If some chips are "inaccesible", then what do we do when they break????

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Because some chips are inaccessable, if they fail due to y2k we won't be able to fix them. My question is this...if this is true, then what have we done for the past 20 years when chips such as these HAVE failed? I mean, these chips do fail from time to time don't they? Do the chip manufacturures say, "now that we finished installing our chips, your plant will work great...but you better prey that none of those chips fail because we placed them in such a way that many of them are now inaccessable to us". Doesn't make sense to me...


-- Orson Wells (wells@whitebulb.com), December 04, 1999


I agree. When we send satellites up, I find it disgusting that those who blast them babies off know full well that we will not have access to them.

Or maybe there is a different spec for embedded, military, etc. Through mfg, QC specs, burn-in, reliability testing, yadda, yadda, yadda there just might be a possibility of getting a mucho better product. However, it may be cost prohibitive for consumer applications. My bet is that embeddeds have a spec to parallel their inaccessability.

-- enough is (enough@enough.com), December 04, 1999.

Good Question, Orson. Here are some more:

Why don't we have catestrophic results every time we have a power outage? All of the chips have lost power, right? Maybe they have battery backup? How does the battery get changed? Who resets the date?

-- nobody (nobody@nowhere.com), December 04, 1999.


We do without!

Best wishes,,,


-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), December 04, 1999.

What choice do you have? You have to replace the entire system with a newer one. Recently a lot of manufacturers have been doing this intentionally, planned obsolescence.

-- Hawk (flyin@high.again), December 04, 1999.

But Hawk, that does not "wash" with all the rumor mongering about the embedded chips in the off shore oil rigs.

-- Puzzled or Duped Again? (Leagues @Under The Sea.com), December 04, 1999.


Who knows why people make mistakes? They do though...maybe it is due to lack of time, lack of money, or lack of knowledge. Regardless, of why the embeddeds are downhole in the oil rigs: there are some.

I went to a meeting a few weeks ago, and was able to quiz a petroleum industry executive, and he admitted there are embedded chips downhole. You can read the minutes of the meeting at:


(Sorry, I don't know how to hotlink.)

The easiest one to read is the minutes in a "post".

-- Laura (Ladylogic46@aol.com), December 04, 1999.

I don't think there are any chips underwater, but I'll believe it when I see it. I bet there are zillions in the refineries though.

-- Hawk (flyin@high.again), December 04, 1999.

Hawk, is your email address valid? Might I put you in touch (if they are willing) to someone who did Aircraft programming in the 80's?

-- Puzzled or Duped Again (Leagues@underthesea.com), December 04, 1999.

Nah, Hawk. There aren't zillions! I've read estimates, (and was told at the AMG meeting) that there are 20 to 100 billion embedded chips in the whole world, (the number changes with the source) and of that, only 1/2 of 1 percent are mission critical. If we were to use the 60 billion estimate that the moderator used at the meeting, we are only looking at 1.8 million in the entire world.

-- (Ladylogic@aol.com), December 04, 1999.

one half of 1% of 60 billion is 300 million. Watch those factors of 2. Watch those zeros. Lose a few and it messes up the calculation.

-- David Holladay (davidh@brailleplanet.org), December 04, 1999.

It's axiomatic in the engineering world that things will fail. Indeed, some considerable effort is expended determining things like MTBF and MTTR, since they're important and people consider them carefully.

In some cases, it's unavoidable that part of the system will be in a harsh or inaccessable environment (way under water, or in space, etc.). The typical approach is to put as little of the system as possible in such places, and keep those parts as simple and bulletproof as they can be made. By and large, the brains of the system (anything that might screw up a date is brains) are readily accessible and made as simple to change out as possible consistent with the purpose of the system.

Despite Hawk's paranoia, I've never seen planned obsolescence at the engineering level. Costs are minimized, of course, sometimes at the expense of durability. But this isn't motivated by a *desire* to have things break, but by cost sensitivity in the market. If people buy the cheaper and flimsier model and won't spring for the more expensive and durable model, then you build them cheaper or you can't compete. Obsolescence is far more an artifact of the rapid rate of technological improvement (with a boost from advertising) than of any deliberate engineering malice.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), December 04, 1999.

billions & billions.....carl sagan

trashcan-man@webtv.net), December 04, 1999.

