Another Semi-GI Rooting for 'Change' : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Here's an article by a Semi-GI English ironic cheerleader for change.
Wonder if she's read Infomagic yet? 98/12/15/timopnope01003.html?2466332

December 15 1998 OPINION, Copyright Times Newspapers Ltd.

If 2000 does bring global computer meltdown, it will be a timely lesson

The Joyous Jitters Bug

You wake up on Sunday morning and there it is on the radio: a report that a government agency, Action 2000, is advising householders to hoard a fortnight's rations for next new year because of millennium bug disruption. You sit bolt upright in bed, punching the air. Yess! It has begun! Let the wild times roll!

Granted, the report was immediately followed by the sound of violent scuffling, bleeping and muffled curses, as the Cabinet Office distanced itself from any such suggestion. But the shot has been fired and cannot be recalled. Telling the British to stockpile food is like suggesting a fiesta to the Spaniards. We take our pleasures seriously, and one of the greatest is fearing the worst and being on the safe side. Just as a palpable frisson of satisfaction goes round low-lying eastern coastal towns when the council comes round with the sandbags, just as the first flake of sleet sets Middle Englanders scrambling for the post of Community Snow Warden and Salt Enforcer, so will this new call be met. "Get flour and grain," said the instant expert on the local station. "Tinned foods which can be eaten cold. Paraffin." Ms Flower, of Action 2000, said: "We don't want to see panic buying in the weeks leading up to next Christmas . . . think about this in advance." As an afterthought, she advised against trying to stockpile water.

Joy, joy, glum smouldering British joy! A government warning to hoard is a spark to dry tinder. Panic buying is our birthright, and we may as well enjoy it. Let there be emergency broadcasts nightly, in which Delia Smith addresses the nation (perhaps from that No 10 set in which Baroness Thatcher used to rebuke inner-city rioters, the one with the polished drum side-table). Let there be rotas, so citizens with surnames from E to K can buy lentils on Wednesdays while those from L to R apply for tinned tomatoes. Sea Cadets and the WRVS must be seen to draw up secret plans detailing emergency dumps of Nato-surplus dehydrated peach cobbler. Gordon Brown must announce a hoarders' allowance. Radio 4's You and Yours must warn against the risk of ergot poisoning from mouldy flour, and consequent deranged dance crazes.

Forgive my callous glee. Real food shortage is no joke; ask any Russian. And, of course, the sour side of all this nonsense is that the poor will suffer twice. First they will suffer from apprehension and shame because they can't afford a fortnight's food at once. Next, if there actually is disruption of electricity and water and supplies and pension Giros for people whom the DSS computer believes to be aged minus 27, then the poorest will be the coldest and hungriest. The joke may turn sour.

Or nothing may happen at all, and the wise virgins may get comically stuck with a rusting larderful of tomato soup. The Government may be right to say that essential services are now bugproof. It may be that we lose only the brains of PCs and videos and cash machines and the kind of corporate systems which crash all the time anyway ("sorree . . . can't take the booking . . . the system's down"). The alarming, stimulating, rather glorious thing is that nobody knows what will happen. And since only a few experts can do anything constructive towards rewriting the world's 1.2 trillion lines of faulty code, most of us might as well spend the coming year of uncertainty and Spam-panics in quiet reflection about how we got into this ridiculous situation in the first place.

Ridiculous it is, and historically unprecedented. What we have done over 40 years is to build a global social system in which there might or might not be sudden paralysis, starvation, riot and pestilence with no physical disaster or shortage to trigger it. From the dialling tone on the telephone to the delivery of seed and fertiliser to world agriculture, there is very little which might not be affected after January 1, 2000. In the US, where Armageddon always comes bigger and fancier, a survey reported in Vanity Fair found that 10 per cent of technology executives intend to stockpile food and buy generators and wood stoves and firearms. A senior bank executive allegedly told people to sell their houses, hide cash and buy gold. And why? Merely because early computer codes failed to put a 19 in front of the date, or to tell the machines that the rising numbers of the years would eventually reach the hundred, which is not the same as zero.

