Y2K Analogies -- What Are Your Favorite Descriptions?

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Y2K Analogies -- What Are Your Favorite Descriptions?

Some of us are communicating with various interest groups about Y2K and find that descriptive down home analogies are quite useful in describing the scope of the problem.

What are some of your favorites?



Just saw one that made me chuckle ...


... For the most part, finding solutions remains a tedious process that involves combing through millions upon millions of lines of computer code, mostly by hand. It is also difficult to ensure that not one single line of code that uses a date has been overlooked. It's sort of like getting rid of all the fleas on all the pets in all the humane societies of America by hand. Many people are working on fixing it, but it takes a long time and a lot of money. ...

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), March 19, 1999


Like being in a dark room searching for a black cat that is not there.

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.com), March 19, 1999.

Remember the old needle in the haystack? Let's look at a few million haystacks.

None in this one... I've got 5 over here... Here's one with about a hundred... Hey, I found a whole sewing kit over here! <:)=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), March 19, 1999.

Mine is based on 18 years in the Marines. Y2K is like a bump in the road. However, the bump is a command-detonated land mine, the road has been altered somewhat so that it is hard to miss the bump, and if you do successfully make it through the bump without getting blown to bits, there is an ambush positioned on either side of the road to take out survivors.

The first soldiers to get killed in Somalia, in I think it was 1993, were killed by a command detonated mine. It was a beautiful early Sunday morning. The small pieces of the soldiers scattered around the general area had to be picked up. The Egyptian Contingent was closest to the scene and did most of the major inital gruesome clean-up, before Americans arrived on the scene.

This is what a bump in the road can do.

Sincerely, Apple

-- Apple (villarta@itsnet.com), March 19, 1999.

Y2K is like peeling off layers of an onion--you peel off one layer of problems only to reveal another beneath it. The more you peel, the more you cry.

-- Ruby (crying@onion.com), March 19, 1999.

Aircraft analogies (space shuttle, Taker Thunderbolt, etc.) are ever- popular.

-- Blue Himalayan (bh@k2.y), March 19, 1999.

Not a very pleasant analogy, but it's one I often use in my seminars here in rural America. It uses something that many people (especially parents) can truly understand.

It's analogous to "non-compliant" systems transferring erroneous data to "compliant" ones. The parallel also holds for embedded systems and why each and every unit requires individual inspection. It's something from real life. The analogy uses:

Children in a school...


head lice.


If head lice are discovered to have infested children in the school, it's not enough to spot-check a few children in each classroom. Each and every one of them needs to be examined. The affected children are sent home for treatment. They are not allowed to return until they are "cured".

If just one affected child is missed somehow (say due to being absent at the time the inspections are conducted) .. and then that child is somehow again overlooked for inspection and returns to school .. that one child can reinfest the entire school.

The "exam" aspect of this is also used in my seminars to parallel the concept of embedded systems. Embedded devices can generate invalid date-based data which is then fed back to a larger data collection point. There are many subtle variations that can be incorporated into this theme as needed. It's simple. It's from real life .. and it's understandable by almost everyone.

My $0.02 worth from the public speaking and education effort.


-- Dan (DanTCC@Yahoo.com), March 19, 1999.

just think of setting up dominos, one behind the other. then push the one in the back........in fact there used to be a game like this- can't remember the name offhand- it had a bunch of colored plastic domino shaped pieces and you set them up and just pushed one......

-- anita (hillsidefarm@drbs.com), March 19, 1999.

Dan, the hands-down winner.

-- Vic (Roadrunner@compliant.com), March 19, 1999.

Indy 500

All the cars are racing around the track at 150 mph.

At exactly the same moment sand is thrown into the oil systems of 30 to 50% of the car engines.

1) Smoke

2) Brakes

3) Crashes

Aftermath, chaos, crowd disintegrates into sympathetic convulsions of horror and terror, stampede, etc.

-- David (ConnectingDots@Information.Net), March 19, 1999.

Businesses/utilites during normal times = a college hoops team during NCAA tournament. One guy has a slightly sprained ankle, another has a tender knee, a third has an achy shoulder, a fourth has a jammed thumb on his shooting hand. Overall, the team is not at 100% (it rarely is during the year). But they're playing well, they're on a roll, and they have a legit chance to win the title.

Businesses/utilities when y2k hits = a college hoops team during NCAA tourney. Every single member of the team has a severely sprained ankle and a jammed thumb on his shooting hand. It's not like they're all dead -- they're not all on crutches or in casts. But their ability to play well and compete is gone. Their chances of winning a game is also gone.

(Just thunk this one up at 1 a.m. last night when the games finally ended.)

-- rick blaine (y2kazoo@hotmail.com), March 19, 1999.

Fatal OO Flaws breed like termites. If you do not extinguish all of them, the structure's coming down! Oh FOOF!

-- Watchful (seethesea@msn.com), March 19, 1999.

What a good idea, Diane.

I've had this analogy in my head for a few days as an illustration of the difficulties of large-scale software remediation:

Imagine you are onstage at Carnegie Hall, with a packed house of VIPs, and your family in the front row. Before you, on a rickety card table stands a five story house of cards, all facing inward.

Your task: replace all the hearts with diamonds without knocking the house down.

Complexities: You don't know how many spades are in there, or even if they really ARE in there.

By the way, you are sitting on an atomic bomb set to go off in 10 minutes, and the entire cast of Riverdance has just come thumping on stage behind you.

The good news is that in many cases, there aren't more than 1 or 2 hearts in those cardhouses. but you still have to de-stabilize it to find em and fix em.

