch was inevitable as the sum of systems (both physical and logical) increased.

-- R. D..Herring (, October 23, 1998.

Paul, you siad:

Challenger did not need a "fix". The boosters simply were not built to be launched in cold weather. Period. The internal politics of NASA don't matter to me a whit - they had no engineering problem they had not been notified about.

The point is that NASA did have engineering problems. They were notified about them, and they did not act to correct them in time. That is exactly why this is a good analogy of Y2K. Whether the internal politics of NASA means anything to you or not is immaterial, but the internal politics of the government, power generators, and industry are exactly what caused remedial efforts on Y2K to be delayed to the point where most people do not expect successful completion on time. America gets a minute percentage of electric generation from foreign oil. A much larger fraction is generated by natural gas in Texas. The vast bulk of US electric generation is from coal, nuclear and hydro. While Japan is indeed dependant on oil from Saudi Arabia - most US foreign oil comes from Mexico.

Paul, do you ever think before you write? Even if this were true --- which it isnt --- what makes you believe that the Mexican oil fields will be any better off than the fields in the Middle East, or the North Sea, for that matter? Why do you persist in believing that Y2K is an isolated event, occurring in a vacuum, and that it doesnt matter what happens to the rest of the world? [snip garbage about Corps of Engineers not blessing Y2K ]

So I really have a hard time buying into the idea that the general consensus among engineers is that we are going down.

You've just told us that your decisions on the impact of Y2K are not made by Paul Davis, but by a bunch of people around the coffee pot. In other words, youre just parrotting back to us their feelings about Y2K. Note that I said feelings because youve said nothing to substantiate anything that youve said, either in this post or the other hundreds of the guys I work with dont think its a problem posts youve submitted. BTW, Im an engineer, and I think Bob Cook (P.E.) just might be one too. [That P.E. is a clue.]

As for the T-Bills - the treasury will probably buy them back. If we are really moving into a period of surpluses, that is the appropriate use for the money.

This demonstrates a total lack of knowledge of basic economics, Paul. If the market if flooded with T-Bills and Treasuries what happens? Supply and demand. The price paid for these go DOWN. As the price goes down, Paul, what happens to the interest rate? It goes UP. [Price and rate are inverse.] Thats a major inflation driver. Are you old enough to remember 16% interest rates? Howd you like to buy a house when your mortage rate was 19%, or a car when loans came in at 21%.

Moreover, our federal government has moved to creative financing. In 1992 most federal debt was financed with medium to long term debt. It was immune to short term variations. One of Clintons most successful (so far) economic ploys was to move the financing to short term debt. Thats great when interest rates are dropping because our debt is financed at increasingly lower rates. When these rates go up fast enough and far enough, our national economy goes down the tube.

End of economics 101 lesson. This is a subject youd be well advised to stay clear of.

[snip of meaningless garbage about accounting practices]

Your attack really contributed nothing to a thread that started with an excellent post by someone who knows what hes talking about

-- rocky (, October 23, 1998.

Hmm, guess I'll fly my Ford to work. Just drive it off the cliff here - what !!! you mean it wasn't designed to fly! I'll stop all driving for three years while I investigate this engineering flaw. That is about the level of the congressional investigation on the Challenger. The shuttle logged more total miles that any other human built transportation device ever with the 'faulty' O-rings. If that counts as an engineering flaw to you - well I guess you count it as a flaw. I just wish the Boeing 747 had such a safety record. If you are told it won't fly below 45 degrees - it means don't fly below 45 degrees. That only counts as a 'flaw' if your design specs were to fly below 45 degrees. If the Challenger had not been launched below 45 degrees - it would not have crashed from the problem that crashed it. (Not being the sort of seer some others here claim to be - I don't say it would not have crashed from something else - just that the o-rings were amply demonstrated as safe (not absolutely perfect, just safe) at higher temperatures.)

Gayla my apologies, it had been about 4 or 5 years since I had looked up the exact import sources of US oil. I had assumed it had not changed much in that short time. Guess I was wrong about that(I have never claimed to be perfect). But your numbers make the same point I was trying to make - most US oil comes either from the US or from just to our north or south. As for why I consider this important - the logistics problem in case of trouble of any kind (not just Y2K) is orders of magnitude less for the US than for Japan. And that is why I brought it up. 20% or so from Arabia is much less than the figure in the early 70's when OPEC cut us off - it was about 50% then. So we again have much less of a problem in emergency than Japan or many other countries - I would much rather fix a problem in Canada or Mexico than try to fix a problem in a place as prone to anti American violence as the Middle East. And the usage of oil will drop dramatically if we have a recession. Also - my chief point was that we do not get much if any of our electric generation from oil fired plants - practically none from foreign oil.