Thanks Laura, still looking for new members for your singles club? I have an idea for your shower dilemma. (you know, a way to save water) :-)


Now you got me puzzled! What does aircraft programming have to do with the logistics of undersea embedded chips?

-- Hawk (flyin@high.again), December 04, 1999.

billions & billions.....carl sagan

laura's link

-- tc (trashcan-man@webtv.net), December 04, 1999.

link laura

If this does not connect I doubt if its there anymore....or the URL is not quite right.

-- red (okie-redneck@webtv.net), December 04, 1999.


"Despite Hawk's paranoia, I've never seen planned obsolescence at the engineering level."


You're telling me that what I was taught in a college level Marketing class was paranoia??

The almighty Flint is starting to sound like Decker now, just because YOU'VE never seen it, it couldn't possibly happen! You are sadly mistaken my friend. Notice I used the word "recently" in my statement. I'm not talking about 20 or 30 years ago, I'm talking about now.

Have you got a VCR or a tape recorder, or almost any electronic appliance that is more than 5 years old? Call the manufacturer and see if they still have replacements for all of the parts. Good luck my friend. I know - it happened to me!

They simply do not make replacement parts anymore for things that are more than a couple of years old. You know why?? Because they want you to buy the latest new model!! You are really naive. This is going on in a LOT of manufacturing businesses.

-- Hawk (flyin@high.again), December 04, 1999.

Dear Hawk, it all has to do with each of you "Geek Type, Super Brain Matter Programmers" see the dangerous areas in your speciality of "expertise", and automatically expect the same consequences in all the other areas of programming. "It may not be necessarily so". It is because you are-all so mission specific oriented, that you may not be able to see that other missions are/were not the same as yours. At any rate, we are all "Winging on a Prayer" at this point. Offer still is open, if other programmer is willing.

-- Puzzled or Duped Again? (Leagues@underthesea.com), December 04, 1999.


You have your facts correct. Your interpretation is, uh, kinda wild.

[They simply do not make replacement parts anymore for things that are more than a couple of years old. You know why?? Because they want you to buy the latest new model!! You are really naive. This is going on in a LOT of manufacturing businesses.]

Correct that they no longer make replacement parts. Correct that this is common. WAY off base that they're trying to get you to buy a new one. This is paranoia.

You apparently didn't understand my reference to the RATE of technological change. This is critical. No, I can't get replacement parts for my Beta VCR anymore. Nor can I buy blank tape, or rent movies in that format. The entire protocol is obsolete. Do you think Sony should spend the money to make parts for Beta units rather than develop better DVD-ROM drives? Your VHS recorder is being replaced by DVD-ROM, you know? Someday soon, your TV will no longer be able to interpreted HDTV signals. What good are the spare parts then?

Conversely, when technology changes slowly, parts are available. Surely you've seen those TV ads where the guy in the Disco outfit buys parts for his 1974 model car? Yep, you can get them. You can get parts for Harleys back to the 1930's.

Advertising is a two-way street. Some advertising campaigns bomb, because they don't appeal to people. The single most powerful word in advertising is NEW!. This is what people want, not what advertisers have trained people to want. If things didn't change and improve, parts wouldn't be a problem and neither would obsolescence. And given the choice, I'll take better, cheaper products. You can't have it both ways.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), December 04, 1999.

"I've never seen planned obsolescence at the engineering level."

Well, I have.

I've even worked on software to assist in managing it.

Except it wasn't called "planned obsolescence". It was called "reliability engineering".

The goal of RE is to have every part (and every assembly) have as close to the same service life as every *other* part and assembly.

If a part fails prematurely, that's a problem to resolve.

If a part lasts too *long*, it's a problem to resolve too. There's no reason to over-engineer a part, and have it outlast the product that uses it.