-- Lewis (aslanshow@yahoo.com), March 19, 1999.

Man, I feel like a frog in a blender, and there's a big finger headed for the ON button.

(Don't know if I can out swim the swirl, but I'm getting dam tired of just sitting here floating, the tension's killing me.)

--Greybear, who has so many to choose from it's hard to pick just one comparrison.

- Got Enough?

-- Greybear (greybear@home.com), March 19, 1999.

Thanks guys!

Never enough, Greybear, but some great suggestions! Will use.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), March 19, 1999.

Hi Diane,

The one I use runs like this....

Year 2000 is like a beach of sand. Your task should you accept it is to pick up each grain of sand and polish the correct facet. Then you must return the grain of sand from where you got it without disturbing any of the other grains of sand.

Proceed with this strategy until you have successfully polished each grain of sand on the beach.

And remember back each goes back where you got it without disturbing the others.

Oh, and by the way, you can have as much help as you wish from any of the one in a million people who know how to polish sand grains.

Task completion date, when the tide comes in, 1/1/2000.

good luck...

-- Bob Barbour (r.barbour@waikato.ac.nz), March 19, 1999.

Hey Ruby, you stole my favorite!!!!! I don't know where my head was (no comments from the peanut gallery please). Don't forget this:

The core is small and powerful, if you can find it! <:)=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), March 19, 1999.

The analogy I like to use is that of a backpacking trip without the blisters.

I think it projects a more positive image than wartime analogies, but still emphasizes the practical aspects of the Y2K challenge. I shy away from programming analogies because most people in my experience don't have the time to understand the problem fully and are not responsible for coming up with programming fixes anyway.

If one prepares for a backpacking trip adequately in advance (both individually and collectively), it is a tolerable and even potentially enjoyable experience. However, if one does not prepare adequately in advance, a backpacking trip can range from a miserable to fatal experience. Staying in a group increases an individual's safety considerably and decreases the need to be totally self sufficient.

So far most people that I have talked to at least seem to accept this analogy without complaint, and it seems to give them at least something to think about. I would be interested in learning if anyone else takes this analogy and either uses it or improves on it. The analogy may be a stretch for some categories of folks, eg handicapped people, very young children, elderly, etc., and in these cases certain aspects may need to be made explicit in order to get the point across. Cheers,

steve14XXXatXXXhomeXXXdotXXXcom (take out XXXs)

-- Steve14 (x@y.z), March 20, 1999.

Favorite Folktales from around the World edited by Jane Yolen:


I am reminded of the encounter William James, the philosopher, supposedly had with an old woman after one of his public lectures on the solar system:

The ancient beldame came to the front of the hall, leaning on her
mahogany stick. "You are wrong, Mr. James," she said as she
drew near. "The Earth does not revolve around the sun."

"Then, Madame," asked James politely, "what is your theory?"
"Our world is balanced on the back of a giant turtle," she argued.
"And what," asked James politely, "does that turtle stand upon?"
"Why he stands upon the back of a second, larger turtle," the old woman replied.
"And," James continued relentlessly, "on what does that turtle stand?"
The old woman drew herself up and stared James in the eye."It's no good, Mr. James," she said ringingly. "It's turtles
all the way down!"

[/snip] ~C~

-- Critt Jarvis (critt@critt.com), March 20, 1999.

"If I had some ham and I could have ham and eggs if I had some eggs."br>

-- Critt Jarvis (critt@critt.com), March 20, 1999.

I'm in the third grade and there's a puddle around my desk...

-got a place to hide?


-- Critt Jarvis (critt@critt.com), March 20, 1999.

Y2K is analagous to a cancer. When you discover its existence, you're determined to prevent its spread, so you spend $$$ on every available option. However, physical limitations prevent you from achieving optimal health. And then you're toast.

-- dinosaur (dinosaur@williams-net.com), March 20, 1999.

A bit belatedly, an answer came to me today.

Y2K is like a marathon that everyone is forced to run. Some saw the signs of the forced run and prepared so that they would be able to last the course. Some heard that the run was coming, but said that They would never allow it, so did nothing. A few were already athletes who didn't need to worry about preparing, they already could run the course. Some who had prepared, hadn't done quite enough, and didn't make it, others didn't pace themselves and didn't make it. Some people who hadn't practiced knew enough to walk and finished the race. Some got together in groups and encouraged each other as they made their way.

Of course, there are variations : The race starts, but is cancelled at __ minutes into it. The forced race is extended to two and then three times the original length, even those who thought they were prepared couldn't finish. The race goes only to those who "Never, never, never give up."

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), March 24, 1999.

I don't know xxactly what Y2k is going to do to our socixty, but I do know that whxn I havx only onx kxy on my kxyboard which doxsn't work corxctly, it bxcomxs vxry hard to undxrstand what I am typing. It is of coursx xasy to figurx it out xvxntually, but it cxrtainly slows down thx procxss. I bxlixvx that whxn xvxryonx's kxyboard's dxvxlopx similar problxms, our world will grind to a shuddering stop. Xspxcially if the problxms arx diffxrxnt on xach kxyboard......

Computer A: Plxasx fill out this form and attach to filx.

Computer B: Plexse xsk xgxin, trxnsmission gxrbled.

Computer A: Cannot rxad.

Computer B: Cxnnot rexd.

Hmmmmmm......timx to go do somx sxrious shopping.......

-- Sheila (sross@bconnex.net), March 25, 1999.

I like GN's jigsaw puzzle analogy...everybody does the easy parts first, some pieces may be missing, the picture on the box looks easy,...etc.

-- a (a@a.a), March 25, 1999.

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