Now for the feeling thing - just when did the alternative dictionary meaning for feeling get erased? Would you prefer I used the words 'in the opinion of registered professional engineers'? Look here, I know perfectly well who is trying to murder the use of the word 'feeling' in casual conversation as being somehow 'warm and fuzzy' as he puts it. Well I don't let Rush Limbaugh dictate language to me, however since some do just replace my former words with 'opinion of professional certified degreed Engineers and Computer Science professionals'. Now isn't that an awful mouthful to make exactly the same statement?

-- Paul Davis (, October 23, 1998.

Folks, the actual port of embarkation of the bunker crude means a bit less than you all may think, since oil happens to be a fungible commodity. Effectively what this means is that you have a gallon of oil, my brother has a gallon of oil, Bob Cook has a gallon of oil, Rocky has one , Gayla has one and I have one, and we all dump our gallons into a 10 gallon bucket, and then open the spout at the bottom of the bucket to get our oil out, we have no way of knowing whose gallon we got.

Oil happens to come into the US from the Brit. North Sea in TX, and oil goes out from the North Slope in Alaska to Japan. BP is responsible for the oil in both places and can call it either one for accounting purposes or for public relations purposes.

Unfortunately, the world oil market is, as I described a fungible market, so it doesn't matter where it came from or enters, if there is a problem that really damages some output source, it is as if ALL of the sources lost a percentage.

. . . . . . . . .

Catamite interesting term. I might be either insulted to the point of asking for satisfaction on the green, or, I might be flattered depending on who called me one.......I have some intriguing friendships.


-- Chuck a Night Driver (, October 23, 1998.

PNG, thank you again for your post. Your insight is incredibly valuable, important and necessary. Please consider taking your friends advice and getting "home" by 01/01/00. After the turn it may be a much more difficult journey.

Regarding Challenger...

I remember tossing and turning the night before the first shuttle launch. Because I am on the west coast I had to get up extra early to view the event. I didn't have a problem because I was so excited. It was an awe inspiring event.

By the time the Challenger came along I was working full time in my first job of my chosen career. Still easily excited about such an event, I showed up at work with a gym bag and a small t.v. stuffed inside of it. I carefully set up the t.v., went to gather anyone who might be interested in seeing the event and came back to my drawing board alone. Amazed at how cavalier and disinterested people were in such history I sat down, worked and watched. Everything was exceptional. It was the usual poetry of motion and wonder. As a creative individual an event such as this serves to stimulate the muse and inspire me. Then, IT happened. I sat stunned and unable to move. I couldn't talk. In that moment of horror I knew exactly what people said they felt when JFK was shot. I knew I would always remember where I was at that moment in time. I felt numb and dead inside.

I gathered what composure I could and went to tell my studio manager what had happened. Inside her office were a few other management level people. As I stood with deep remorse and explained what had occured they looked at me dumbfounded. Their collective reaction was "so? why is it bothering you so much?".

That is where I learned about the myopic vision of management. That is why I am self employed and I make an extra effort to make sure I connect with my clients. It is the main reason why I have a deep desire to stimulate creativity in the people that work for me and I make sure that anyone that has a role in a project I am involved in from the "grunts" to the accountants to the "management" all feel they have an interconnected and important role in the creative process and the end result of the assignment.

I look upon my past experiences in the belly of the corporate monster as a way to see the mistakes they made and learn from those mistakes. It was an excellent education in how NOT to do certain things.

There is a disconnect in business these days. Too much pressure, too little time, too many perks and too many distractions for those that should be managing but choose to pass the buck. Too few interested in the quality of the product.

The situation Y2k has presented in the system is a perfect example of the shortsidedness in much of management today. One of the most distressing things I see far too often is that the good managers, the ones with heart and character are often kept at bay.

In a way, I see the world about to flip on the t.v. and sit dumbfounded as they see the future explode. In that moment, they will see beyond the nose on their face and realize how fragile the world they live in really is. I hope this wake up call changes everything about the way people view their lives. I have hope that this will occur but I can't say that they are high hopes.

I don't know why, but I think next week is going to be a tough one.

Mike _____________________________

-- Michael Taylor (, October 24, 1998.


<< You have missed the point entirely.

Y2K does not need a "fix" either. Our computer systems were simply not designed to be operated in any century other than the 20th.

Period. >>

Without putting too fine a point on it, or trying to sound like I'm attacking you and not your statement, that may be the single most ludicrous statement I have heard regarding computers in the 18+ years I've been working with them.

