Y2K - The Ball Is In Your Court Now

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Y2K - The Ball Is In Your Court Now

It's not easy sorting it all out is it?

I know it's not easy because I've spent the better part of the last six months reading everything I could get my hands on - US Government Accounting Office reports, testimony in front of Senator Bonnet's special Year 2000 committee, Congressman Horn's 'government agency report cards', corporate SEC filings, news reports, corporate web sites, anecdotal evidence, power industry reports, watching C-SPAN coverage of conferences, reading technical documents.... the list goes on. And on. And on.

While reading these reports, I've had one advantage that many of you don't have: a technical background in software development. My formal education is in computer science. For the past 20 years I've worked for various companies developing software for various computer systems. I've worked on small 'one-horse' programs and as part of development teams on much larger projects. I've got a pretty good grip on how software works and what's involved in developing large software systems.

And yet, with all my reading and all my background, I cannot tell you today precisely what is going to happen with respect to Y2K. This issue so large and so 'omni-present' that any specific forecasts are difficult if not impossible.

While some of the software will be fixed before the year 2000 (some of it has already been fixed), not all of the software will be fixed in time. This is one of the few statements about Y2K that I am personally convinced is absolute fact and it is the one place where my computer background was helpful in that understanding. Many of the people whose responsibility it was to correct these software programs simple started too late to get the job done. As with a large percentage of software projects, the amount of effort and time required to complete the task was vastly underestimated.

So just which specific companies and government agencies are going to have trouble? To listen to their public relations statements, it would appear that the answer is 'none of them'. Yet this is not reasonable. Everyone is attempting to paint as rosy of picture of their own corporation, business or government agency as possible. Good news is hyped and bad news, if reported at all, is minimized. If you work as a corporate/agency executive or as a corporate lawyer or as part of marketing or public relations team, you no doubt fully understand the reasoning behind these statements -- I'm not saying that this is either good or bad -- it's simply the reality of the way business is done.

So I cannot tell you that this specific bank or that specific power company is going to have catastrophic problems related to Y2K computer issues. But I will generalize here: I anticipate that nearly all companies will have many minor problems, a lessor number will have some moderate to severe problems, and a certain percentage of companies will have failures so catastrophic that they will lead, either directly or indirectly (through litigation, loss of customer confidence, loss of 'window of opportunity', etc.), to the failure of the business or agency as a whole.

Which brings me to the reason real reason I'm writing this now. Just what should YOU be doing about Y2K?

Precisely what you do depends upon who you are, where you are and what resources you have at your disposal. But whether you are approaching this from a personal/family standpoint or as part of a business, the one thing you absolutely must do before anything else is to ACCEPT PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE PROBLEM.

This is true no matter where you come down on this issue. Whether you think Y2K will be a 'non-event' for you and your family, a catastrophic event, or somewhere in the vast range of possibilities that lie in between these two extremes, you must be willing to think for yourself, draw your own conclusions, take the action you deem appropriate, and most important, YOU MUST BE PREPARED TO PERSONALLY ACCEPT THE CONSEQUENCES OF YOUR DECISION IF IT TURNS OUT THAT YOU ARE WRONG.

No blame. No anger. No scapegoats. No lawsuits. No violence. No excuses.

If it turns out that you over-prepared, don't go blaming those who predicted "The End Of The World As We Know It" (TEOTWAWKI). You should especially not blame those people who saw things differently than you did and who didn't bother spending the time and effort preparing that you did.

Likewise, if come year 2000, it turns out that you under-prepared, don't blame the government or the utility companies or the congress or the president or vendors who gave you verbal assurances. Don't blame the news media or the Securities and Exchange Commission. And above all, do not blame those who saw things differently than you did and put much more time and effort into preparing than you decided was necessary.

More than anything else, Y2K means accepting personal responsibility for the health and welfare of your family or business. Y2K is about evaluating risks, making difficult choices and being prepared to accept the consequences of your actions (or inactions as the case may be).

In the end, the well-being of you and your family is not the government's responsibility or the utility companies' responsibility or the bank's responsibility or even your church's responsibility. It is yours and your alone. The ball is in your court now.

-- Arnie Rimmer (Arnie_Rimmer@usa.net), December 30, 1998


Sorry folks, I spell checked and proof read it and still managed to get the good Senator's name wrong. That of course should have read "Senator Bennett" (the Republican Senator from Utah).

