Great Book Review : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

From Dr. Dobbs:

Soothsayers of Doom

Time Bomb 2000, the "revised and updated" edition of noted software methodologist and industry pundit Ed Yourdon's New York Times bestseller, is 600 pages of absolute nonsense. Open anywhere, shake the book upside down, and out billows a smothering cloud of horsefeathers. Where does the overwhelmed reviewer start?

How about with the back cover.

"Will your bank open? Will your car run? Will your money be there? Will medical devices work? Will social security checks arrive? Will there be electricity? Food? Water? Will your PC work? Above all, what can you do to prepare?"

There's a photo of Ed with daughter and coauthor Jennifer; Ed in a sleeveless sweater and open-necked dress shirt, looking like an East Coast teevangelist touting his latest family self-help book. Next to the photo is a credit for Ed Yourdon's Rise and Resurrection of the American Programmer. He's not exactly dodging responsibility for his more famous opus, The Decline and Fall of the American Programmer (it's mentioned inside the book on his authorship credits page), but he's not bragging about it.

The techniques of argumentation used inside the book are reminiscent of millennialist literature from many centuries and from all over the world. There are fancy geometrical diagrams looking like the Qabbalah scholar's bad dream. The diagrams describe "Interaction between various worlds" and prove that something could happen if somebody doesn't do something, and it could be pretty bad, if it did happen, because everything is connected. The book implies very strongly that Y2K is the pin that just might puncture the balloon of industrial society.

Things become a little more clear on the back flyleaf, where we find an ad for another of the series, Ed Yourdon's Year 2000 Home Preparation Guide, "featuring [sic] preparedness expert James Talmage Stevens, author of Making the Best of Basics: A Family Preparedness Handbook and Don't Get Caught With Your Pantry Down!".

In fact, it's perfectly clear. The medicine show is in town. Let's flip open this literary road apple, this monument to the shamelessness of fad surfing. On page 78, we read:

"It's also possible that certain careers or professions will vanish because of sharp changes in the fashion, taste, or hobbies of society, following a massive Y2000 failure. Maybe we'll abandon baseball as the national hobby - a change that will not only be catastrophic for today's highly paid athletes, but also for those who sell peanuts and beer in the stadium."

This is not computer science, nor economics, nor sociology, nor any other kind of science. It's Swami Salami burbling prophecy through a glass darkly to the credulous unwashed ` la Hal Lindsey and Salem Kirban. Here's a particularly emphatic passage from page 80:

"Even more sobering is the impact that a pervasive Y2000 problem is likely to have on different generations. Just as the Great Depression had a different impact upon the generation of children, young adults, middle-aged people, and the elderly, we're likely to see a similar range of reactions to the Y2000 crisis ... a younger generation ... may find a Y2000 crisis liberating ... An older generation is likely to have more to lose."

"On the day you cross that river, a great empire will fall." They charged Croesus several golden tripods for that one at Delphi back when Moses was still in knee-pants.

There's a fairy tale I read to my daughter when she was four years old called "The Three Simpletons" and it starts something like this:

A maiden was, at her betrothal party, sent to the cellar to fetch more wine for the guests. It happened that she saw an ax hung from the ceiling near the cask. "Suppose," the maiden thought, "my betrothed and I were to marry, and have a son, and he were to grow up fine and strong, and be at age twenty himself betrothed, and come down fetching wine, and the ax should fall on him and disfigure him before his wedding!" And she sat at the foot of the stairs and wept in anguish at the thought.

The maiden is eventually joined by her mother and father, both of whom in their turn are overcome by the same hideous anticipation. The future bridegroom discovers them weeping in the cellar and sets off to wander the wide world until he finds three people sillier than his fiancee and parents-in-law.

I similarly pledge myself to read assiduously the books I come across, ever seeking something sillier to read than pere et fille Yourdon's Time Bomb 2000. I may be at it well into the millennium.

-- Jack Woehr


-- Realist (, April 19, 1999


This review doesn't deserve a response.

I just can't help but say though, that it is typical of the worst, thoughtless,assinine, pompous statements made by the DGIs.

Summary of review: I don't like Eds picture and and am to stupid/uniformed to respond to his points so I'll attempt to be funny."

I strive not to become arrogant and a real smartass - but reviews/posts like this leave me very conceited.

-- Jon Johnson (, April 19, 1999.

Dr. Dobb's Review of Timebomb 2000

-- Here's the link (helpful@links.always), April 19, 1999.

Well, Ed, you manage to get lumped with right-wint Christians, occultic Jews and Hindu New Agers ALL at the same time. That's a neat trick which I've never been quite able to achieve. My sincere congratulations. Should I assume this guy didn't like your book?

-- BigDog (, April 19, 1999.

