The Y2K Timebomb - Dud : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Evidence trickling out Y2K time-bomb is a dud

By MICHAEL MACDONALD, CP TORONTO -- The millennium bug is losing its nerve.

With each passing day, there's more evidence to suggest the Y2K time-bomb is a dud and Jan. 1, 2000 will herald the biggest anti-climax in history.

While the media remain saturated with breathless predictions about the looming apocalypse, reports continue to trickle out suggesting the potential impact of the double-digit computer glitch has been wildly exaggerated.

This month, Ontario Hydro -- North America's largest public utility -- rolled some of its internal clocks ahead to Dec. 31, 1999 and waited. It was a crucial test for part of a massive electrical grid that supplies power to the most populated part of Canada and to parts of the United States.

As the utility's computers silently marked the midnight hour, Hydro's nuclear plants stayed on line, the thermal generating stations kept generating -- the streetlights didn't even flicker.

With no blackouts to report, few noticed the tiny news items the next day.

The story was much the same Feb. 4 when the world's travel industry started taking reservations for trips beginning Jan. 1, 2000.

No glitches were reported.

Consultant Peter de Jager, considered one of the world's leading pundits on the subject, wrote an essay this month titled Doomsday Avoided, in which he concluded: "We've finally broken the back of the Y2K problem."

The success of these recent tests is not to suggest the Y2K bug won't bite. There have been plenty of reports from around the world -- particularly in developing countries -- citing disruptions caused by computers or embedded microchips that couldn't handle the transition to 2000.

In Canada, for example, a computer used by Revenue Canada was thoroughly confused by the bug last year when it mistakenly compiled a list of 20,000 corporations that hadn't paid taxes for almost a century. That snafu was fixed before the letters were printed.

Last month, Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General admitted it had sent out hundreds of notices for traffic fines that were 100 years out of date.

These examples are typical of what we can expect in the months ahead -- a string of minor gaffes and embarrassing flubs, but no big-time disasters.

Perhaps this explains why so many business leaders, politicians and Y2K gurus seem to be backing away from their doomsday scenarios for North America.

According to de Jager, a Canadian who lives in Brampton, the real problem was widespread denial about the Y2K threat.

"Without our warning, the (information technology) industry would still be asleep at the wheel," de Jager wrote.

"Did everything we speculated about prove to cause problems? Nope. But until we checked, nobody could say it was an unnecessary activity . . . Have we solved Y2K? No, not entirely. But, we have avoided the doomsday scenarios."

Trouble is, the panic button seems to be stuck.

The news media continue to pump out stories warning of a technological Judgment Day for those who haven't stockpiled water, food and money.

"As it becomes clear our national infrastructure will hold, over-reaction becomes one of the biggest remaining problems," John Koskinen, a top Y2K trouble-shooter appointed by U.S. President Bill Clinton, said in a speech last week.

"It's important to understand that planes aren't going to fall from the sky. The elevators aren't going to the basement and the pacemakers aren't going to stop."

But the sudden flood of soothing words makes Joe Boivin nervous.

"On the surface, this sounds like very common sense advice," says Boivin, president of the Global Millennium Foundation, a non-profit think-tank and Y2K watchdog based in Ottawa.

"Most of what we're hearing to support the case for pulling back is based on partial information that is clearly not indicative of what's really happening."

As an example, Boivin took aim at the Canadian government's recent claim that 84 per cent its 48 "mission critical" computer systems are Y2K ready.

"Has anybody bothered to ask about the computers that aren't mission critical? What's happening with the rest of them?

"No one has tried to explain what the impact might be when the others break down."

Boivin says the best evidence he has to show the Y2K threat is alive and well comes from retailers selling generators and emergency supplies.

"Ask the sales people what kind of customers are coming in and buying this stuff," Boivin says, pausing for effect. "It's almost all high-tech workers -- those who are the best informed on this issue . . . This is not the time to relax."

-- Norm (, March 15, 1999


Pity most people won't read to the last one-fifth of the article where the caveats reside--especially the last para.

-- Old Git (, March 15, 1999.

"Ask the sales people what kind of customers are coming in and buying this stuff," Boivin says, pausing for effect. "It's almost all high-tech workers -- those who are the best informed on this issue . . . This is not the time to relax."

Pure speculation. Anybody got data to back up that statement?

-- Boivin made that up (yeah@right.boivin), March 15, 1999.

It is not unusual to have a large portion of technical folks at y2k meetings and participating in y2k preparations. Our meeting yesterday of approx. 112 people was 45% techie oriented, evidenced by their sign in sheet submission. They were very open to report on their company involvements (since we are a church group) and also making 4-6 months preparations in food/water/heat/shelter/fuel/medicines/etc. This is evidence that speaks LOUDLY to the people who are at these meetings looking for facts. Why listen to propaganda sound bites on t.v. that give no real facts or helpful information? That's not where intelligent people go for help in this situation. Talk to the people in the trenches. You will find us at the meetings.....when we're not working those 10 and 12 hour stints ;-)

Mr. K

-- Mr. K (techies@y2k.meetings), March 15, 1999.