If it seems like everything on your car starts going to hell at about the same time, you can thank the reliability engineers for doing a good job.

-- Ron Schwarz (rs@clubvb.com.delete.this), December 04, 1999.


What the HELL are you talking about?? First of all, I'm not a programmer, and never claimed to be. Secondly, if you're pissed because I said I don't think there are any chips underwater, that was just MY opinion. Notice, if you will, the "I" at the beginning of this sentence...

"I don't think there are any chips underwater, but I'll believe it when I see it."

Finally, you yourself called it only "rumor mongering", so what's the big deal? Sheeesh, chill dude.

-- Hawk (flyin@high.again), December 04, 1999.

Illogical ladylogic. Well, may be not illogical, just misinformed. Check my post titled "Soft Landing For Embedded Systems?". You will find it in the category Embedded Systems (in case your logic faulters you again). In the source of that post you will find that GM went on record that they inventoried 1.4 million embedded systems, and found "less than 15% of them noncompliant". According to your logic 11% of all noncompliant embedds belong to GM. Does not compute.

-- Brooklyn (MSIS@cyberdude.com), December 04, 1999.

Sheesh Hawk, I was hoping you knew something more than the rest of us. "Got water? Got Prayer?, Got Gumption? Got Common Sense?".

-- Puzzled or Duped Again? (Leagues@underthesea.com), December 04, 1999.


What you say is absolutely true, but I miss the relevance. What are you suggesting? That some parts be designed to break early? There is no "planned obsolescence" in RE. It's just good engineering. Yes, it's quite true that ALL the parts could be engineered to last longer. This costs more. If customers won't pay it, why do it? Do you really expect a $12,000 car to last as long as a $60,000 car?

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), December 04, 1999.

Back to the origional question

This is the best question I have seen on this forum. What have industries done in the past when these things have failed? How do they know a chip has failed at the bottom of a well? How do they fix it? It must have happened already, Right? Pete

-- Pete (phytorx@lanset.com), December 04, 1999.


Thanks for linking me. Can you teach me how to do that? Or, does it require a lot of computer geek knowledge.

Thanks trashcan man!!. At least you gave it a shot and I appreciate that. I think maybe we both use a lesson on linking from Red!


I said in this thread, " (and was told at the AMG meeting) that there are 20 to 100 billion embedded chips in the whole world, (the number changes with the source)"

I went to the minutes, and copied the quote where the moderator told me there are 60 billion chips in the world:

"Michael Laura, there are sixty billion embedded chips in the world, of that, the number that we expect, like 3%

L. are critical. I know.

M. Thats number 1. Number 2: Of that theres only 1/10th of 1% that will have any problems."

I also said, "and of that, only 1/2 of 1 percent are mission critical. If we were to use the 60 billion estimate that the moderator used at the meeting, we are only looking at 1.8 million in the entire world."

Please notice that I said One-Half of one percentnot one percent of 60 billion. 1.8 million is correct if we use 60 billion as the figure to base our discussion.

Furthermore, in case someone missed it, I copied the quote of the petroleum industry representative:

P. I would say that theres probably a lot of them that are downhole problems. (ia) but they know what those chips are.

You said,

"1.4 million embedded systems, and found "less than 15% of them noncompliant".

I hope for their sake, they're right.

"According to your logic 11% of all noncompliant embedds belong to GM. Does not compute."

CyberDude, Im sorry, Im tired and I'm not sure what point youre trying to make. I am only presenting information that was given to me at a public forum. I have no doubt that the number of chips in the world could conceivably be 200 billion. It does, however, seem that GMs estimation, and my moderators estimation, are both just thatestimations. Any number someone assigns is purely arbitrary anyway because no one knows with any certainty how many there are. That would require self-reporting from every chip maker in the world.

The reason I calculated the percentage of embedds is because I wanted to conceptualize the scope of the embedded problem. I am sorry if my exercise offended you. It certainly wasnt intended to.


Hey, ol buddy. I am always interested in learning how to conserve water. Im afraid this desert might be a REAL desert in the future. What is your plan?