Ed's book must stand on its own for any reader interested in looking into the predicted problems of Y2k. Anything that gets his book discussed more widely and into the hands of more readers is good. There is an old understanding within the publishing field that open controvery over any issue only tends to help the sale of the book. We have seen many books that took an enormous jump in sales after public debate started over the merits of what was presented in the work. So, from that standpoint, any attention that is created by the DGIs is good. The more the better. We should cheer on these negative reviews!

-- Gordon (, April 19, 1999.

Another quick thought: Ed is a big-boy (and getting bigger, according to most sightings), but it's never fun being viewed as a buffoon by the "club". Sure, Ed's doing fine (I'm shedding no tears nor has he asked for any), but anyone who thinks Y2K alarmism is a growth business for one's career is a dope. Yardeni, for instance, has marginalized himself with his peers.

They're not as "smart" as De Jager has been with his career .....

-- BigDog (, April 19, 1999.

"It's Swami Salami burbling prophecy through a glass darkly to the credulous unwashed ` la Hal Lindsey and Salem Kirban."

I expect Dobbs stays up late at night, thinking up such witty remarks--kinda like Oscar Wilde on vodka martinis. My, I bet he's a big hit with the Time Magazine cocktail party circuit. Dobbs's major premise seems to be that Ed is out to fleece us of our money. Oh, really? I bought Ed's book last year but I haven't spent any money on Ed since then. Haven't noticed any plugs from Ed, either. Anybody had a plea for money from Ed?

I have this mental image of Dobbs trying to come up with witticisms, as he sits shivering, wrapped in an old afghan in front of an empty fireplace, scribbling with the stub of a pencil--quick, before the light goes! (He didn't stockpile any candles beyond the few he used for his dinner-table candelabra.) And nobody thinks he's so funny any more.

-- Old Git (, April 19, 1999.

you know, from the article you can't even really tell if the purported reviewer did more than read the dust jacket and talk to his friends about how he didn't like it.


-- Arlin H. Adams (, April 19, 1999.

fyi, the review was not written by Dobb. Dr. Dobb's is a highly respected magazine written by and for computer geeks.

-- fyi (fyi@dr.dobb), April 19, 1999.

This is probably just a ploy to get all of Ed's fans to tell him how much we appreciate him! Ed Yourdon Forever....

Sincerely, A big Ed Yourdon fan (I just wish I could get his autograph sometime...

-- Apple (, April 19, 1999.

I liked the part about the diagrams and how everything is connected.

Obviously, he/she doesn't have a clue! I guess the diagrams confused them, so I agree with Arlin, they stuck to what they could understand-Ed's picture!

-- sue (, April 19, 1999.

Wow, Dr. Dobbs Journal, home of FORTH fanatics and other small-systems "true believers". Post-fix notation rules, man!

Consider the source:

The reviewer is Jack Woehr, who goes by "Jax" and is a serious FORTH aficionado. I used to read Dr. Dobbs almost a decade ago, and some of Jax's reviews were in there back then. Dude thought the Amiga was the greatest hardware development in computing history.

Here's his Website: Jack Woehr's Home Page

A man of many interests and quite "NORML",it seems:

I'm involved in Colorado politics as a Democrat , formerly serving as Chair for Colorado House District 62. I ran for Congress in 1994 and ran for the Colorado House of Representatives in 1998. Both times I brought before the voting public the suggestion to replace substance prohibition by vice regulation and taxation. If we replace the prisons with voluntary treatment centers the the rate of substance addiction will plummet.

If Ed Yourdon is, in Mr. Woehr's words, is a "televangelist", does that make Jax a "frustrated political hack"? And is either characterization germane to the discussion of potential Year 2000 impacts? I think not.

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), April 19, 1999.

One correction:

I capitalized the name of the language, which is not correct. "FORTH" is the spelling used by one of the primary vendors, FORTH, Inc., but the language is simply "Forth". Excellent language for embedded apps and such. Unlikely to have been used to create any enterprise apps, however...

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), April 19, 1999.

What an interesting review.

Actually I thought Ed's comment about baseball made sense, especially in a very parable-like way. Unfortunately the reviewer was too stupid to get even the simplest items that could have straightened out the rest of it for him.

I used to volunteer for the CA Coastal Commission, a group that promotes education related to petroleum on the West coast. I worked for an oil company at the time and thought it would be educational for me. What was educational was something slightly different, though. And this relates to Y2K in a few different ways so bear with me.

I would go to lots of semi-local fairs (health fairs, etc.) and had my little table out with products that are made using petro-based products. Most people don't realize that everything from shampoo to balloons to -- goodness only knows what else -- contains petrochemicals. Lots of plastics especially. We're thinking "Got Gas in Y2K?" but there are a LOT of other things that depend on oil (as a base). Got tupperware?

I saw how politics affected this. The Governor of California signed a bill that created a moratorium on drilling off the coast of Northern California. He didn't want to. That item was on a bill with everything from Senior Citizen social services to whatnot. He even wrote in his notes that he didn't want to, and that the gradual and sane, careful development of these resources was the answer, not forbidding it, and then someday diving in haphazardly when a war or some other source cuts off our imports. That will indeed be destructive to the environment.