1. The computers themselves have very little to do with it. It's the software (and the rather closely related firmware). Y2K issues are related to shortsightedness and poor design of some systems. Not all, some. And most of the ones with problems can be fixed or dealt with in some other way, given enough time.

2. A great many systems don't have Y2K problems, either because they were built to be complient or don't do date math. Therefore, they work in any century.

3. Any problem needs a fix. The problem comes when either that need is unrecognized or unmet.

-- Paul Neuhardt (, October 24, 1998.

Paul Davis wished upon a star:

>I know and work with dozens of engineers (why did you think they called it the Army Corps of Engineers), have my office in

uh, Paul, would that be the same Corps of Engineers that has been trying to fill in the Atlantic Ocean for the last 15 years?

-- a (a@a.a), October 24, 1998.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA hehehehehehe ROTFLMAO hahahaha That would be the same Corps. Who ya gonna call??? hahahaha Anyone ever dealt with these yokels??

-- Believer (, October 24, 1998.

Michael Taylor: Can I come and work for you? :)you seem to understand the process of management the way it should work. PNG - Incredible post - this is a "print and giveout" post which all my friends should read - I just hope they are not like those who were unimpressed with Challenger exploding.

Please don't expect that oil or gas will continue to flow uninterrupted from Canada - we are having local supply and demand problems here already just from the growth in Alberta and have been warned many times to expect rotating outages - try and buy a new small generator here this week! - not a company I went to has one - all backordered. The companies which work on the perifery of the drilling (in which my husband is involved) are not doing anything much to remediate their systems in the offices, let alone work on the embedded systems and they all use custom software for their exploration/production/testing programs. One of the companies named for the Cdn Export award is working on new products, and not on the co-ordination of time-sensitive equipement on the oil platforms for drilling. According to one of the leading natural gas production measurement companies, it would take 30,000 wells drilled ( that is two good years worth of drilling) to actually come to the level of reserves our Energy Board says is in the ground. They have drastically overestimated diminishing reserves and those who have contracts with Canadian gas pipelines may find them unfulfilled. Although under NAFTA, we Canadians may find ourselves freezing in the dark while contract gas goes south...who knows??? and that is the whole point - nobody does.

-- Laurane (, October 24, 1998.

It's beginning to sound as if all of us who don't work for the Corps of Engineers should consider alternate energy sources.

Seriously, Y2K is forcing me to do one thing I've always wanted to do.....look hard at renewable energy and at low consumptions alternates to grid power. Maybe I'll get to the point I want to be, maybe not. But, at least I'll have a start, and adding to it won't be as bad as the initial cost.

Most energy companies -- gas, oil, electricity -- must pay for the work that they do in order to provide power. The publically stated expenses of many companies is in the 10s or 100s of millions of dollars. This has to be paid for by the users (us). I don't see any way that we can avoid really astronomical rate increases. Regulators won't let the companies go out of business.

Add this to the real potential of oilfield disruptions, and I think we'll see energy costs, once so cheap, go sky high.

[No, no.......not just when I took delivery on my oversized, overpowered, 4 wheel drive monster Expedition......used only for going 6 blocks to school on sunnny days. Tell me it isn't so!]

-- rocky (, October 24, 1998.

Hope this is too off-topic. If the production facilities in the Middle East go _out_, any conjecture on the political impact?

Without a product to export, wouldn't the overall importance of the area dwindle? Suddenly, it's everyone is dressed up and there's no party.

I've been looking at the Y2K issues hard over the past year and have not found any work (papers) on what a post-y2k geopolitical structure might look like. How might the world 'arrangement' differ?

just a ramble - any takers?

-- j (, October 24, 1998.

Paul (Neuhardt),

Let's go for the "fine point".

I will attempt to keep this as "un-personal" as possible, while pointing out the simple inaccuracy of your designation of my statement as "ludicrous".

Since you cite your "18+ years I've been working with them", as relevant, I will cite my own qualifications to such extent as is consistent with not relinquishing my anonymity.

The first computer that IBM Corporation PAID me to maintain, repair and program, had a motor in it and was made to process data faster or slower by moving a v-belt from one pulley to another.

The last one was called Skyline, and Hitachi was paying the bill.

Somewhere along the way, I earned a modest pile of gold designing process control machinery for industry (chemical manufacturing) and found myself spending too much time crawling around manufacturing plant floors with a flashlight looking for what are now called "embedded systems", but which we just called, "the damned control circuitry".

