Back to Basics (or, Keep Your Eye on the Ball) : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Anyone who has followed the Y2K scene for very long will have heard of the "Polishing Marbles" analogy, but for those new to Y2K, it goes like this:

If each line of computer code that assumes that it exists in the 20th century is likened to a marble, we can visualize the Y2K problem as seeing the Grand Canyon filled with such marbles and being told that they must all be polished by Saturday.

The point is that although polishing marbles is a very simple task, the sheer number of them precludes finishing the entire job by Saturday.

It is now Friday night. There is a large pile of polished marbles to the sides of the canyon and is it steadily growing larger. Everywhere we turn, there are barkers exhorting us to look at the size of the pile and trying to catch and hold our attention.

If you will look over the rim of the canyon however, you will notice that you still can't see the canyon floor. . .

-- Hardliner (, May 04, 1999


Very true Hardliner! I would also like to add that we have no proof that system repairs are actually completed and correct. Many companies will have zero time to test and there are a canyon full of unknowns. Faith and trust are hard to give to someone who can't walk on water! Tman

-- Tman (, May 04, 1999.


A very apt description of the problem. Once I slowed down to read the exact words. On first reading I saw "Polish" marbles. I have a good chuckle wondering how a marble from Poland would differ from one from say Hungaria. Gotta quit these quick reads.

Hardliner, would you drop me a line at Several people who have written me about the Norrth Texas get together have asked about you. And, I'd like to discuss a matter off line.


-- Got Time?

-- Greybear (, May 04, 1999.

Lets not forget that North, Yourdon, Hyatt, and a few others have their halographic projectors cranked up, projecting into the canyon. there aren't as many marbles as they would like you to think, but they will gladly charge a 'small fee' to inspect the marbles and "make sure they were polished correctly".

Step right up folks, look at the IMPOSSIBLE pile of marbles out there...are you going to risk not getting them all polished? See my friends at Y2Kloosewire...errrr...that is y2ksupply for some 'insurance' overpriced thought it is. Guarantee the safety of your family...only the wise are wise aren't you?

......????what about that huge projection machine off to the side there.....

"[[[go away bother me!]]].....Never mind the men behind that projection machine, folks....better get your insurance before its to late....hurr-ay, hurr-ay, hurr-aaaay......"

-- (.`.`@.`.`), May 04, 1999.

Hi Greybear!


Hi Hardliner!

Today I'm going to be a nitpicker, and fault your analogy.

First of all, it's not Friday night yet. There is still lots of time to prepare. It's too late to complete the job, but it's not Friday night.

Second, if the corporate execs and govt officials had done their job properly and considered the long term, rather than spend the past twenty years focusing on the next quarter's profits, this crisis never would have occurred. In contrast, the job of polishing a Grand Canyon's marbles would never have been completed regardless of when the effort had begun.

I always enjoy your posts, but I can't go along with this one.

-- GA Russell (, May 04, 1999.

a grand canyon full of marbles! we will never finish in ti....???....wait a minute! THIS isn't the GRAND CANYON!!! (blink, blink!) its a ravine!

"no, no my young pollyanna pup, this is most asuredly the Grand Canyon [[[shut-UP kid, or I'm gonna flame ya!]]] ....heh heh...Pay no attention to this young, misguided lad, folks....get your insurance here!"

-- (.`.`@.`.`), May 04, 1999.

(.`.`@.`.`) Hardliner is going to kick your ass. I can't wait.

-- Wiseguy (, May 04, 1999.

FooLS. Do YOu noT SeE tHe StuPIDneSS hERe??

In thE TIMe It wouLD tAKe ONe oF YoU tO GeT thE FirSt BoX of MarBLEs doNE, DIEter uND HaNS wouLD Be ReNTIng MaCHINes to AUtoMATe thIS ProCESs.

Und, wHAt iS LeFT OvER fROM THis thING wE CaLL *AutoMATioN* VeLL THen wE dO ThiS bY HANS.

Is THis nOT SO?


-- Hans (, May 04, 1999.

To begin with, the ignorant poster who suggested a projected illusion should be advised that to the best of my knowledge, no one except the Christian church projects "Halos" (sic) and state of the art in holographic projectors is still limited to rather crude monochrome line images. No, illusion simply won't cut it here. All the marbles are real and there are only a finite number of them although that number is exceedingly large and the number of them still in the canyon is certainly far larger than the pile on the side.

It also merits mention that North, Yourdon, et al are not attempting to convince anyone of the number of marbles left in the canyon, but that the barkers (who bear an astonishing resemblence to PR shills) are attempting to convince everyone that the pile that has been polished is "sufficient" and that the rest will all be polished "in time".

