Is an April 1, 1999 straw man being put into place? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I just saw an article at ZDNet on the April 1, 1999 fiscal-year rollover issue. We know how easy it was for states with non-compliant unemployment insurance systems in January 1999 to deal with the problem: they changed the end dates on benefits from January 2000 to December 1999.

Because of that, I'm wondering if the ZDNet article is setting up a straw man to be knocked down. Here's an excerpt from the article:,6158,2229904,00.html

[emphasis in last sentence of quote is mine]


This week, ZDY2K introduces you to the issues surrounding April 1st, when the first major fiscal calendars roll over into 2000. It's a date that will give some solid indications about the nature of Y2K problems, because for many financial systems, it is the beginning of the year "00."

Based on the progress of Y2K remediation in New York and Canada, there are several hotspots where problems will, if they are going to happen at all, erupt with sufficient severity that the public will feel the impact. For the most part, problems will be contained and corrected before they cause problems visible to the outside world -the kind of day-to-day processing problems IT professionals deal with may increase, but they will be fixed without major incident because these governments are aware of the potential for errors on or around April 1.

If these hidden problems happen, but no one in the public is affected, it's reasonable to say that Y2K is increasingly likely to be a non-crisis that society deals with like other changes in the environment.


-- Kevin (, March 24, 1999


In response to one of the messages in this thread:

yes, the essay I wrote last July did say that we would begin to see tangible evidence on April 1 of whether or not governmental computer systems are working. It's now April 3rd, and it appears that New York and Canada are still intact; I'm not aware of any evidence that would be visible to taxpayers and citizens of major Y2K problems.

There may or may not be internal problems that the programmers are grappling with; chances are that we'll never know. But if the problems aren't serious enough to make themselves known to outsiders -- a la the New Jersey food-stamp fiasco -- then we can behave as if they don't exist.

It may be a bit premature to announce victory on this front, as the various financial systems have not had a chance to run through several cycles, in order to accumulate what Paul Milne poetically described as a "ballet of errors". But if nothing significant has gone wrong after a few weeks, or perhaps a couple of months, then we may well indeed have reason to be somewhat more optimistic about the outcome.

For what it's worth, though, the Y2K project manager for the state of New York is still somewhat cautious. Here's a brief snip from an Australian(!) newspaper article that appeared on Gary North's site this morning:

"As it turned out, Canada and New York easily passed their first test, although they cautioned that it was a tiny victory, as the passage of 1April tested only the portion of their systems that deal with the fiscal year.

"Problems may still emerge as their systems look deeper into the new fiscal year. "It is an important date, but January 1 is still the real test," said Mr Gary Davis, the year 2000 project manager for New York. "We've been working on this since April 1996, so having this confirmation is still gratifying."

You might also want to take a look at the list of systems that New York state has to repair; it's visible at this site. I clicked through to the list of the state's "top 40" critical systems, which had not been updated since January; at that point, it appeared that approx half of the projects were still "in progress".

Let's hope the news continues to be good....


-- Ed Yourdon (, April 03, 1999.

This is a good article on how those state unemployment insurance systems that were non-compliant were dealt with:

[sorry - the link to this article has died]

[bold emphasis is mine]

13 States, District Face Y2K Problems

Unemployment Checks May be Slowed

By Stephen Barr

Washington Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, December 23, 1998; Page A03

Thirteen states and the District will have to put electronic bandages on their computers next month so they can pay new unemployment insurance claims into the year 2000, Clinton administration officials said yesterday.

The federal-state unemployment program provides one of the first large-scale examples of the problems caused by the "Y2K bug." Computer experts have warned that payments for billions of dollars in Medicaid, food stamps, child welfare and other federal-state benefits could be at risk because surveys have shown that states are moving slowly on the Y2K problem.

Many of the computer systems in the unemployment insurance program, which processes claims, makes payments to the jobless and collects taxes from employers, are more than 30 years old. The systems processed more than $20 billion in state unemployment benefits in fiscal 1998 and provide crucial data on economic trends.

Persons filing claims for jobless benefits are assigned a "benefit year," which means that -- starting Jan. 4, 1999 -- unemployment insurance systems will have to be able to process dates and calculations that extend into 2000. Y2K problems may occur when computers next month try to process a first-time claim with a benefit year that covers both 1999 and 2000, officials said.

Some states that have not solved their Y2K problems will use a simple temporary fix, such as ending all benefit years on Dec. 31, 1999, while other states will use different techniques that essentially trick the computers so they will perform accurate date calculations, officials said.

If the computers are still not ready to operate on Jan. 1, 2000, states then will rely on emergency backup plans, including the writing of benefit checks by hand, officials said.