Thereafter, new codes were built on the old until they vanished from memory, like foundations of shifting sand.

Paul Strassmann, who oversaw the Pentagon computers under President Bush, remarked that the whole mess has happened because "Americans fell in love with computers and put up with failures that they would not have put up with in a crummy toaster". He can say that again. The result of this love was that the computer industry never went back and corrected mistakes. It never does. It hurtles onward, bodging and compromising and painting over the cracks, and gets away with it. It has grown up like any spoilt and uncorrected child: wayward, selfish, arrogant, irresponsible. The industry's brilliance and rapid development has always had a black, bitter, frustrating side; the millennium bug is only the most dramatic symptom of it.

Apart from a happy few who fell in love with their first Apple Mac and have been in a chaste and faithful relationship ever since, every private user has horror stories of the trade. We have several: the communications software which clashed with the modem which clashed with the operating system and froze the PC screen (though the whole package was supplied together). Or the Acorn computer sold with the promise of a PC upgrade within two months, only it took a year to appear and then did not work because of a software error; the IBM laptop which two separate IT specialists failed to cure of its mystery allergy to its own program; the chain-store machine sold with three CD-Roms but which proved incapable of running any of them without a specially made boot-disk that only the shop could create, but didn't offer to. And so on.

So diffuse and little-understood is this world of products that companies get away with never offering apologies, never acknowledging faults, providing exiguous service and claiming within six months that your model is obsolete anyway. Like many humble individuals, I originally assumed that the glitches were my fault for being ignorant, and that they only happened to individuals. Last year, however, a survey of commercial and corporate buyers of computer networks revealed an epidemic picture of overselling and underperformance, epic waste and confusion, and a regular pattern of company systems being written off after two years during which they never once worked properly.

Of course there have been exceptions: good companies and services. But by and large, the computer industry has sold without caring, innovated without consolidating, failed to control the enthusiasms of its boffins, and relied on its customers to throw good money after bad. As a perspiring technician once remarked, trying to understand a problem in our son's first machine: "What they've done is to sell you a car with three wheels, promised to bring out the fourth as a free add-on, but delivered a wrong-sized wheel that only runs backwards."

Look, I love computers. Computers are great. I am working on one now, and with luck it will mesh its brain with the Times computer via a computerised telephone line, and the Times computers will instruct printing computers, and the petrol company computers will remember to tell the pumps to fuel the vans that travel through the night (via roadworks and lights controlled by more computers), and you will read this and think "what's the fuss?".

But we should be grateful for the millennium bug, or the fear of it. This uneasy year will be a cure for arrogance: a pair of vast and trunkless legs of stone standing in the desert, mocking our Ozymndian pretensions. Next time round, we won't be so respectful of impatient people who

-- Leska (, December 15, 1998


"Next time round, we won't be so respectful of impatient people who say they know what they are doing. Will we? "

The last sentence for above article. And I put lots of XXXs at the end, another munchkin attack.
xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxx

-- Leska (, December 15, 1998.

This article brought up something I keep wondering about. If there were a search engine for this forum I wouldn't have to wonder so much! Have to upgrade to MacOS8.5.1 to get Sherlock, the search engine that searches everything (or so I've heard).

Why don't more people praise Apple Computer and especially Steve Jobs? The Macintosh does not have Y2K problems. Why don't ppl acknowledge that Mr. Jobs is the most far-sighted of computer builders? I got really tired of hearing all the snide derision aimed at the Macintosh. After the company booted Steve, BIG mistake, they did make errors, but the Mac was always a very satisfying machine.