As for inspection to ascertain the quality of the polishing job, you've got a severe disconnect with reality here as well. The polishing itself is what those consultants charge for, and the inspection needs to be carried out by independent third parties. Not only are such third parties notably absent, the lawyers have instructed the barkers (Let me suggest a mirror here for deeper comprehension) to keep anyone from getting close enough to the "finished" pile to check them. "Trust us!", they bark. "Would we lie to you? Have we ever lied to you?"

And, for your information, insurance is simply lost resources if the "insured" peril never occurs. Preparations may "ensure" that you eat (if they are food) or that you drink (if they are stored water) but if the "insured peril" (Y2K disruptions) never occurs, preparations (if wisely made) will not be lost but consumed in the normal course of events.


You're simply standing in the wrong place.

Einstein showed us that time is relative so let's relate the start of the "week" to the Y2K warning published in Computerworld on February 13, 1984. That makes the "week" in question about 190 months long, and each "day" about 27 months. Considering that we've got something over 7 months of real time left until Y2K, it looks to me like we are indeed in "late Friday night". There is truly some time left to prepare, but I wouldn't call it "lots of time", and you're right in that there is not enough time left to finish the job.

You're right again when you say that if "someone" had done their job properly we wouldn't be in this mess at all, but the statement that, ". . .the job of polishing a Grand Canyon's marbles would never have been completed regardless of when the effort had begun", is obviously incorrect. The Grand Canyon will hold a very large yet finite number of marbles, and given enough time and perseverance, they could be all polished. The point is moot however, since the numbers indicate that had we started soon enough, the number of marbles never would have gotten so large. That is, had software become time compliant regardless of century soon enough, the number of existing programs requiring re-design would have been small enough that we could have accomplished the task before Y2K arrived.

Finally, we must each ask ourselves if we'd buy a used car from someone who couldn't tell the Grand Canyon from a ravine. . .

-- Hardliner (, May 04, 1999.

"That is, had software become time compliant regardless of century soon enough, the number of existing programs requiring re-design would have been small enough that we could have accomplished the task before Y2K arrived."

Hardliner, this is a penetrating discernment and a good reason why the secular equivalent of the Nuremberg trials may still be held for my IT peers post-Y2K. Anyone who thinks an industry that is so lame, however clever (and we are the "smartest", believe me) is now handling the marble removal with integrity has lost their marbles.

As witness the smartest of them all, Mr. Bill. "Y2K? What, me worry?"

-- BigDog (, May 04, 1999.

Hi Hardliner!

I'm not going to beat a dead horse with the nit picking, but you are incorrect to refer to insurance premiums as "lost resources" whenever the insured-against event does not occur.

The insurance premium purchases peace of mind and protection, which are enjoyed regardless of whether the event occurs. Those who appreciate peace of mind feel that they receive fair value for their money (the money is well spent, not a lost resource).

-- GA Russell (, May 04, 1999.


Let me clarify myself a bit. Whether or not the "peace of mind" etc. purchased with insurance premiums or the "enjoyment" purchased with a casino wager are "worth it" is a value judgement and certainly belongs to the individual to make. My point was simply that after the fact, the resource (the premium or the wager dollar amount) is gone whereas Y2K preparations such as stored food or water are still in your posession and can be utilized beyond the point at which they cease to provide "peace of mind" (if such ever occurs) and as such are clearly something more than "insurance".

-- Hardliner (, May 04, 1999.

Howdy Hardliner. Nice dig on the CW article. I think it even pre-dates Cringely. Funny that the polly crowd doesn't attack the true early alarm sounders. Anyway, just a minor point. Mainframe operating systems and compilers were not Y2K compliant until the mid 90s, so except for windowing, we couldn't have started much earlier. That's all. See ya! <:)=

-- Sysman (, May 04, 1999.


I'm surprised to see you thinking in a box! OSs and compilers are just more software from a hardware point of view. Except for the "Problem" bit in the PSW, the hardware has no idea if the code it's executing is OS or anything else (I know you knew that but I thought I'd explain it for everyone who didn't). Why should the authors of OSs or compilers be any more responsible than applications programmers? As I remember things, they all worked for the same management type who worshipped "The Bottom Line". Now that's they guy we ought to be talking to. . .

-- Hardliner (, May 04, 1999.

Yea Hardliner, I know, it's ALL part of the fun (grin). Only pointing out that it's hard to get a "compliant" program without 1) a compiler, 2) an OS, and 3) hardware, that are all "compliant," mainframe, PC, or ROM. The support just wasn't there. <:)=

-- Sysman (, May 04, 1999.

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