Hi, Flint. Its nice to see you again. I love to see your axons and dendrites firing.

-- (Ladylogic@aol.com), December 04, 1999.

I found out about "planned obsolescence" back in the Seventies. Got to talking with the mechanic who worked on my VW bus. A year earlier he'd quit his job a year before at an electroplating plant in Cincinnati, didn't like the fumes, he said. We got around to talking about foreign cars versus domestic cars, and one of the things he told me was this.

The plating plant had a large contract to chrome plate Ford bumpers. The quality assurance included an accelerated weathering test on one or 2 from every batch. If the weathering test showed the plating would last more than three years, the batch was rejected and sent back to be stripped and reworked.

Those were the bad old days, I know. But this was definitely "planned obsolescence." With the obvious purpose of inducing the owner to trade in the old rustbucket for a shiny new one.

This would have been a specification by management, not by the designers. Caveat emptor, as my Grandma used to say.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), December 05, 1999.


You realize of course that according to Flint you are "paranoid" for even suggesting such a thing. How dare you!! :-)

Thanks, I know EXACTLY what you are talking about. My mom owned a 70's Ford Maverick, absolute piece of crap. The fenders were very thin too, like tin. If you got in a wreck, it was totalled. Yep, that was the attitude of the car companies back then, and the reason that the Japanese were successful in stealing the market.

-- Hawk (flyin@high.again), December 05, 1999.

To all:

The bottom line for me:

Why would the user of a chip intentionally allow it to be placed in a (practically speaking)inaccessable location?

You know, I've raised this point over and over and over in the past, I've read this whole thread (yes, I could have missed something), and I'm still waiting for an answer that makes sense to me.

Can't anyone just answer the question the way I've put it?

-- eve (123@4567.com), December 05, 1999.


I addressed your question in an earlier post on this thread. Engineers design systems so that as little as possible is inaccessable, and that little is as simple and rugged as possible. Chips (smarts) are not placed in inaccessable places unless there is simply no other way to make the system function -- which is rare.


I believe you make my point, rather than refuting it. If poor tradeoffs are being made, someone will come along with better ones and capture that market.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), December 05, 1999.

Hi Eve,

"Why would the user of a chip intentionally allow it to be placed in a (practically speaking)inaccessable location?"

The words "intentionally allow" are particulary salient. To answer that we would have to know the thoughts/motives of people in many positions. Lets, take the petroleum industry for example...as far as I'm concerned, there are some embedded chips downhole on dry land and in the ocean rigs. To understand why, and how, they were placed there, I have to consider that it was the decision of many people to place them there to begin with; people such as CEO's, IT professionals, consultants, etc.

Do we ultimately hold the CEO's responsible? I don't. They can only make decisions based on informatiion provided from associates whose opinion they trust. (Not unlike those of us here at TB2000.) Do we hold consultants responsible? Of course not...they only know what their industry knows. Do you know what the defination of a consultant is? It is a person you pay to take your watch to tell you what time it is. Are the chip manufacturers responsible? Maybe, but, I believe the embedded chip problem was caused by the inventor of the T&D function, and s/he couldn't possibly conceive the complexity and concommitant corruption the rollover could cause. Furthermore, if it had been you, wouldn't you think someone would have improved upon it long before this? Do we blame Ford for whatever malfunctions the first automobiles had? I hope not. People design things and others improve upon them. That's how progress (?) works!

-- (Ladylogic46@aol.com), December 05, 1999.


You know, I tend to agree with you here. It actually makes me just a little more optimistic.

-- eve (123@4567.com), December 05, 1999.

Hi, Laura,

I know you didn't directly indicate this, but can I infer from your post that (oil industry) management, as a matter of course, knows, understands (in a general sense), and has little problem with, budgeting, say, half a million per dive just locate and replace a chip? I'm not even talking y2k here; I'm talking "normal course of business".

Apologies if I misread what you were trying to say.

-- eve (123@4567.com), December 05, 1999.