Mr. Jobs is a remarkable hero. He left Reed College (in Portland) and started Apple in a garage. He recognized the GUI and other user-friendly protocols as important to the masses who would soon be needing to use computers at work. He is a marketing whiz. He built an exciting company. I'm sure most YourDoneItes *grin, Diane* know the history. When he left Apple, he built up Next, and Pixar, which has released Toy Story + A Bug's Life, both great movies. Next's best will be a major part of the MacOSX released next year. He is not bitter, but always the amazing visionary, who has gone back to revive Apple without letting his past slay his once-enemies.

If everybody was using Macs, Y2K would not be so bad, and might even be survivable. Why don't more people recognize Steve Jobs?

Even though I represent the little common person on this Forum full of engineers, BA-MA-PhDs, geeks, programmers, etc, I do have a feel for what computer is a pleasure to work with. I used to work for IBM teaching the DisplayWriter, the last 'cadillac' of dedicated word processors. It was an elitist rush of power to know all the commands, master the arcane, run the paperwork lifestream for big companies. I had several clerical jobs, including the English Dept. Secretary at {yes, Monica Lewinsky's college!} Lewis & Clark College for one year, madly typing 14 prof's curriculum, tenure pubs, manuscripts, all dept. paperwork, etc etc on an IBM Selectric typewriter with a balky correction key. So when I ended up running that College's Computer Resale Program and became an Apple & Microsoft Rep, I had liberating reason to fall in love with the Mac!

Ashton & Leska in Cascadia, who see Y2K exposing mankind's blunders in all sorts of fascinating ways
and who feel taking care of dying persons is much preferable to being stuck in an office

xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxx

-- Leska (, December 15, 1998.


Interesting article.

Yes I love the Mac, but I'm also realistic enough to recognize that without power, it becomes a "yellow sticky" holder. *Sigh* Changes, changes.


-- Diane J. Squire (, December 16, 1998.

Hey Leska, do you think that just once you could start a thread without being the first one to respond? I wouldn't want to think that maybe, just maybe, someone REALLY likes being at the top of the "new answers" page

-- Tired Of It (, December 16, 1998.

Dear Tired Of It, Sure, if I could just get the posts to completely load, instead of eating the last sentences. How does one do that? Tell me and I'll do it!

I've looked carefully at how much I post, and actually, percentage-wise, it is very little. I only start a new thread if it's something I'm really interested in, and think others will be too. And then, because it's an interest, I'll keep going back to that thread to add more related info, or reply to others. If a thread is interesting enough to start, chances are other articles or thoughts will be relevant there.

I'm not trying to get to the top of anything, just to share unique or impacting news. I thought, psychologically, the article above brought into the open new-for-the-media aspects. I'm still re-reading it and thinking about it! Sorry you did not comment upon the substance of this thread. Anybody tired of anything can simply scroll or back-click, forward-click, etc. The Net is so easy, how can you complain? How will you cope when we all have something to *really* complain about in little over a year?

Ashton & Leska in Cascadia, who statistically do not post much, and do post with polite manners :)

xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx

-- Leska (, December 16, 1998.

Steve Jobs is one of the true visionaries in the industry and the Mac one of the most important developments in personal computing. Job's also egotistical, driven, charming when he needs to be, and brutal when he does not. Unless you have thick skin and no life other than your job, you would not enjoy working for him or being around him. Not unlike Bill Gates, Oracle's Larry Ellison, and any number of other silicon success stories.

You seem like a very warm and people-oriented person, Leska. You would be appalled at what Jobs has done with people who've worked closely with him, especially some of those who started with him at Apple. He is a truly gifted analyst of technology and its potential, but there are many other equally gifted people in the industry who are not also arrogant dweebs. Jobs has contributed immensely to the computer industry. He's made himself and many other people rich. He gets plenty of credit all the time for his contributions. He'll go down as one of the key figures in the history of computing. Nuff said.

-- Mac (, December 16, 1998.

Interesting article...typical British tongue-in-cheek irony.

I wouldn't be so sure about those Macs though. Better get 'em tested.

-- Buddy (DC) (, December 16, 1998.

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