NERC Drill and poster ja4you: Our friendly wager : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Well, it's April 10, and preliminary indications are that the drill was a success (my utility's drills went very well).

Many on this forum have wisely observed that the NERC drill wasn't much more than a drill, and that nothing big is expected to happen before 1/1/2000. I agree with that sentiment. The drill was developed to test the reactions of key utility personnel to the SIMULATED loss of communications.

ja4you, you and I made a wager. You said something significant would happen on April 9, and that somehow us utility types were hiding something. I said that I had attended the NERC conference on this subject, and that if something big happened, I'd admit to any secret information we had. I also promised not to change "hats" or disappear from the forum.

Well, there wasn't any secret information. Nothing happened on the grids. NERC isn't hiding anything. I'll be at the next conference in May. Are you still out there, ja4you?


-- Dan (, April 10, 1999


"Nothing happened on the grid" because nothing was tested on the grid. According to CNN, the drill involved "making sure their cell phones worked."

I guess they charged them up the day before to make sure.

-- a (a@a.a), April 10, 1999.


I'd certainly hope they charged up their cell phones before testing backup communications. I certainly hope they do so before rollover as well.

Before these spike dates, many were saying they'd be a good indicator of the scope of y2k problems. Why back off now and argue that they really didn't count? Maybe they really have been good indicators.

-- Flint (, April 10, 1999.

Flint: I hope so too. But I am concerned that if the reason why the spikes are non-events is because of a combination of secrecy, inadequate testing, and hidden errors, the resulting complacency that we now see is going to cause a bigger disaster (because of less incentive to prepare) than if we had seen earlier failures.

Maybe I'm too you think Doc Paulie might be interested in taking me under his wing?

-- a (a@a.a), April 10, 1999.

What a joke. Remember those old radios they used to use in the military that you crank up like a Baygen to communicate with your commander or other troops? That's what this "utility" test was all about.

In case all the phone systems were down, these guys dusted off their old radios and cranked them up to make sure they could communicate. Of course the distance is limited, so they have the guy in New York call the guy in Ohio, then he calls the guy in Missouri, and so on. Eventually they have a chain-link of communication so for example, the guy in Los Angeles can say "yeah, were blacked out here, tell the guy in New York to send some of his juice this way."

Well, guess what. It worked. So are you now convinced that you don't need to go out and buy any more batteries for your lanterns? I'm not.

-- @ (@@@.@), April 10, 1999.

Dear @@@@.@@@: Nice name you have.

The purpose of this thread was not necessarily to critique the effectiveness or usefulness of the drill that we power companies performed. I did it because about a month ago, a poster suggested that the drill was being used as a front for having utility personnel "on the ready" for something really bad that was going to happen. So we made a bet, which was to be settled on April 10.

You may think of the drill as a "joke", but those of us responsible for the drills did not take it as such.

And by the way, it appears you need a little education on the power grid. If New York has "juice", it can't just send it to Los Angeles, because that's not how the grid is connected.

ja4you, where are you?


-- Dan (, April 10, 1999.

Thanks Dan, I'm glad you like my name. I have the most efficient address on this forum and I'm damn proud of that.

As far as me interfering with your personal wagers, why don't you do that through your personal e-mail, after all, this is a public forum.

Of course I realize that the power does not go direct from LA to NY, but through interconnections at other places. That was what was known as a simplification Dan, for simpletons like you. My point is that regardless of how many communications tests they do, portions of the grid will fail, and this may even cause a nationwide blackout.

This test is just a charade for the media because the utilities are too incompetent to deal with the real problems. You lost your bet, Dan.

-- @ (@@@.@), April 10, 1999.


Thanks for the valuable firsthand information. We don't see much of that around here. By now, it should be pretty clear to you why we don't.

-- Flint (, April 10, 1999.

Valuable firsthand information? If Dan works for a utility company I would like to know why they are not yet compliant, and why they are going to wait until after Jan. 1, 2000 to fix embedded systems.

Now THAT would be valuable information!