John A. Koskinen, the president's adviser on Y2K issues, and Deputy Labor Secretary Kathryn Higgins yesterday stressed that the nation's unemployment insurance system would not suffer serious disruptions.

"A year out, we know where our problems are. . . . It's an enormous help to have that information," Higgins said.

Koskinen pointed to the contingency planning for jobless benefits as a clear sign that the government will be able to maintain important services and programs, even if computer systems encounter Y2K problems.


Labor Department officials listed Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, the District, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Vermont as lagging on Y2K repairs. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands also are running behind schedule, the officials said.

Delaware, according to the Labor Department, will not have all computer systems converted until the last possible moment: Jan. 1, 2000. But state officials said the most critical systems have been fixed and suggested that even experts can disagree on how to assess Y2K readiness.

The District should have its unemployment system fixed by March 31, the Labor Department said.

Overall, the repair bill could run to $490 million for the unemployment insurance systems, according to preliminary estimates.

) Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

-- Kevin (, March 24, 1999.

Sorry about answering my own post. The fiscal year issue is probably going to come up a lot in the next two weeks. Some businesses will be entering their fiscal year 2000 as well. For the record, here are two recent comments from Jo Anne Slaven about that:


I don't recall ever posting that the JAE would shut down companies or cause economic meltdown. We are only talking about software that generates financial statements, after all. Most companies, even very large ones, can probably whip up monthly balance sheets manually, if necessary.

I would guess that fiscal 2000 roll-over problems might *strongly* encourage previously "pollyanna" managers to get their acts together and do something about Y2k remediation.




Companies don't always open up a new fiscal year right away. They often wait until all of the year-end entries are posted before they "roll over" to the new year. This could take 3 or 4 weeks. And accounting system problems aren't the type of thing that is immediately obvious to outsiders. I would imagine that most corporations could muddle along quite nicely for several months with a non-functional general ledger.


-- Kevin (, March 24, 1999.

Some states that have not solved their Y2K problems will use a simple temporary fix, such as ending all benefit years on Dec. 31, 1999,

I don't know about the rest of you, but I have a problem with false documentation. Data is supposed to be entered and calculated either by hand or by electronic means, 100% accurate (minus sporadic, unintentional human error). Operating systems in an environment where the data is known to be compromised is unacceptable as reliable data. All "results" would be suspect for accuracy.

Mr. K
***knows "results" are at best, unreliable under false data conditions***

-- Mr. Kennedy (looking@false.documents), March 24, 1999.

april 1 should be a relative non-event, like jan 1 was. it means relatively little. why?

1. it is essentially localized. 2. failures in that time frame will not overlap with multiple failures in other sectors in the same time frame. 3. the global- ie, international- y2k impact will not have kicked in.

-- Drew Parkhill/CBN News (, March 24, 1999.

I also want to add here some comments made by PNG at his Japan Perspective site:


Japan begins FY 1999 on April 1, 1999 - It does NOT begin FY 2000 on April 1, 1999.

Fiscal years have little to do with company or country operations. Producing products, providing services and distributing them are the elements that create commerce. Looking ahead in projections and deciding where and when you are going to post the results is keeping score...not producing, providing or distributing.


-- Kevin (, March 25, 1999.

ZDNet now has an article out on what didn't happen on April 1. Here are a few relevant snips from it:,6158,2236059,00.html


April 2, 1999 11:18 AM ET

Fizzle or fantastic?

By Mitch Ratcliffe, ZDY2K

New York and Canada entered Fiscal 2000 with nary a glitch in their financial applications. ZDTV had a camera crew there, and when the computers continued to function and the state's director of information technology said "Nothing happened" there was a distinct air of disappointment in the control room at the television studio.

See, folks, every reporter and producer wants to be the one who gets to say "Oh, the humanity" as the Hindenberg bursts into flames as it crashes to the ground. The problem with Y2K, and the reason that the growing litany of successes are not being reported is that a successful remediation program makes a boring headline: Nothing Happened. This is why you still see a host of headlines like "Y2K Could Cost Hospital Patients' Lives" despite the fact that we've entered Year 1999 without major glitches (when many computer applications look ahead into 2000 for the first time)...


The moment of truth, though there are still more to come, arrived in New York and Canada at midnight, as checks, payroll, tax and benefits systems operated reliably in Fiscal 2000. The systems are now running in a real world post-Y2K situation. And they are running - that's the news.

It's not very compelling. The clock ticked on, the computers, too. It makes bad footage, so you won't hear a whole hell of a lot about it. Nevertheless, it's time to take the alert system down a notch. Companies and governments that prepare can survive. There is no reason whatsoever to cling to end of the world Y2K scenarios.


-- Kevin (, April 03, 1999.

Here's what Paul Milne (who is never at a loss for words) has to say about the April 1st rollover. Thus follows an exchange between Milne and one of his regular baiters whom he has monickered "Pee Wee Sherman."