A quote from World Oil magazine: " An offshore platform may have 10,000 or more embedded silicon chips governing all automated and even some manual processes. Many of these systems are subsurface or underwater and physically difficult to access." http://www.worldoil.com/archive/archive_98-04/bug-shemwell.html

-- Danny (dcox@ix.netcom.com), December 05, 1999.


To clarify my previous response to you:

I do agree with the reasonableness of your statements, although I'm not able to vouch for their accuracy.

-- eve (123@4567.com), December 05, 1999.


" I'm talking "normal course of business"."

I hadn't thought about that! Let's explore this a little further. I am pretty sure most Fortune 500 companies budget for accidents, casualties, and to some degree, for failures. I also think they have empirically analyzed the life expectency of their equipment based on historical data, and surely, they have had major disruptions before. Wouldn't it make sense to assume that they have systems in place to restore their operations as soon as humanly possible? In this case, (Y2K) they were even forewarned about it.

My prediction:

I expect to see a small number of refineries and rigs crash. That will raise the price of oil, and we will see higher prices at the gas stations next year. Will it be prohibitively high? Not in my opinion. I remember when gas was 40 cents a gallon and I heard it could go up to as much as a dollar. I remember panicking! I thought there wouldn't be any way people could afford to drive if they had to pay that much.

Ultimately, I think we adjust, and Y2K will be a tragedy for a lot of people, a major inconvenience for others, and a money-making opportunity for a few.

-- (Ladylogic@aol.com), December 05, 1999.

Link to Danny's URL:


-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.cum), December 05, 1999.


By the way, I appreciate your help with the URL, although I haven't gone to it yet.


Thanks for the link. As soon as I get a chance, I'll take a look.

-- eve (123@4567.com), December 05, 1999.

"A quote from World Oil magazine:"

That article was written by a couple of very respectable gentlemen, however, it is more than a year and a half old. Does anyone have anything more current?

-- (Ladylogic@aol.com), December 05, 1999.


Your first paragraph (below the quote) contains an excellent summation of management's likely motivations, and as tough as it is for me to accept the "half a mil dive" (I actually read this somewhere, but I can't recall where) for the chip replacement, I guess I have to go along with your statements, and accept that in a normal operating scenario, an occasional chip failure and replacement might simply be absorbed as an ordinary and expected cost of doing business.

The problem I had originally had with this is a product of the oft- repeated "inaccessibility" issue, which seemed, over time, to take on almost mythical proportions. It finally got to the point where I found I had to take it back one step and ask what was normally done when a chip failed.

But I'm not able to make the jump with you to your next paragraph. My take is that on and after 1/1/2000, our oil company will be subject to an extraordinary situation. That is to say that it will be subject for the first time to possible multiple, simultaneous embedded chip breakdowns, together with possible breakdowns in its IT area, the rest of the infrastructure, and the supply chain. Somewhat more specifically, I think it probable that some significant combination of these breakdowns will occur, necessitating a more pessimistic outlook than that which you describe.

Talk to you soon,

-- eve (123@4567.com), December 05, 1999.

To Eve, Ladylogic, et al:

Regarding embeddeds in offshore oil and gas systems...the quote about costs of diving for repairs at $500,000 per dive. Here's the quote and the link... Dan Looper, National Accounts Mgr for Y2K at Litton PRC (Note, I think this quote may have first appeared on the Shell Oil co. website, but I don't now have the link available as a handy reference--and it may have been at a different oil co. website)


IEA's homepage for Y2K ... but hasn't updated much since July. Some links are updating such as the one below which includes the comments regarding oil/gas embeddeds in the ocean. Here below is the link to the dci webpage from which they draw the quote and link to it.


"There are two possible scenarios," explains Dan Looper, national account manager for Y2K at Litton PRC. "A chip could either shut down completely, or it could start transmitting erroneous data: for example, about how much fuel is in the line. This would be the more dangerous situation, because the malfunctioning chip would have to be found and replaced. And that could take time."