-- @ (@@@.@), April 10, 1999.


Dan has rightfully posted this thread re: a wager he & I had on March 20. Please see the following thread:

I truly believed NERC was scheming or covering up a potential 4/9 problem.


Dan, per our wager, I stand before this forum and admit that I was 100% wrong (and happy as heck that I was). :~)


[Sorry I was late showing up!]


-- JA (, April 10, 1999.


While you're at it, you should ask why the sun rises in the west and why the moon is made of green cheese. That way, you could get all of your questions aswered at once and you won't be kept in this awful suspense.

-- Flint (, April 10, 1999.


JA- That was *EXTREMELY* noble of you. I know how hard it can be to admit when I'm wrong...and the way you did it was VERY cool. Thank you. Very respectfully,


-A computer glitch will not bring about the end of civilization. it takes hordes of panicking people to do that.-

-- Jonathan Latimer (, April 10, 1999.


You were right the first time, they ARE covering up. In this hectic day and age people don't have time to read articles. They see the headline and think "OK, no biggie", and it's on to the next story. What do you think most people assume when they see this headline:

North American Power Grid Passes First Y2K Drill

As I said earlier, what a joke. If it were truth, it would say this:

Backup Communication System For Power Grid Passes First Y2K Drill

Personally, I don't give a s**t, because I can live without power. But don't try to act like these sheisters aren't covering up their negligence, which is probably going to cause harm to a lot of people who DO depend on power!

-- @ (@@@.@), April 10, 1999.

Mr. Yourdon comments on April 1 rollover

asked in the TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) Q&A Forum ---------- Mr. Yourdon writes a weekly Y2K column for some outfit called Cutter Consortium. He wrote one of these columns about the April 1 rollover, and a friend passed it along to me. Not sure if it's kosher to post it here on his forum, but I figure that what goes around comes around...



Welcome to the Y2000 E-Mail Advisor, a weekly electronic briefing from Ed Yourdon, Director of the Cutter Consortium's Y2000 Advisory Service.


It's now been a week since New York, Canada, and Japan celebrated the beginning of their new fiscal year; as I write this week's column, the British government is going through the same process. Thus far, it appears that there have been no significant Y2000 problems, and Y2000 pundits are now trying to decide what it all means.

Unfortunately, much of the discussion has degenerated into petty bickering between the Y2000 optimists and pessimists (or, to use the more disparaging terms, pollyannas and doomsayers). The pessimists may have been hoping that dramatic Y2000 problems would emerge in Ottawa, Tokyo, London, or Albany in order to validate their predictions about Y2000, or to at least raise the level of awareness about potential problems looming ahead in the next few months. And the optimists may have been hoping that the lack of 1 April problems would prove, once and for all, that the pessimists' predictions were grossly exaggerated.

I found myself dragged into the fray when a participant on the Internet forum reminded his fellow participants shortly after 1 April that I had written a grumpy article last July (available at in which I said "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." It was suggested that I should "put up or shut up": unless there was tangible evidence of Y2000 problems resulting from the fiscal year rollovers, I should acknowledge that Y2000 isn't going to be such a bad problem after all.

Well, maybe it won't be -- and if that's the case, we should all rejoice. After all, we're all on the same side, in terms of our desires for a best-case Y2000 outcome, even if our current assessments of the situation may differ. I'm happy to agree with the notion that the fiscal year rollover success enjoyed by New York, Canada, and Japan -- coupled with the similar experiences enjoyed by the Eurocurrency projects, as well as the absence of catastrophic rollover problems on 1 January 1999 -- means that there is less reason than before to assume that Y2000 will lead to TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it). But I never believed in the TEOTWAWKI scenario in the first place, and I still think there's an enormous amount of potential for moderate disruptions between the "bump in the road" scenario predicted by the optimists, and the apocalyptic TEOTWAWKI scenario articulated by the doomsayers.