Neighbor Git,

When editors have to cut wire service stuff to make it fit, guess where they cut from? Riiiight- the bottom. You may be more correct than you know.


Doomer spin is still spin.

Polly spin is still spin too.

Find me someone willing to put in writing, as a legal guarantee, that it will all come up roses. Show me certifiable no-BS facts which prove that "the nation's infrastructure will hold." Please. Until you can do that all you have is opinion. And like certain anatomical features, everyone has one and nobody's is any better than anyone else's.

PS- Thanks for your opinion. But I still disagree. I can't prove me right. You can't prove me wrong. I have only opinion to go on as well. And I've seen too much official hedging of bets to be comfortable about trusting to Washington weasel words. I'll stick with a reasonable degree of preparation and firmly crossed fingers.

-- (li', March 15, 1999.

Hi! I think that the idea that it may be "dud" on January 1 is accurate. I think that problems may escalate later in the year as stockpiled company supplies run out, which includes things like parts to fix electrical and gas power lines and equipment. Also, as manually manipulating paperwork becomes impossible because of the backlog. I can see a possible slow unraveling of the economic system. This may not be as spectacular as huge unmanageable problems centered on Jan 1....but it is just as bad and maybe even more so.

I think that what makes or breaks the economy is not necessarily how the fortune 500 companies are managing Y2K, but how the little guys who feed those companies are doing and all indications are they aren't doing good. Anyway, good luck to everyone...I bought my 7th 55 gallon water container yesterday.

Sincerely, Apple

-- Apple (, March 15, 1999.

How did they roll the EMBEDDED SYSTEMS forward to test them? You don't know? Well at least the billing system will work. Will the SCADA system function so that the generators can produce and distribute the power? That question has not been answered. Most people will read the report and relax assuming that the problem is solved. Shame on the paper for not adequately reporting these issues.

-- Steve (, March 15, 1999.

It's WAY too early to state that the Y2K bug is a dud. Let's not jump to conclusions here.

-- Bill Jackson (, March 15, 1999.

Hey my home computer rolled into 2000 with only minor problems. So that must mean the whole world will be ok! BRAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHTman

-- Tman (, March 15, 1999.

"Doctor. This patient has lung cancer, cirrhosis, advanced pancreatitis, AIDS, and a brain tumor. I think he's a gonner."

"Not at all. He's got the eyesight of a man half his age, his hair is thick and lustrous. No ingrown toenails, he's sharpwitted, and has fine muscular hamstrings."

"Doctor, I think you're missing the point."

"Don't be so gloomy. Pessimism doesn't help."

"I'll call the morgue."

-- powdered toast (, March 15, 1999.

if you approach this Y2K thing like therapy, and you constantly bombard yourself with doomsayers, and never hear the other side, you may be in for an embarassing early January. However, I would like to hear some high tech jargon. Haven't heard from anyone lately that is "in the know". I was talking to a workmate in our IT department. He would smile when I would say "Y2K baby!" After a while, he opened up and admitted he is heavily stockpiling. Now, he says you can't get those containers with nitrogen seals right away. Used to you could. Now when they do arrive, they're gone immediately. Another programmer won't comment. The ones who can navigate windows at our office, but are "managers" in the IT department, are scoffing at any real problems....Frankly, I wish there were more facts about the reasons why the interlinking and connectivity are such an achilles' heel. I think its more complicated than any one person can understand. So I am looking for a "public feeling" and perhaps a general consensus from those who aren't of the "lock and load" mentality. any programmers got anything to add?

-- rick shade (, March 15, 1999.


Most of the programming folks (the ones who actually seemed to know what they were talking about that is...) have been chased off by the extremists - of which there are many.

-- Norm (, March 16, 1999.

Most of the programmers I talk to are stockpiling food and taking cash out of the bank. But what do they know? They're only the ones doing the actual code remediation.

-- cody (, March 16, 1999.

Same here.

There's also talk that our Y2K project manager may be shipped out to the state capital to help them sort out their mess; at this late date, I suspect that all the PM will really be able to do is help them develop contingency plans. Good news, bad news. Good news: our company and our major client are both in good shape. Bad news: the state in which both reside is in very deep kimchee indeed.

"It's always something..."

-- Mac (, March 16, 1999.

When you hear the same good news (such as Ontario's appaernet success) reported twenty times, in twenty different places, in the same words, with the same excitement "as proof" y2K won't be a problem - and in twenty other reports hear twenty new problems, such as the USPS or the Canadian failures mentioned above, you begin to wonder.

Where are the tens of thousands of successful tests? The millions of companies that are supposedly going to be ready?

Hmmmmm. I'm waiting.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, March 17, 1999.

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