I have been intimately involved in the transition TO vacuum tube technnology, TO transistor technology, TO integrated circuitry and can quote you chapter and verse on what hardware was, or is, likely to cause problems due to the century change. You are correct when you say, "The computers themselves have very little to do with it", but if you had read my statement a little more carefully, you'd have noticed that I said, "Our computer systems were. . .", and NOT "our computers". I would have thought someone with your length of experience would have caught the distinction.

Taking your statement of experience at face value, it seems a fair bet that I was writing "firmware" (we called it microcode back then) when you were likely taking all of your nourishment in liquid form. What you call "software", was known internally to IBM as "macrocode" at that time, and I think it highly probable that I am aware of the relationship between the two to at least as deep a level of understanding as yourself. (btw, I also understand how "firmware" relates to the hardware, to the P-N junction level!) It also seems likely that I was delving the intricacies of System 360 Assembler, COBOL, and various other "ancient and arcane" high-level languages about the time you were learning that Dick and Jane saw Spot run.

Y2K issues are indeed related to shortsightedness, although in my personal experience it was almost never on the part of the programmer and almost always on the part of the "bean-counter" or manager.

You seem to have a problem with the design issue in that you apparently believe that that software which will not function in the 21st (or any but the 20th) century was the result of "poor design". It was not "poor" design, it was 20th Centurydesign, and was in response to (for the most part) decree from management.

You seem to say that those systems which will not have a problem will not, because of "good" design. That is not (at least until very recently) the case. They will not have a problem simply because (as you did finally get around to mentioning) they do not care what century they operate in. That software is irrelevant to Y2K.

The quality of the design is spoken to by it's universal usage throughout Western Civilization these many years.

It seems petty, but is essential to this response to make a distinction between the term "fix" (to repair something that is broken) and the term "re-design". I used the term "fix" in the same way that Paul Davis did in his original statement. I prefer your term, ". . .dealt with in some other way. . ." simply because it goes to meaning rather than semantics.

You use the phrase, "given enough time" with reference to solving the Y2K problem. TIME is indeed the showstopper, and has been for several years now. We are out of it! Time (specifically, the way we keep track of it) has always been the crux of the matter.

What is not so widely understood, is that those cultural traits of 20th century management (read greed and fear) which caused the problem in the first place, are currently operating at cross purposes to most of us on this forum and will, unless addressed both now and post-Y2K, continue to "give us grief" as a society (if, in fact, we survive as a society at all).

I suspect that, for the most part, you (Paul Neuhardt) and I are in "violent agreement" about most of this. I would suggest that your post be amended to read in part, ". . .that may be the single most misunderstood statement I have heard regarding computers in the 18+ years I've been working with them".

-- Hardliner (, October 26, 1998.

Paul (Davis),

You argue like a child and you spout gibberish!

When you compare apples and oranges you quite expectedly conclude bananas.

Your "flying the Ford off the cliff" flim-flam would have more properly reasoned that your Ford was not an off-road machine so why were you surprised when it came apart as you drove it down the side of a mountain. Like I said, gibberish.

Of course the Shuttle logged a lot of miles (most of them in a circle) but any Edsel logged a lot more miles than any donkey cart that ever existed too. Like I said, apples and oranges.

I suspect that Uncle D. got it right. If you'd have been an Apache, you'd probably have ridden your horse facing aft.

-- Hardliner (, October 26, 1998.


I suspect that you remember the dreaded "1440 Compatability" mods one had to use to convince his 360(-30) that it really was a 1440 so the work could get done. And then had to undo so the rest of the work could get done.

(something about pulling a few small boards and replacing them with other, differently wired boards)

(you ain't the only fossil around, though you might have a few on me!!)


-- Chuck a Night Driver (, October 27, 1998.

PNG Since you're there, can you tell us why the Japanese are so inept at handling their finances. Is inept the right word to describe it, seems an understatement. How will the $160 billion be written off. Thanks.

-- Richard Dale (, October 27, 1998.

I'm working on it now, Richard. I need 3 more days to finish it.

It's an interesting story that affects the future of the entire global financial structure.

One Japanese company I work with has about 150.000 employees. Less than half are Japanese. About 80,000 employees are outside Japan. The factories and offices buy their material and services from local companies. The employees and the vendor's employees (and the vendor's vendor's employees) derive their income, pay their mortgages, go shopping in local stores and pay their taxes only if that company exists and flourishes.

The "us" versus "them" mentality, especially concerning Japan, of some people (even on this forum) is shockingly naive and short- sighted. Yet, they complain and comment about the y2k short- sightedness of the government, utilities and private companies. Amazing.


-- PNG (, October 27, 1998.

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