Fear and (mostly) loathing in Denver: Embedded chips and dips

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FYI: No comment, but hellos to Hunter S. Thompson

Source: The Denver Post, August 25, 1999

Lawmakers nix 'emergency' aid Y2K request 'nonsense,' Wham says

By Fred Brown Denver Post Capitol Bureau Chief

State legislators, angry at a lack of progress in identifying computer chips that might fail at midnight December 31, refused Tuesday to fund an emergency appropriation for the Embedded Systems Office.

"To say this is an emergency is nonsense - unless you say not doing a job is an emergency," said state Sen. Dottie Wham, R-Denver, vice chair-woman of the Capital Development Committee.

Wham moved to strike $279,300 - the cost of running the office - from a $521,999 supplemental appropriation request. The remaining $242,699 is for actual replacement of embedded computer chips in the departments of regulatory agencies, corrections and public health and environment.

"I've never heard anything that sounds more bureaucratic," Wham said. "It's really very distressing . . . to think that we would use emergency funds for operational costs."

The other five members of the committee supported striking the money, but the committee ten voted 5-1 to recommend to the Joint Budget Committee that it fund the operating budget from money set aside earlier this year for supplementals.

Brian Mounty, director of the Embedded Systems Office and manager of the state's Y2K efforts, explained that each of the state's departments formerly had been charged with identifying its own problematic chips.

But when Gov. Bill Owens took over from former Gov. Roy Romer in January, responsibility was centralized in his office, Mouty said. The change actually didn't take effect until April, and some departments were further behind than they realized.

The problem is that simplistic programs in embedded chips, programs that recognize two characters as representing the calendar year, might go into electronic collapse when 99 flips over to 00.

It affects "anything you can plug in or put a battery in," Mouty said.

The state's computers, more advanced and programmable, generally are on target for Y2K compliance, he said. But the chips are, in some respects, an unknown quantity.

Some departments didn't give the chip problem adequate attention until after April, when Mouty started pressuring them for reports. "The departments tend to be optimistic about their progress," he said.

Mouty said the departments of natural resources, human services (welfare) and revenue haven't finished making inventories of their potential problems. Revenue, he said, is an example of a department that may not be in as good of shape as it thinks it is.

Committee member Terry Phillips, a Democratic state senator from Louisville, noted Tuesday that there were only 129 days left until 2000. He asked whether there's even enough time left to replace problem parts.

Mouty said 80 percent to 85 percent of the problem has been identified, and "we know where we stand." As for the rest, it would be useful simply to "know where those holes are, and that we can't fix them . . . . We hopefully can steer around them."

The money the committee approved will replace and upgrade such things as telephone systems and automated locking systems.

But Mouty was quick to point out that locks at the state's prisons are Y2K compliant and that they default to a locked position in the event of any kind of failure.

-- kalani & katiuska (kalani_hanohano@hotmail.com), August 25, 1999


I suspect that if 80-85% of my car was functioning properly, I'd end up on the side of the road. Maybe even upside down.

-- Dog Gone (layinglow@rollover.now), August 25, 1999.

It looks like Pony, I mean Federal Express and UPS had better cancel leave too during the last week in December so that riders will be available to deliver all of the last minute computer parts to fix the systems by 12-31. There will be so many delivery vehicles on the road that it will probably be like rush hour. Good thing they are getting them fixed.

-- Moe (Moe@3stooges.gom), August 25, 1999.

Makes sense..."we'll will show those incompetent government employees ... we will take away every penny of taxpayer money we can, to pressure them to do the job faster and better... we know how to manage the best interests of the people of Colorado; just watch us!"

Sounds like the insane parent I saw walking across a parking lot with a crying 2-year old in his arms ( who obviously had had too much "shopping"). He was "disciplining" her behavior by repeatedly slapping her bare legs and shouting in her face to "stop crying".

Maybe authority doesn't corrupt some people; it just gives them enough rope to hang themselves in public displays of stupidity.

-- Kristi (KsaintA@aol.com), August 25, 1999.

Kristi -

I suspect that it may have been temporary insanity, brought on by far too long a day with far too much to do and one too many two-years-olds in tow. None of us looks or acts very clever at the end of a very looooong day.

Avoid making irrevocable decisions while tired or hungry. N.B.: Circumstances can force your hand. So think ahead! --- "The Notebooks of Lazarus Long"

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), August 25, 1999.

"It affects "anything you can plug in or put a battery in," Mouty said."

Tell it like it is dude.

-- R (riversoma@aol.com), August 26, 1999.

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