Fellow 'Fivers'

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Watership Down, Richard Adams: Fiver, I feel a turn coming on.. a bad danger, people are now listening and actively seeking info:

Locals want a series of 6 one hour sessions on Y2K run through Community Education.

Topics: Origins of Y2K Current Status the nature of risk, mitigation and contingency planning North American situation: US and Canada Europe, and Asia: the Euro, Y2K in Japan. Australia and South West Pacific, small fish in a big pond. Personal Preparation and Community Preparation

Question: what have I missed?

-- Bob Barbour (r.barbour@waikato.ac.nz), December 09, 1998


Places to go for more information

-- Maria (encelia@mailexcite.com), December 09, 1998.

Re: Origins of Y2K

I hope you'll give them more than just the easy but slanderous standard line beloved by journalists, "Early programmers, in order to save precious memory space ...". (I.e., blame the programmers, the obvious scapegoats.)

Shortly after I became a Y2K GI, for a few months I observed the date-writing habits of everyone I met in everyday activities who hand-wrote a date (not filling in a field of a form) that included the year. NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON wrote all four digits of the year. Every clerk, every mechanic, every haircutter, every salesperson, every secretary, every medical person ... hand-wrote only the last two digits of the year number whenever they wrote the year.

It has been argued that the prevalence of two-digit year fields in computer-displayed dates has led to the current habit of hand-writing two-digit year abbreviations. I disagree -- I've seen a number of historical documents of both the early 1900s and earlier centuries in which all or almost all year numbers were written with only the final two digits. These documents' writers could not have been influenced by computers.

Writing two-digit years is a natural time-and-space-saver that predated the invention of digital computers. Early programmers simply carried over an established standard practice into their programs.

Aren't there cases in which the programmers could, even should, have foreseen that two-digit years would lead to trouble in 2000? Sure. And I'm not saying that every human habit can or should be carried over into programming. But to say that two-digit year abbreviation was originated by programmers is simply false, misleading and, in some contexts, slanderous.

IMHO, DGI, BTW, TEOTWAWKI, OTOH, Y2K - If widespread use of any of these abbreviations in lieu of the full phrases for which they stand were to lead to an unforeseen negative consequence in some future time, would it be proper to blame "e-mail" or "newsgroup postings" or "computers" for that consequence? Wouldn't it be more accurate to ascribe the cause to a combination of human desire to efficiently use ones time and writing space, human psychology, and certain details peculiar to the aforementioned consequence?

-- No Spam Please (anon@ymous.com), December 10, 1998.

Thanks for the suggestions.

I intend to point out that blame is not the issue.

However, I also intend to point out that this eventuality has been known for at least 25 years. It is been actively addressed in my classes from 1990 on but the extent to which it has not been addressed in the commercial and industrial worlds has only become apparent in recent years and more particularly in the last two years.

In short, a known social practice with a clear use-by date has become 'embedded' in our silicon systems.

-- Bob Barbour (r.barbour@waikato.ac.nz), December 10, 1998.

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