Looking back on the words I wrote last July, I do regret having said "at that moment, the speculation about Y2K will end," because it has become evident that there is still much to speculate about. The most significant aspect of speculation involves embedded systems: regardless of whatever problems the various government authorities might have had with their financial computing systems on 1 April or their Eurocurrency systems back in January, none of it involves the embedded systems. We still don't know how that part of the Y2000 story will unfold, and we continue to be whipsawed between optimism and pessimism as we see each new report indicating that embedded systems failures are worse than -- or, according to the next report, less serious than -- what we previously believed. Y2000 optimists and pessimists will continue arguing passionately about the presence or absence of life-threatening embedded system failures until much later this year -- indeed, possibly right up to midnight on New Year's Eve.

It's also fairly clear that a fiscal-year rollover phenomenon only concerns those computer systems that are aware of the concept of a fiscal year, and that make use of that concept in their decision- making and/or calculations. Thus, there are almost certain to be a wide range of computing systems within a government organization that are date-sensitive, and potentially noncompliant, but which are completely unaffected by the fact that the organizational entity has moved into a new fiscal year that extends from 1 April 1999 to 31 March 2000.

But let's put these two categories of systems aside for the moment, and focus on the heart of the debate: what can we conclude from the apparent fact that FY-sensitive computing systems in the Canadian, Japanese, and New York State governments appear to have survived the 1999-2000 rollover event?

The optimistic interpretation is fairly obvious: it means that appropriate remediation efforts on those systems were indeed finished on time, rather than falling behind schedule; and it means that the testing efforts were sufficiently thorough and comprehensive that no "show-stopper" bugs have appeared. And if that interpretation is correct, one might logically conclude that the government agencies will extend their success to the rest of their systems, and thus succeed in remediating and testing all of the other systems that would otherwise fail on 1 January 2000.

But this gets back to the issue of what I referred to as "tangible evidence" in my 1998 article. How do we know that New York State's mission-critical systems survived the fiscal-year rollover? Well, we have the governor's word for it: on 1 April, New York Governor George Pataki issued a press release (available at, which announced that "New York State's "mission critical" computer systems -- such as the state's payroll, general accounting, and tax systems -- that are dependent on the state's fiscal year have been remediated, tested, and are in production." Alas, we have become such a cynical nation that we're not entirely sure if we can trust such public statements; after all, we live in a nation where the meaning of truth is sometimes determined by what the meaning of "is" is. Thus, the Y2000 pessimists -- along with at least a few computer- illiterate cynics -- may seek their own evidence that the state's computer systems are working properly.

But it's likely that many computer problems that might have occurred on 1 April were simple enough that they could be fixed by computer programmers within a matter of hours, without the public ever becoming aware of the problem. True, this might have cost the taxpayers some money, and it may have caused an incremental, temporary decrease in the efficiency and productivity of the state government. But the reality is that if the problem is small enough -- or, to put it more cynically, if the problem is capable of being hidden and covered up -- then it doesn't qualify as "tangible evidence." If the citizens and taxpayers don't see it, it doesn't exist.

That seems to have been the experience with the Eurocurrency situation, and the FY-99 rollover experience. That's not to say that either of these two "trigger dates" were completely problem-free; a Eurocurrency problem with one of the French banks led to riots in Marseilles by welfare recipients who had not received their checks by mid-January 1999 (see 00bsGq&P4_FOLLOW_ON=/99/1/7/wrio07.html&pg=/et/99/1/7/wrio07.html

for details); and rumors abound of European banking difficulties with bungled deposits and funds transfers. And though the FY-99 rollover didn't lead to any catastrophes, there is no shortage of minor problems that have been reported (see for one such list).

But thus far, we have NO evidence of FY-00 rollover problems in Canada, New York, Japan, or England. It's worth remembering, though, that many of these problems -- if they exist at all -- may not show up until several "cycles" of processing have occurred, e.g., when monthly or quarterly reports have to be generated, or when several payrolls have been run. The cumulative effect of software errors -- sometimes referred to as the "Jo Anne Effect" problem among Y2000 cognoscenti -- may not be visible until numerous database records have been clobbered, or numerous end users have been affected.