As offshore production increases, more underwater pipelines are being laid. "The major problem will be if theres an embedded chip issue in the underwater pipes, especially the deep ones off the shores of Alaska or in the North Sea where the depth of the sea floor is measured in miles rather than feet. There are only a few vessels capable of taking divers down to those depths, and it would cost around $500,000 a dive," Looper says.


NOW... IF... there is any serious problem with an oil well and production pressure goes to zero and the oil is lost, and if the oil well has been in production a long time, most likely it is impossible to resume oil pumping because after loss of pressure the oil reservoir level may have fallen too far beyond the equipment's reach the pool surface and thereby necessitating a shutdown of the well. Thus drilling a new well will be required.

Technically, all embeddeds downhole are accessable just like it is technically possible to go back up and retrieve Apollo 11's Tranquility Base, but of course the question there is "why bother?" With an oilwell, yes you can retrieve everything out of a well, but why bother? Cost prohibitive and retrieval serves no useful purpose in most cases. (there may be exceptions). The real factor is this. If a system takes the well down and the well has been pumping with quite a long history, then a shut down for any reason, whether to test the well's equip, etc...usually means the well becomes dead. It's cheaper to drill a new hole and start all over, BUT, you may have to do things differently including doing "water-injection" in which water is forced under pressure into the oil reservoir cavern to force the remaining oil upwards to where it can be reached by existing equip in the old hole or even in a new hole where the equipment can't reach it because of the oil depletion in one "room" or cavity, but oil in adjacent areas can be forced thru and moved up to a point where it can be pressured into the system and brought to the surface. This approach is costlier (naturally) and also involves more processing.

(Now remember, I've tried to keep this in simple in layman's terms that are easier to follow and understand the basics.)

Generally, embeddeds will last as long or longer than the average lifespan of the other well equip. So embedded chip lifespans were never the big worry for engineers, etc...that some posters here like to argue/question. Well's fail. It's a fact of life. Most of them return the $$$ on the original investment, but not all. It's a crap shoot, and always has been and always will. Its a given in the biz.

Big Wells in recent years were re-engineered with embeddeds in order to cut down on the number of oil-field workers needed to operate them.

Ladies, I think maybe part of the problem you and others are having in trying to relate to the oil industry is that you are oblivious to how the oil industry operates and why? It is a very risky biz by its very nature. It's a bit like gambling to go out and try to sink holes trying to strike it rich.

Also, another point about embeddeds, is that the average estimate is now running somewhere between 60 to 75 Billion, but your notion of mission critical is way off base as is your estimate of how many needed remediation. The other poster on General Motors assessments is right on the money.

Also Didn't any of you make note of Y2K Presidential czar Koskinen's latest report on embeddeds in which his panel of 'experts' came together and concluded much of what I had been saying and also hearing from the oil industry sources. Then too, there is the NIST report from the US Commerce Dep't. which acknowledges that embeddeds are indeed expected to be a very serious and dangerous problem. Then there is Jim Lord's Mr. CEO interview who I believe notes a much higher fail rate, based upon how his #1 co. in the embeddeds segment of the industry is

-- R.C. (racambab@mailcity.com), December 06, 1999.

Misc comments (translation: I lost this thread for a couple of days):

Flint: The relevance, for better or worse, is that I was responding to a statment that said, "I've never seen planned obsolescence at the engineering level."

Am I suggesting that some parts are designed to fail early? No, quite the opposite, in fact. I'm suggesting that *all* parts are designed to fail at the *same time*.



"Why would the user of a chip intentionally allow it to be placed in a (practically speaking)inaccessable location?

"You know, I've raised this point over and over and over in the past, I've read this whole thread (yes, I could have missed something), and I'm still waiting for an answer that makes sense to me.

"Can't anyone just answer the question the way I've put it?"

Sure, no problem.

But first, you've got to step outside the box, and stop thinking in terms of "chips".

Remember, parts is parts.

So the question becomes one of, "Why would someone put *any* parts in an inaccessible location?"

And the answer is...[drumroll]... because sometimes there's no reason not to, and sometimes there's no *way* not to!

