"Y2K worries are for wimps" -- EE Times

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EE Times May 17, 1999, Issue: 1061 Section: Semiconductors


Y2K worries are for wimps Loring Wirbel

The same front that brought devastating tornadoes to Oklahoma, Kansas and Tennessee dumped 12 inches of rain on my office in Colorado, submerging the first floor for more than a week. The hours laboring with shop vac and sump pump were spent pondering over the type of people who could get themselves worked up over a silly thing like computers that fail to recognize four-digit years.

Y2K blame-placing has led to a far more useful debate on the overall fault tolerance of our vaunted communications and power networks. Bellheads point with pride to systems that preserve rock-solid physical-layer redundancy, which allows residential phone lines to remain powered when electrical power fails-except when disaster strikes and even emergency systems falter.

Internet advocates, meanwhile, claim that the original Arpanet was developed for survivability in a post-nuclear-attack environment. The resiliency of routing protocols allows the Internet to be self-healing and to keep on ticking even during widespread outages. The doomsayers who warned in the mid-1990s that sheer traffic volumes would break Internet backbones have been proved wrong. TCP/IP-layer redundancy is pretty darned good-unless disaster strikes and even emergency systems fail.

Indeed, the prophets of Y2K Armageddon say that no measure of redundancy will guarantee networks' survival in January 2000. It is not individual embedded controllers with two-place dates that should cause concern, they say, but the cascading effects of lots of little errors propagating across networks.

They may have a point. But the doomsayers lose me when they assume that regional power outages will lead to widespread looting and a general breakdown of societal order.

I suspect that such natural events as the January 1998 ice storm in Quebec and the massive front that assaulted the central United States in early May did far more damage than we can expect to see from Y2K. Those ever-so-complex networks we've built up are as superficial as the papery covering of an onion and are absolutely inconsequential compared with power of nature. When our networks break down, we get by, just as we do when natural disaster strikes. We're generally better at crisis management than we think we are.

Indeed, we tend to react to cataclysmic events with acts of kindness, rather than firepower, toward our neighbors. So why the bunker mentality as we count down to Y2K?

Copyright . 1999 CMP Media Inc.


Good to see common sense spreading amongst the media-types....faith in human ability to solve problems, things like that.

(As opposed to the determined belief that we just can't solve squat when confronted with hardships....)

-- Chicken Little (panic@forthebirds.net), May 18, 1999


Chicken Little, Did you know that unfiltered Camel cigarettes aid the digestion and promote general vigor? The media has told us so. They also make you more attractive to the opposite sex.

-- Puddintame (achillesg@hotmail.com), May 18, 1999.

Sure have heard that Puddin. 30 - 40 years ago. Thanks for highlighting the Doomer penchant for using data that is sadly out of date --

-- Chicken Little (panic@forthebirds.net), May 18, 1999.

On the other hand, beer drinking is still a surefire way to be surrounded by scantily-clad babes, according to the TV ads. Sadly, it fails the empirical test. I know.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), May 18, 1999.

What's that, Flint? Sorry I missed that comment . . . I was over at the fridge . . .

-- Puddintame (achillesg@hotmail.com), May 18, 1999.


Good post. The problem is less with a week's bad weather than with a gradual grinding down over months that turns the haves into have-nots. Tribalism isn't a problem in times of plenty but does lurk in all of us and comes forth in the best of cultures during times of desperation. Agree? If the worst should come I'll help who I can but the last can of beans is for my kids---period!

-- Carlos (riffraff1@cybertime.net), May 18, 1999.

So, what is the connection to wimps, or was that just an insult thrown in for fun?

-- Doug (douglasjohnson@prodigy.net), May 18, 1999.

Not to mention the fact that the storms were UNexpected, and the possible disruptions from Y2K are only sort-of un expected, depending on to whom one listens. With a storm, you can go out in your front yard or out into the neighborhood and SEE the damage, and SEE the cause of your outage. In January (or February) you will NOT be able to SEE why the power is out or dirty should that come to pass. HERE is where the unrest occurs, when there is NO GOOD explanation.


-- chuck, a Night Driver (rienzoo@en.com), May 18, 1999.

A real wimp is a man who would rather bend his spine in an easy chair worrying about taxes, as opposed to providing for his family in the face of possible bad times.

My husband has had the foresight to provide for me and our children. In doing so he has denied himself many small pleasures and the "toys" that men seem to accumulate, and put the money towards preparations. It's not just for Y2K, there are a lot of things that could happen in this world, and it gives me a wonderful feeling to know that I've got a real man to take care of me.

-- sky (not@on.yourlife), May 18, 1999.


I think the wimpy thing to do is to ignore or rationalize the problem. The unwimpy thing to do is to prepare in the face of ridicule. Thus my question...

-- Doug (douglasjohnson@prodigy.net), May 18, 1999.

Having lived in Los Angeles through the Rodney King rioting, I can but attest to the propensity of many individuals to take advantage of disruptive periods. Thus, I believe that there is some significant likelihood of social disruptions (rioting and looting) unless SIGNIFICANT shows of force are made by the authorities. "Hey, Brah, we gotta get all ten cops on the island out on the street!"

Fault tolerence? You bet. That is what can save us from falling into the worst cases...but it may not keep us from short term (1 year) major disruptions and from a longer term depression. You can only fix so much in a short time. After a while your "fixes" aren't going to work.

-- Mad Monk (madmonk@hawaiian.net), May 19, 1999.

Whoever said "faulty premises produce faulty conclusions" didn't know the half of it....

I'm gonna laugh so hard come 1-15-2000...where will you folks be...besides being embarrassed all to pieces, and being looked upon as extremists for the rest of your lives

-- Chicken Little (panic@forthebirds.net), May 19, 1999.


your last post - just how old are you? 11, 12?

-- Andy (2000EOD@prodigy.net), May 19, 1999.

Where will I be 1/15/2000?? If y2k turns out like I expect, I'll be at home with my family, eating the stored food, and snuggling by a warm fire, safe and sound. If it's mild, I'll eat some of the food and continue to prepare for any other crisis to come, such as bio terrorism, nuclear terrorism, the NWO takeover, or any other disaster that is comming. I AM NOT GOING TO DEPEND ON THE SYSTEM EVER AGAIN IF I CAN HELP IT. WE ARE LOSING OUR FREEDOMS. If you want to depend on the "kindness" of your "King", that murderer Klintoon, go on ahead. i will never belive a word they say, as I feel that some type of disaster's comming. I'll make it simple for you're WEAK POLLY MIND. EVIL ACTIONS LEAD TO EVIL RESULTS. We have chosen to ignore the evil that is all around us, or at least you system loving pollys have. Or isn't murder, lies, treason, betrayal and theft evil to you? Our actions have CONSIQUENCES FOOL!! GET IT STRAIGHT, FINNALLY!! ALL OF YOU! :) Also, don't come to us for help next year, 'cause we won't give it. You can DIE, for all I care. >{ That said, I must go and buy more canned goods, and water filters...

-- Crono (Crono@timesend.com), May 19, 1999.

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