And I saw how it affected jobs. The oil industry is so unbelievably huge, once you trace it far enough up, I think the medical industry is much larger but that's about the only thing. It's like a pyramid. All those products that use petrochemicals. All the processing of that oil into the chemicals takes people and jobs. All the shipping that stuff takes people and jobs. All the manufacture of those products takes people and jobs. All the shipping to retail and sales of those products takes people and jobs. And all those people and jobs? -- they buy copy machines and paper and computers for the business, and clothes and whatever else for the home. More people and jobs to make the materials for those, the products themselves, ship and sell them. You yank that top pin out and a helluva lot is going to come crumbling down. We're like a planet- sized Jericho. :-)

For this education I got, Y2K was a fast "GI" for me. My husband (whom I call my semi- husband, since we are only 'roomates' now, but for Y2K are staying together for another year) is a programmer. He is from Czech and the gov't there sponsored him in this accelerated program to learn programming, as they really needed people. He escaped from Czech shortly after finishing it and working for a bit, wandering Europe with a backpack, working in the hot sun in Italy in a refugee camp, before finally coming to Canada (and, when he married me, to the US). It was old stuff, punch cards and COBOL. Since then he's done what seems like everything else, but most only his own as a consultant. He's no rocket scientist but he knows enough. He taught me basics of graphic design, and I spent 9 months (the end of my pregnancy and when the tot was an infant) teaching myself web design and development. I'd done plenty of DTP and DB design so it was easy. I learned to type 45 with one hand so I could hold her with the other. So I at least have a clue about some basic programming. I can tell you that even a semi-colon out of place will screw your javascript pages up and I've spent plenty of time reading code to figure out some truly stupid, incredibly minor-seeming reason that the whole thing just ate it bigtime.

He sat down one day last year and told me about Y2K. He didn't tell me what was coming. He wasn't to that point yet and he didn't have to. He was only halfway through his speech on the computer issue when I -- a troubleshooter by trade most of my life till the baby -- figured out the snowball effect this was going to have on every company, on industry, the economy, and the world. I nearly hyperventilated on the spot.

Ed Yourdon is saying what he believes, in an intelligent way. He could be wrong, anybody could be wrong about anything. But I've noticed a real ironic tendency for the "they're in it for the money" pollys -- you know, this works if you're talking about people selling vitamins. But here's Yourdon who's already published books, already makes good money, already has respect. By publishing this book he put his butt totally on the line. If he was totally wrong, all the books and respect he's had up till now, and possibly his work, are pretty much history, I mean, if nothing whatever happened he'd probably have a lot of people laughing at him and a lot of potential clients going, "Yeah, and you made people spend mega bucks on programmers to fix something that wasn't even a problem." Yet he did it. Because he believed it. The idea that he only did it for money or something is nonsensical.

Someone says there is a problem. So one goes to the people who are expert in the subject(s) and says, "What do you think about this?" They say, "Yes, there is a serious problem. Here's the facts and here's how to go about dealing with it." Someone says, "Hey buddy you're only telling me that 'cause you want my money." Does this make sense?

If the IT and other industry experts aren't allowed to have an opinion because their jobs give them some "conflict of interest" on making money off helping solve the problem, who exactly is it that is supposed to be consulted for this subject? Non-Experts who DON'T do IT-type stuff for a living? What, I should go ask the guys at the pizza parlor how embedded systems are going to affect the natural gas distribution lines? I mean come ON.

Humans are just weird sometimes.

PJ in TX

-- PJ Gaenir (, April 21, 1999.

Mac - actually Forth has been used for some mainframe apps - mostly in England. I once started a bit of a furor in a class on system development when I stated that Forth was object oriented programmings logical precusor. Forth apps do give a way to combine data and code, it just doesn't force it - and neither do most of the formal OOP languages - at least in real implementations.

-- Paul Davis (, April 21, 1999.

Paul -- At last, something we agree on, FORTH as a precursor to OOPs. Yes. FORTH still rules, IMO. The coolest weird language ever invented.

-- BigDog (, April 22, 1999.

I assure you, gents, I am by no means being critical of Forth itself. Worked at one place where we created some kick-butt apps that only used a mere smidge of memory. Great fun. And of course most of the code-jockeys considered themselves far superior to all those infidels who were using the hated GOTOs and the like. Forth pretty effectively forces you to think through your logic. Used to love to QA that stuff; most of the errors just jumped out at you.

And yes, the whole object-verb structure was definitely a lead-in for OOP. However, there were (and are) too many people who just cannot seem to get their heads around the post-fix notation. Just can't stand having to put the IF after the args. Ah, for the days of ROT and POP and PUSH...

And none of this makes Jack Woehr's review of TB2000 any less of a hack job...

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), April 22, 1999.

Mac -- Yeah, you see, post-fix is what the world will be doing after 1/1/2000 .....

-- BigDog (, April 22, 1999.

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