I'm not an oilman, so I have no idea what the correct nomenclature is, so please bear with me. There are certain parts of an oil well that are drilled way into the earth. I suspect *some* of these parts are pretty much A) essential for the operation of the well, and B) pretty much impossible to retrieve.

Why should a gear, a burr, a hose, or some *other* part be OK to use in an inaccessible location, but a *chip* be somehow *not* OK to use in that environment?

Remember, before y2k was an issue, the primary concern was service life.

And *chips* -- especially industrial or military packaged -- tend to have a *longer* service life, and *greater* reliability than most *mechanical* components. No moving parts, nothing to wear out, nothing to use up.

I've already pointed out several times -- as have others -- that oil rigs are far from the only place one might find inaccessible chips, and the proof is summed up in the word "satellites". I believe we can safely add "Mars Landers" to that category.

So, if the idea is that unless we can come up with a reason for someone to install chips in an inaccessible location, we'll have to believe that there are *no* chips in inaccessible locations, the debate is over. They're there, let's move on.

-- Ron Schwarz (rs@clubvb.com.delete.this), December 06, 1999.


Your response was great! It satisfactorily answered practically alll my remaining uncertainty about this area. Thanks for taking the time.


I appreciate your reply. I just wanted to point out that I had drawn a distinction, in my mind, between an electronic component (e.g., a chip) and everything else, because I had thought it might have been possible to put the chip in a more accessible location, controlling the piece of equipment in a remote-control way. But, since I know virtually nothing about either the oil industry nor electronics, etc. this notion was probably naive, and mainly because it's reasonable to assume that if they could have done it that way, and it was cost-effective, they would have.

And keep in mind that one reason I even raised this issue in the first place was that the idea of placing a chip that controlled so much in an area that (practically speaking) you couldn't even get to struck me as possibly being unnecessarily risky, so I wanted to do a little probing.

But the broader reason is that I believed the answers I got would help me to understand the industry a bit better (R.C. helped a lot here) with regard to this issue, so that in terms of Y2K I would be in a somewhat better position in terms of trying to assess the trouble it's in, and by extension, the trouble we're all in.

-- eve (123@4567.com), December 06, 1999.

Now wait a minute...

Allow me to indulge in a "stream of consciousness" moment, please. I'm writing this because it is 7:oo am, and too early to call and wake up my father. So, while I'm waiting, I'd like to write this out because it sometimes helps me work though a thought/question.

I've mentioned before that my father owns a small oil well. I say "small" because he put a cap on how much he would allow to be pumped out of there (we don't actually know how much there is down there.) He is extremely conservative in Everything he does (to the point of embarrassing me sometimes), and his philosophy regarding the well has always been, "We (U.S.) don't need the product, so I'm going to leave it there until there's some reason to pump it." I think the only reason they (he and the oil company) pump at all, is to keep the well active, and generate a small amount of income for my aunt, and provide a small profit for the oil company.

Now, my thought is..."We don't know how much oil there is down there, it might be a little, it might be a lot." As RC said, people just go around poking holes to see what they find. Sometimes they hit paydirt, sometimes they don't - and sometimes they just sit on what they do find. I believe the oil reserves are at an all time high, aren't they? I believe we have a cushion for the beginning of next year.

At any rate...I remember when I was growing up, my cousins were always talking about their jobs on the rigs. Since the work was hard, dirty, and dangerous, my brother always thought he'd better get an education so he wouldn't end up in the same profession. We have cousins that have actually lost fingers working on those things! I guess my point is, people have been out there drilling wells for a long time now, and if chips fail, there is oil to be harvested the old fashioned way. It will take more man-power to build rigs when some (I believe it will only be "some") fail, but at least that will provide the opportunity for more jobs. I don't see this as being a tragedy unless you are an unemployed programmer who has to go to work for my cousins! I think we have the reserves as a cushion to tide us over until new rigs are dug. I believe people will find employment elsewhere, which will result in tragedy for some, inconveniences for others, and some will make money.

