Why Y2K is good for you

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Why Y2K is good for you By Michael J. Miller, PC Magazine April 7, 1999 9:25 AM PT

Lately it seems as though my mailbox is overflowing with comments on the year 2000 problem, the so-called millennium bug. It's no surprise that a lot of people have concerns; what is surprising, though, is the depth of passion that many people feel about the issue. A number of readers feel that PC Magazine and I have been far too sanguine about the Y2K problem, despite the stories we've published, including last October's cover story on the topic. They believe that the world is coming to an end, and we're just ignoring the problem.

On the other hand, I get several press releases a week from vendors who claim to have the solution. Just run our product, each vendor says, and all your Y2K issues will disappear. Right. Many of these products do something useful, but I'm skeptical that any single product is a magic bullet.

On the Y2K doomsday scale, I'm pretty much an optimist, as I've said before. I don't expect that the power will go out and never come back on. I'm not gathering years' worth of food, guns, and ammunition. And I don't think it will mean "the end of the world as we know it," as doomsayers predict.

So brand me as positive: I have faith that most large businesses, at least in the U.S., will fix or replace their business-critical systems. Most small businesses will either fix their problems or find them minor enough to live with. The federal government will get its critical systems working reasonably well. And the power systems in most places will work fine; those places that do have problems will likely have only very short outages.

But I don't want to sound like Pollyanna here. None of this means that there won't be any problems or that running some simple software program will fix everything. No matter how much gets done, there will be dilemmas. Some systems won't be upgraded in time. Some processors and some machines will stop working. Some businesses won't get the job done and will suffer big financial losses.

I'm particularly worried about small government agencies, some embedded systems, and problems in developing nations.

But I'm most worried about the possibility of Y2K panic. Just wait: We've already seen an oversaturation of media coverage discussing Y2K problems and sounding as if there's nothing we can do. More stories are likely the closer we get to 2000. For instance, April 9, 1999 (the 99th day of 1999), is just around the corner, and some problems are bound to occur. Ditto for September 9, 1999. Y2K is likely to provide the scenario for an action movie or two before the year ends.

Some people would have you think that your only choice for dealing with Y2K is either to panic or to sit quietly and watch whatever happens. But that's not true. Each of us individually can take steps to protect ourselves, our businesses, and our communities. We outline ten steps you can take in our cover story this issue ("Y2K Countdown," page 100). And I am convinced that if we all do our parts we can get through this without too much trouble.

In fact, in the long run, Y2K may actually be good for us. The crisis is causing each business and government agency to take stock of what computer systems it has and what steps to take to correct any problems. Many companies are finally getting around to replacing systems that have been outdated for years. Others are putting good backup solutions in place. And many are finally documenting processes and systems that have been fragmented for years.

As individuals, Y2K may cause us to think more about the data we depend on, the technology we use, the information we need, and how we store that information. To the extent that people prepare for a Y2K disaster, they'll be better prepared for any other kind of emergency, from technological breakdowns to acts of nature. In short, Y2K may give us all more robust, more orderly technology, and that's a good thing.

So don't panic. Figure out what you can do to prevent or minimize the effect the Y2K problem has on you, your business, and your family. This probably won't be the end of the world as we know it. But if we do what we can, we can still feel fine.

-- Norm (nwo@hotmail.com), April 08, 1999


I think his suggestions pretty much sum up what most of the preparers on this forum have been saying for the year or so that I've hung around here. If EVERYBODY would just take steps to protect themselves, their businesses and communities, any problems that occur can be worked through over time. No panic needed.

Unfortunately, it STILL appears as though the vast majority of people think that this whole thing is a joke, or are completely unaware of the potential consequences of not taking steps to protect themselves. The Panic will come in December when all those folks who've been saturated with the kind of feel-good articles that NORM usually posts wake up and freak out. THAT'S going to be the panic, not what the majority of people around here have been doing.

We could "feel fine" if we all were ready, but we won't be...

-- pshannon (pshannon@inch.com), April 08, 1999.

Uhh... He wants to prepare but he's not storing food, water, ammo..? What's his idea of preparation if it doesn't involve any stockpiling? He's much less interested in understanding the situation than in describing his feelings about it. That does his audience a great disservice, but it's probably what they expect from journalists.

As for my feelings -- I loathe articles like this one. Mindlessly up-beat little "Reader's Digest"-type snippets of a large & complex problem, an article that old people with miniscule attention spans can read while on the crapper & then forget about completely after they flush.

-- pass (the@t.p), April 08, 1999.

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