'Just passin' it on...

Here goes:

In article , (Bradley K. Sherman) wrote: > > [Posted by Paul Milne > ([ST_rn=qs]/getdoc.xp?AN=376138315&CONTEXT=9229 95329.3550 08646&hitnum=40)> and attributed to Ed Yourdon in the thread 'Yourdon Responds To> Clinton's Inept Speech On Y2K' on 29 July 1998] > > | [...] On January 1, 1999 they will experience many > | more, and it will be much more difficult to sweep > | them under the rug. On April 1, 1999 we will all > | watch anxiously as the governments of Japan and > | Canada, as well as the state of New York, begin > | their 1999-2000 fiscal year; at that moment, the > | speculation about Y2K will end, and we will have tangible > | evidence of whether governmental computer systems > | work or not. [...] > > Okay, Ed, put up your tangible evidence or shut up. > > --bks >

Pee Wee, once again you have shown your collossal ignorance. The errors pile up over a period of time. It is the ballet of errors that eventually becomes unmanageable. Only twits like you are looking for a collapse into a sighing heap at the stroke of a clock.

Paul Milne If you live within five miles of a 7-11, you're toast.

-- FM (, April 03, 1999.


This exchange is instructive in several ways:

1) Milne calls names. Sherman does not. (This seems to be a tactic increasingly used by desperate doomists. If requests for actual facts cannot be answered, belittle those who ask for facts).

2) Milne's claim of accumulating errors was challenged by numerous geeks, who all said errors are fixed when they happen and do NOT accumulate. Milne failed to respond to this.

3) Milne is using bait-and-switch tactics. Yourdon really DID say that these errors would be tangible (but we haven't seen them), and that they'd be visible 'at that moment' (not weeks or months later), and that these errors would 'end y2k speculation', which they have not. Yourdon was wrong in EVERY respect.

Now, does Milne admit this? Of course not. He uses the same technique that he (and others like him) used with respect to Jan 1. First, claim there will be big crashes. When there aren't any, claim that these crashes are somehow hidden, and won't happen until end of month. When that doesn't happen, claim that they *really* won't happen until end of quarter. When *that* doesn't happen either, drop the subject and never mention it again.

I notice that the dreaded spike dates we were warned about so often a year ago are being quietly written out of the official history, shades of Orwell's 1984. April and September 9 have been dropped, GPS isn't getting much play anymore. Gartner's estimate that 45% of y2k bugs will show up before rollover is being pushed back. First to April, then to July, now to 'late in the year'. Lane Core has given up on all spike dates prior to rollover.

The principle still seems to be: If lots of crashes/errors happen on the spike dates, this is proof that y2k will be very bad. If nothing happens, this isn't proof of anything and y2k will *still* be very bad. To paraphrase Dylan, we'll lose this war even if we win every battle.

-- Flint (, April 03, 1999.

If OPEN and HONEST Y2K communications were the rule on the part of government and industry much of the efforts expended here could be used in a more productive manner. We could begin to more accurately assess the impact of Y2K (which .gov is now doing). Unfortunately this is not to be and as a result much of our time will continue to be expended on determining the truth.


-- Ray (, April 03, 1999.


Absolutely right. Honest y2k reporting would be a huge help, especially if it provided details.

In practice, this becomes a bit more problematical, since it relies on the source of the information and the method by which that information was collected. I'm not talking about spin here, I'm talking about genuine unknowns -- what bugs will still exist (even the geeks don't know this), what effect will they have (a total mystery to everyone), how can we honestly summarize the status of big, complex, multifaceted projects, etc.

Look at the USPS information we have. The audit report said USPS has a long way to go. The head of USPS said to expect no big problems. nine_fingers and Harper said few systems are really vulnerable and workarounds for most of them are quite adequate. So what kind of shape is USPS in today? Great shape, terrible shape, or good enough shape? And how much improvement will happen in 9 months? In the case of USPS, we now have tons of details from insiders, and we still don't know the impacts of y2k bugs (if any).

But honest reporting would be a big step in the right direction. Asking the right questions would help a lot too.

-- Flint (, April 03, 1999.

Having worked on accounting for a small business, it's quite easy to just leave the books open, if needed, and still collect year-end numbers ... for the record.

Most companies take the month after a year-end close to actually "close" the books.

The key date in everything is still Jan. 1, 2000. And even that can be worked around in some accounting, etc. software.

It's the embedded chips and accumulated s/w glitches, water, fuel & transportation, electricity, telecommunications, health care, food supply and maritime shipping, etc. snafus, that have greater potential for "disruptions" than the accounting software.

Keep your eyes on the big stuff.


-- Diane J. Squire (, April 04, 1999.

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