And that will be the ultimate test: if FY rollover problems cause New York, England, or Canada to bungle the payment of pension checks to a hundred thousand retired civil-service workers, it won't be possible to hide the problem. We've already seen one such problem, though it's now attributed to human error rather than a Y2000 software bug: the recent fiasco that led the New Jersey state government to erroneously credit thousands of food-stamp recipients with an additional payment.

For whatever it's worth, the public acknowledgments of the 1 April situation by New York and Canadian Y2000 managers was cautious. A 2 April article in the *Los Angeles Times* (see quotes Jim Bimson of the Canadian Year 2000 office as saying, "So far it's been a nonevent. We haven't heard anything today, but I'm not that surprised since we really have to wait a while for some transactions to occur. Most of the computers are still working in the last fiscal year."

Meanwhile, it's also important to remember that Canada, Japan, England, and New York State are not finished with the systems that MUST work on 1 January 2000. A quick look at the "top 40" mission- critical systems in New York State (visible at, which shows the status as of January 1999) indicates that roughly half are not yet compliant.

Whether you're an optimist or a pessimist, it's important to remember that we still have several months before we'll really know how Y2000 will turn out. If you think of it as a 10-round boxing match, the optimists can claim to have won the first three rounds; but there are still several rounds to go.

-- 32356 (3@23.56), April 10, 1999.

ja4you: Thanks for acknowledging our wager. I agree with Jonathan-- very noble. Let's consider this one a done deal.

Flint: Thanks for the comments.

To @@@.@, you call me a "simpleton". Hmmm, I've got a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering with an emphasis in power engineering, and I'm in both the engineering and electrical engineering honor societies, and I am a Senior member of the IEEE, the largest electrical engineering association in the world. If I'm a simpleton to you, then you must be Nikola Tesla reincarnated, or some kind of power genius. You demand that utilities be "compliant". You will be disappointed, because no utility plans to be compliant, we will all be "Y2k ready" and essentially completed with all our testing and remediation by June 30 of this year. "Ready" here means that the device may have recording errors, but it's basic functionality will not be compromised come year 2000 (if it's a protective relay, it will still maintain its security and reliability). We aren't waiting for 2000 to fix embedded systems, 99% OF THEM WERE ALREADY Y2K READY, AND THE ONES THAT AREN'T WILL BE UPGRADED LONG BEFORE 2000. How about you give us a real e-mail address, @@@.@?

ja4you, thanks again for taking me up on my wager. See you around.


-- Dan (, April 10, 1999.


My name is @, not @@@.@, and you might have figured that out if you weren't a simpleton.

OK hotshot, if I am to take your word for it then your company should have no problem with running this statement as the headline to a national news report, or even to post this on their website:

We aren't waiting for 2000 to fix embedded systems, 99% OF THEM WERE ALREADY Y2K READY, AND THE ONES THAT AREN'T WILL BE UPGRADED LONG BEFORE 2000.

Let me know when that happens, and I'll buy stock in your company.

-- @ (@@@.@), April 10, 1999.

Dan: Can you tell us the name of the facility you are referring to? Or is your "readiness" a secret?

-- a (a@a.a), April 10, 1999.

Good evening Dan, I have just a quick question. What kind of drill was this, just a voice test, or a data test? Let me post part of your reply from another thread:

"Here it is: Transducers translate the actual current and voltage magnitudes into analog quantities. Those quantities are then translated to the remote transmitting unit, which then sends the data over a fiber optic system (which has its own controls). The fiber system transmits the data to a computer program which displays the values on a screen."

I'm wondering if a backup, if vioce, can keep up with changes in power requirements. Also, if data, can it keep up with fiber, or isn't the spped that critical. This area isn't my bag, but I am concerned. Thanks for your input! <:)=

-- Sysman (, April 10, 1999.

Sorry, that should be "speed that important".

-- Sysman (, April 10, 1999.

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