Thanks for letting me indulge in my thoughts, I realize that I am only expounding on crude, and we must consider refining etc., but, there have always been ways to get the finished product into our tanks. I will call my dad later, and see if he knows how long it takes to build a rig from scratch, but let me take another moment to think here. Just as a wild guess, let's say it takes four months to build a rig. And during that four months, the refineries are replacing their failed systems. Also during that four months; trucks, gas pumps, cash registers, credit card companies, etcetera are fixing/replacing their failed systems. Four months is longer than a three day storm, but it's not the end of the world. Our standard of living won't be the same, and we may have to find different kinds of employment. I don't see any loss of dignity in using my manual typewriter. I've always respected handymen who could convert one kind of engine into another, or drive a nail with out the use of a nail gun. The women of this forum will be fine because we know how to find edible plants, bake bread from scratch, cook in a thermos or solar oven, purify water, or do whatever is necessary. We can get through this...just take my hand.

-- (Ladylogic@aol.com), December 06, 1999.


Thanks for sharing your background. And you bring up some good points.

I don't know what the status of the reserves is, but if electric and oil can hang in there awhile, it would at least help to make possible the repairs and replacements.

Please bear with me for a minute as I segue to something related. Another immensely important piece of the puzzle that doesn't come up very often is:

Spare Parts.

Key spare parts come from small and medium-sized companies that span the globe. And sometimes there's a key part that goes through a whole chain of suppliers to get back to a source raw material.

And these companies are vulnerable not only to the condition of their internal processes and yet further suppliers of their own, to the extent that they are in foreign countries, they are additionally vulnerable to the foreign countries' infrastructure.

I have read of the status of small-medium businesses on these issues, as well as progress made in foreign countries, and, to severely understate the case, I was not a happy camper. So the spare parts black hole has by itself gone a long way towards feeding my discouragement.

And to exemplify my concerns there's that story about a couple of key suppliers that went on strike which brought down GM for a while.

Maybe you could say I'm going a little OT here, given the topic of the thread, but the tie-in here is that embeddeds affect the oil industry, and since the oil industry is highly dependent on spare parts (obviously among other things, but I've got to try to keep this as focused as I can or I'll never finish), I believe it is important to allow room for this fact, especially when we get into predictions on what the state of the industry might be early next year.

(Sorry for the long sentence, above. I'm just too tired right now to slice it up.)

But Laura, I'm glad for posts like yours. You brought out some valid points and made me feel just a little better about things. And say hi to your dad for me.

-- eve (123@4567.com), December 06, 1999.

We've been barking up the wrong tree, folks,

I don't have time to write up the conversation I just had with my father and uncle in Kansas, so I'll make this short and post the long version tomorrow.

We don't have to build oilwells...derricks are movable.

We don't use computers to drill.

Ultimately, the right tree to be concerned about is electricity.

-- (Ladylogic@aol.com), December 06, 1999.


When you post your next piece, start a new thread at the top, as this one's about to drop off into the abyss...

-- eve (123@4567.com), December 06, 1999.

Oil drilling uses much high-tech resources in scoping out potential drill sites. The drilling process is very expensive. All kinds of geo-surveys are used (satellite imagery, geotherm., infrared, magnetic surveys, IP, geochem., etc etc), all requiring computers for much of the undertaking and esp. analysis.
Fuel is a major concern, power for euip/tools heatging/cooling/pumping..., telcom, financial mngmnt including payroll, company/geologist/engineer contracts, etc etc.

Then there's the refining (many refineries will have to be rebuilt since their chips, if proven unreliable), are inaccessible and thus irrepairable (feasibly, as in a cost-comparison basis). Containment, transport and shipping, processing, distribution, sales, consumer gas pumps and commerce agreements, and on'on...

Re. the "spare parts" availability comments: excellent points made. I read a great article on this (by Jim Lord?) some time back. The chain of supply has many many necessary competent links. Most parts, w/ JIT availability, are produced in under-developed countries who have done next to nothing WRT y2k remediation.
Fallibilty to the max.

-- faith'nhope (y2kaos@home.com), December 06, 1999.

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