Millennial Fruitcake -Boston MIS Prof. ridicules problem : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

RECENTLY RECEIVED IN MY MAIL AT HOME an offer for a $29.95 "Y2K home checkup." The proprietors of this dubious business are prepared to visit my home and determine whether key appliancesmy refrigerator, my toilets, my toasterare infected with the dreaded millennium bug. If my refrigerator, for example, isn't Y2K-ready by New Year's Day 2K, its tiny brain will think that it's really 1900 and promptly morph itself into an icebox. I can forget about keeping beer cold for New Year's football games because in 1900 only three cities had football teams, and they were all in dry counties.

I personally am most concerned about the Y2K readiness of my electronic thermostat and VCR. Since I have yet to learn how to set the date on them, it's unlikely I'll be able to root out any nasty two-digit date codes without expensive consultants.

Into the Abyss It's difficult to believe the level of silliness that has descended upon us around the Y2K issue. All kinds of odd people are emerging with scenarios of computational oblivion. Y2K survivalists are going back to nature, assuming that God had plenty of memory available when She programmed the cosmic calendar. Plenty of normal citizens are planning to eschew airplane travel on the first day of the new millennium, which is just as well because the only reservations left are to Ashtabula and Tuscaloosa.

In truth, some form of insanity is probably to be expected. A few very old historians point out that when 999 became 1000, similarly bizarre behaviors occurred. Fat people with beards prophesied the end of the world. Nostradamus, who actually lived a couple of centuries later but had the power to predict the past, had a vision of the world on New Year's Day 1000 as a giant fireball, from which we later derived the concept of the lighted ball in Times Square. Now we hear predictions that almost all the world's computers will go on the fritz at this millennial transition. Actually, when you think about it, mankind has made considerable progress in the last thousand years.

Throw Another Log On I am not really very worried about this phenomenon. Many people over the years have suggested that I should do research or consulting on Y2K, but I always found other topics more interesting. Like, for example, the curious coincidences suggesting that Bill Gates is the antichristhe lives at 666 Bellevue Lane, hired several Procter & Gamble executives and hasn't been to church in weeks.

No, I just couldn't get the old sap running for Y2K. On 1/1/2000, I undoubtedly will be sitting at home, not because of fear but because of personal disorganization and an overwhelming sense of ennui. If the lights go out, I figure I've got plenty of wooden furniture to put on the fire. I may even stockpile a few logs, although not the artificial kind because I've always suspected that embedded microchips create those strange colors when they burn.

What I am really worried about is not the computers but rather some of my fellow human beings. "The Social Response to Y2K," as it's being called by those with a lot of spare time and mental capacity, is my primary obsession.

There was actually a meeting about this at my church recently. (Lest you fear that this portends the decline of organized religion, let me reassure you that I attend a Unitarian church, which worships not traditional religious concepts but rather Earnest Discussion of Social Issues. I wasn't able to attend this particular session, having a prior appointment to have my nose hairs trimmed.)

Several specific things concern me about this social response issue. I think there's a good chance of mass revolt. Honest citizens, crazed with anger that their credit cards expired in 1900, will storm the banks and torture the ATMs by pouring Dr. Pepper into the cash slot. Armed bands of out-of-work Y2K programmers will roam the streets, hungrily seeking the next computational crisis so that they can feed their families. Pasty-faced Internet addicts will freak out when their screens go blank, consumed with fear that they might actually have to engage in human conversation. Even law-abiding old folks will refuse to die until they know their insurance policies are still good, leading to massive lines outside nursing homes.

Survival of the Tannest Then there are the Y2K survivalists. Ordinarily I wouldn't be troubled by them, since they are all moving to rural Arkansas, which is exactly where I want them. But some of these nuts are likely to be politicians, and when they buy their little plots of land with pre-microprocessor vintage double-wide trailers, we will undoubtedly be faced with another five years or so of Whitewater-style investigations. We'll use up our entire treasury surplus investigating these yahoos, and only Kenneth Starr will be left to serve the nation after all the impeachin' is done. A few airplanes falling out of the sky at midnight pales in comparison to that millennial nightmare.

There is also a certain unfairness about this Y2K thing. Some parts of the world will experience the end of the computational world well before others simply because of the time zone in which they reside. Many people are planning vacations on remote islands where the millennium hits first.

Perhaps the smart money is on vacations to Alaska, most of which is as close to the back side of the international date line as you can get. A relaxing few days in the Aleutian Islands, in particular, will give you the maximum time to "duck 'n' cover" when you hear about mass chaos in the rest of the world. There are probably relatively few computers there too. Or, if you're planning to usher in the new era at a Disney resort, California's Disneyland is a much better bet than Florida's Disney World or, God forbid, EuroDisney. When the Space Mountain roller coaster falls off its tracks in Florida, California vacationers will still have plenty of time to get Mickey's autograph before peacefully evacuating the park.

Forever Young I am also nervous about other problems in our computers that we haven't even thought about. If we were dumb enough to program only two digits for a four-year date code, there are probably lots of other things we've overlooked that will go astray shortly. For example, think about the following:

What if computer records on Jim Hoffa Jr., the current president of the Teamsters Union, can't be distinguished from those of his father, Jimmy, the missing former president of the union? Without a legitimate leader, the union could go out on strike, causing mass chaos. Or the confusion could paralyze police computers, which are seeking a missing person who is seemingly no longer missing. Criminals throughout the land could be unleashed to wreak havoc on the citizenry.

What if the entertainer and New Year's Eve television host Dick Clark was actually programmed without a biological clock? His seeming agelessness could simply be the genetic equivalent of the Y2K problem. If his body has no date code whatever, we could be watching him on New Year's Rockin' Eve well into the 22nd century.

