Isenberg: SEVEN WAYS Y2K COULD HOSE PUBLIC NETWORKS : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


by David S. Isenberg

"Complicated systems must interoperate. There are some 1400 telephone companies in the United States, and these interconnect with systems in 280 other countries. Year 2000 remediation has not begun in many of them.

Then there are external factors. If the electric grid fails, for example, how long can the telecommunications network stay up? Telephone companies have back-up generators, but how long can they run? Will there be fuel for them if refineries, also highly complex, information-dependent, accident-prone systems, fail?"

-- Critt Jarvis (Wilmington, NC) (, January 05, 1999


If - might - maybe - perhaps - not enough - I am getting sick of speculation presented in such a manner as to make you think you are getting facts. To be blunt - the writer does not have anything but BS to spread around.

A while back I posted some links to serious Data Communications articles written by and for Information Technology professionals discussing the effects of the massive upgrades by the TELCOS that have been required to keep pace with the growth of the Internet. Anyone bother to read them? Much in them is quite relevant to the stuff Isenberg is spreading around.

-- Paul Davis (, January 05, 1999.

The fact is, nobody knows all the facts. The "what if" questions are an essential part of contingency planning.

-- Shimrod (, January 06, 1999.

"If - might - maybe - perhaps - not enough -" Gee, Paul, personally I only wish that these kinds of questions were asked more frequently, regardless of Y2K. Could probably save lots of lives. ("If enough compartments on our 'unsinkable' ship get opened, this might cause it to sink. Maybe we should think about perhaps providing more lifeboats, as there are not enough right now for all the passengers.")

-- Jack (, January 06, 1999.

The only if about the Titanic was - if we scrape something in cold water we will pop rivets all down the side and sink. Closing the watertight doors would not have helped. The Titanic's builders only looked at one failure mode - getting a large hole punched in the side. What sunk her was a large number of small splits between plates, that caused an enormous number of leaks.

I don't trust long chains of if's, nor do I worry about things that are very improbable. There is actually a chance that a gate in an IC will flip to the wrong state, electrical charges notwithstanding. Likely this happens somewhere in the world(given trillions of trillions of gates - the Pentium had over a million), once or twice a year. I don't worry about it happening to my PC.

-- Paul Davis (, January 07, 1999.


You said, "I don't trust long chains of if's. . ."

Neither do I.

I value the fact that your life experiences (as related on this forum from time to time) have given you a perspective which, although it leads you to very different conclusions than mine, is nevertheless valid. The value, to me, of a different viewpoint is that it lends multi-dimensionality to my perception. In the tale of the blind men and the elephant, each man's perception was correct but because limited and incomplete, none provided the picture of an elephant that a sighted person held to be "normal". I am mindful of the probable accuracy of pshannon's view that much of whatever happens vis-a-vis Y2K will be unexpected.

Having said that, I must say that my life experiences have convinced me beyond any possibility of doubt that all of western civilization is one immense interconnection of people and machinery, most of which is digital and programmed with the assumption that "now" is in the 20th century. As in the analogies of a spider web or a pyramid of tins in a supermarket, it is apparent that large, even huge, parts of the interconnection can be completely non-functional or even missing and the whole will still function to a high degree. It is equally apparent (at least to me) that there are also many parts of that interconnection that must be present and functioning for any of the rest of it to work at all! (ie: electric power, telecommunication, etc.)

What brought me up short in your last post was your expressed distrust of long chains of "ifs". If you do not see our civilization as just such an immense chain, how do you perceive it?

If you see it as such a chain, how can you trust it?

-- Hardliner (, January 07, 1999.

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