My apologies to this group and to Senator Bennett.

-- Arnie Rimmer (Arnie_Rimmer@usa.net), December 30, 1998.

Good writing Arnie.

Responsibility = Ability to respond.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), December 30, 1998.

This is an outstanding post. Says about all that can be said as of 1998-12-30.

-- runway cat (runway_cat@hotmail.com), December 30, 1998.

Arnie... I've been preparing for the last nine months as if this is going to be a catastrophic event. I hope to God it's not; less for my sake than for my 17 year old daughter's and my pre-teen nieces and nephews. I find myself talking college and the future with my daughter one day and buying beans and batteries the next. It's very distressing. You and I have had the opportunity to take advantage of the greatness our parents prepared for us. I am greatly saddened at the prospects my daughter and her generation face. Still, I would be doing her and the rest of my family a disservice if I did not prepare for every eventuality. If things go truly bad, perhaps my efforts and yours will provide a foundation on which she and her peers can build. I wish us all good luck and Godspeed.

-- Vic Parker (rdrunner@internetwork.net), December 30, 1998.

Sounds like a '3' to '4', give or take and adjusting for what gets done in the next several months. About where I sit, and seems to be the 'take' of all the CS people I know who look at the problem and don't either start yelling "END OF THE WORLD" or totally dismiss it out of hand - obvious signal reactions that mean nothing. I guess we are either the moderates or the rational ones - anyone want to guess which?

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), December 30, 1998.

Arnie, I can't fault what you have posted, we must indeed take responsibility for our decisions on Y2K, and certainly not blame anyone for being wrong. (As a believer that the event will be a "sure-fire 10", I can only hope that we in the doom-and-gloom crowd are wrong!!!)

But we should not take things lightly on the Responsibility Issue, either. Y2K should not be an issue! It was created by design, well known in advance, and was in fact fixable at one time (but too late now). It is not an "act of God" for which no one can be held accountable. Even if by some miracle Y2K turns out to be a non-event, we should never forget that the worry that is has caused was well justified, and that the problem itself was completely preventable.

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.net), December 30, 1998.

Very nice post but........

I do hold 'others' resposible!. I hold all those pointy headed managers who responsible who wouldn't listen to me (and many others) about coding standards. I hold the spineless, clueless government responsible for not acting responsibly when they KNEW they had a big problem coming in 1990 (remember SSA started then!). I hold the vain, money masturbating, me-first, circuses and bread public for being so stupid as to elect 'leaders' of the lowest common denominator.

Other than that, I agree - don't blame anyone!

-- RD. ->H (drherr@erols.com), December 30, 1998.

Arnie, Very good post. Keep up the good work and I'm going to keep preparing. If I prepare to much we'll have a big party in the spring of 2000 and invite the whole town and homeless too!:>

-- Moore Dinty moore (not@thistime.com), December 30, 1998.


I have a 22-year-old daughter and many nieces and nephews that range in age from 6 to 29. I was originally worried about them as well. If things get really bad, they will not have the same opportunities as we did. But maybe that isn't too bad. With the state of the world in general today, I'm not too optomistic about their future if things continue on as they are. My aspirations to be a VP may crash and burn but maybe the next generation will have opportunities to do things I can't even imagine. They may not be able to go to college in the same way we did but they may revolutionize the world. With the status-quo gone, it's a whole new ballgame.

I wish I were younger...


-- Mom (hello@vic.com), December 31, 1998.

Thanks for your answer, Mom. It's nice to know there are others out there who are going through the same thing.

-- Vic Parker (rdrunner@internetwork.net), December 31, 1998.

Paper copies of downloaded information that will be needed should be made in case the internet is no longer functioning. This would include different resources for different situations. The needs of persons in rural areas with gardens etc. would be different from the needs of persons in large cities. Data on how to purify and store water, how to make a solar oven, how to preserve meat without electricity, selected recipes (beef jerky, salted meat) alternate communications systems, addresses of critical suppliers, information on solving health problems if no doctor available etc., and how to safely hook up the generator you bought but never tried out so that your appliances will work without trying to manage extension cords to appliances with no plugs such as the stove or built in microwave would be helpful. People will be in an awkward position if this information is not available ON PAPER if they had formerly downloaded it as needed from the internet and did not make paper copies. A new car battery, new tires etc. would also be wise if it looks like gas will be available.

-- Steve (sfennel@nettally.com), January 31, 1999.

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