Or what if the new European currency, the euro, becomes confused in computer programs with the medical term uro, short for urogenital? Millions of schoolchildren doing Web research for reports on "What's New in the Old Country" could be exposed to explicit diagrams of urethras and vas deferentia. Markets could crash if financial analysts mix up "Euro distress" with "uro distress," a commonly used euphemism for prostate problems. And "Eurotrash" young people will certainly not take being called "urotrash" lightly.

The Tough Go Island Hopping While all these potential computer bugseven rodentsare valid concerns, I believe we have to chill out about such apocalyptic visions. Most of the world still runs pretty well without computers; my mother always told me, "Son, the best things in life have no date code." Actually, we'd probably all be better off with an enforced two-week vacation from computers every thousand years or so. In fact, there are certain computer failures I'm praying for. My New Year's Day will be a delayed Christmas if, for example, the processors in my sons' Nintendo 64 are a couple of digits short. Maybe all the unset digital clocks in my house will stop flashing their silent "12:00" rebuke. If voice mail and e-mail go down, I'll have time to read a book by firelight. Frankly, the New Dark Ages are looking pretty bright.

-- marsh (, June 03, 1999


Gee marsh, you sure spent an lot of time typing a lot of nothing...

-- BiGG (, June 03, 1999.

Hey, Marsh, I am a doomer and I thought your essay was really great. We need to lighten up a bit just to get through to the other side.

Got laughter? Taz

-- Taz (Tassie, June 03, 1999.


In your informative piece you used "I" 22 times, "my" 10 times apparently you erroneously think we care about you and your obvious inability to look at the facts. Business doesnt spend billions on non-issues. Face it, you are so terrified by the data that you put us all through your psyhco-babble on nonsensical issues. Be brave!!! Take on the challenge, don't be afraid!!!!

Respectfully, DB.

-- David Butts (, June 03, 1999.

"marsh" has copied verbatim a long essay from a "davenport" - who claims to be a professor of computer science at Boston University.

This leaves "marsh" two options - he can admit what he copied, then explain why he did so - to expose the utter stupidity and class hatred of the university ivory tower set - or, if "marsh" claims these same thoughts as his own (as a valid analysis of the upcoming events) in an effort to persuade new-comers not to prepare, then he gets an "F" for copying.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, June 03, 1999.

This from "Norm's" previous post, June 2. Not only is march copying somebody's else's work, but Norm already posted it here....

< -- Norm (, >>

If you disagree with the opinions of this supposed professor, email him.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, June 03, 1999.

By the way, I claim "supposed" computer science prof, because I have no respect for any "professor" who takes pride in pointing out he can't "reset the digital clocks at his house."

Sorry - if he can't set digit clocks, any business employing his consulting company deserves to go out of business. I am embarrest for his students too. (Oh I'm sorry, - only doomers were supposed to make money consulting! Not professors at a university.)

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, June 03, 1999.

Guys, Marsh listed the Url at the beginning of the post. I don't know much about the particulars of giving credit on the internet, but to me all you had to do was follow the link and go to the original article, which apparently appeared in CIO magazine.

-- newlurker (, June 03, 1999.

Need to read more closely, folks. From the credits at the end of the CIO article:

Thomas H. Davenport is a professor of management information systems at Boston University School of Management and director of the Andersen Consulting Institute for Strategic Change. He can be reached at

Frankly, Dave Barry already did a "Y2K Lite" piece and was MUCH funnier. Prof. Davenport shouldn't quit those day jobs at Bahstin U. and Andersen...

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), June 03, 1999.

More from Tom Davenport (from CIO, August 1998): I Was Just Thinking...


Shouldn't we in IS be a bit embarrassed about the year 2000 thing? What other part of your organization has caused a trillion-dollar problem that some say will bring down the world economy?

If the year 2000 problem plunges us into a global depression, don't you think residents of other planets will be snickering at us?

And my fave (not Y2K-related, but it shows clearly that Prof. Davenport knows his senior exec audience):

Companies should start charging by the message for e-mail. The more recipients, the greater the hit on your budget. And maybe sending a message to senior managers should cost more.

Yeah, Tom! And while we're at it, let's bill departments for leaving voice mail for people! And leaving a message for a Senior VP ought to cost twice as much! Yeah!


-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), June 03, 1999.

Hey - I didn't write it. I just provided the link to the article and copied it for others to read and comment on. Thought that's what others did on this forum beacuse people are to lazy to follow the link.

I am a GIT "doomer" and did NOT find the essay by Prof. Davenport funny. I found it irresponsible, particularly because of his credentials.

-- marsh (, June 03, 1999.

Sir marsh - Yes, I saw that link (at the top of the original post) but discounted it - I apologize for implying (h*ll - directly stating) you copied it - but please recognize that your signature appeared directly under the article. Further, the original article (from "Norm") did include Davenport's email address and reference.

Again - I apologize for the above - in the sense that I indicated you didn't understand the foolishness of Davenport's statements. To keep things clear, since I cannot tell in print whether you are presenting your thoughts, posting data from somebody with you agree, or posting something from somebody else to show your disagreement - I'd recommend you try to be as clear as possible about what are your thoughts about the articles cited, and what are the author's thoughts.

Thanks for your note.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, June 03, 1999.

My apologies, Robert, for the terse reply. Guilty as charged. In reading it over, I see that some of the "cut and paste" I did didn't transfer. As an historian by training, it is unlike me not to document appropriate attributions. No excuses. I blew it. Sorry for the confusion. It WAS misleading, I agree. BTW, it is Ms. not Sir - lol.

-- marsh (, June 04, 1999.

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