How The Y2K Story Ends : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

How The Y2K Story Ends

I ran across this yesterday, burried in a cross-post from Cowles' site. I've seen no mention of it here, and thought it sums things up better than anything I've seen yet. Thanks Bonnie.

Modern Americans are Besotted with Happy Endings By Bonnie Camp

So you want to know how the story ends? So do many folks who have been following the Y2K tale through its many chapters. But I'll bet you want a prognostication in detail. If components will fail, what components will fail, how will they fail, how many, in what infrastructure areas, and what will the consequences be? Which systems will be affected, what data will be corrupted, how many problems will cascade to other systems, or infect data elsewhere?

You might as well ask a weatherman to tell you exactly how many square millimeters of land in the world will have rain fall on them January 1, 2000, and while he's at it, exactly how many drops will hit each millimeter, and what the effects of the accumulative runoff will be. The weatherman would think you were a screwball, and rightly so. He could tell you whether the sun was shining or not, though, or if a storm was on the horizon. Which you could pretty easily figure out for yourself anyway, if you had a mindto.

That's why I think you don't really want to know how the Y2K story will end. It's very ironic that the clues to the ending of the story, which have been there from the beginning, are being almost universally discounted or ignored. I think it's because the ability to interpret those clues has been mangled or lost in the often ignorant bliss of our illusion-strewn society. Somehow people nowadays have become besotted with a mandated happy ending and fantasies can interfere powerfully with judgments. Prince Charming is a piker compared to a modern James Bond, after all. Americans thrive on the conquering hero who wields technology like a sword. They also decry anything that smacks of the unpleasant. Even classic fairy tales are re-written; sanitized, fluffed up, endings changed.

You didn't know that? The Y2K story has been edited and changed, too, over the last two or three years, but few have noticed. Or did not want to notice. I cut my reading teeth on the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson and I'm grateful to those authors. I may have sobbed uncontrollably after finishing 'The Little Match Seller' or recoiled at the greed and evil in the world of Grimm, but I learned the difference between illusions and real life at a young age.

Cinderella's two self absorbed step-sisters took a knife and cut off their toes and heel, respectively, in a desperate attempt to get a foot into that glass slipper! I'll bet that's not a part of the nicey-nice modern Cinderella story you know, is it? But in the original versions, when the focus suddenly became just making it to the castle, the desperate sisters didn't stop to consider if they might bleed to death before the wounds healed, or if those toes were a lot more important for their future well-being than they realized.

In the Y2K story line, triage has been portrayed as a simple, bloodless process having little to do with desperate need and imminent danger. And you believed that? The partial or total abandonment of a vast bulk of computer systems here and around the world has been given the illusion of business as usual. Chop, chop. We don't need those heels and toes. We can stomp around without them. Not enough? Well we don't need that arm, either. One will do. Come to think of it, one leg will do as well, as long as you have a crutch handy. 'Put a crutch in the contingency plans, Marvin.' Desperate measures for desperate goals.

You want to know how the story ends, but you think the massive triage of government and corporations everywhere doesn't give enough of a clue? Try this then. The computer systems people I've spoken with about the triage in the international corporations they work at have sometimes reluctantly, sometimes sadly, agreed that they honestly didn't know of any 'non-critical' systems in ordinary times. Heels and toes. They matter. Except when your life is at stake. Did you catch that? When your life is at stake.

If you've been following the Y2K story for a couple of years like I have, you also know what rational technology experts in government and business had to say about what it takes, and how long it takes, and how problematic it is to successfully complete any large scale computer project. You know that in the next chapters of the story all the characters began claiming they were certainly going to be able to have all their systems compliant by December 31, 1998, leaving 'a whole year for testing.' Then came the part where the formerly-agreed-upon need for comprehensive testing was edited from the script in increments. You didn't think those deletions had anything to do with the end of the story?

The Y2K writers probably were counting on the fact that most of you wouldn't notice something odd about the bidding wars in the chapters that followed, either. Bidding wars? Huh? Didn't you pay attention when one champion contender in the remediation game took ten years to almost-finish his project but he was constantly one-upped by other contenders of the same relative size who proclaimed they could do the job in one third or one quarter of the time? The writers were right, that you wouldn't see that as a clue to the ending of the story, weren't they?

Did you notice that if you compare chapters, compare the status information and requirements for success from 1997 and 1998 with those of today, it looks like we're talking about two entirely different stories? That's because part of the story is gussied up to meet modern illusion standards, and the other is real. Which is which? As I see it, there are only two possible conclusions to the comparison.

(1) Either most of the 1997 and 1998 government and business reports, and the requirements deemed necessary for success in 2000 were lies...or (2) Most of the government and business status reports and prognostications now are lies.

If you've been inundated with Disney all your life, you'll probably pick number one. I pick number two. We cannot have gotten to where they say we are, from where we were - and we needed to. MacGuyver didn't whip up a fix in the nick of time. Government, military, and business IT personnel didn't suddenly morph into a cross between Super Guru and The Flash in the middle of our story. But you'd like to believe that, wouldn't you? Even though somewhere deep down you know the real story played out more like this in the beginning:

'Of course we're going to get moving on that project. We've got it all planned. Sure, we haven't gotten very far yet, but we'll get it all done, there's plenty of time. It's early days yet! It's just that we're in the middle of these other projects right now, too... and of course, we've got to keep up with the day to day stuff that has to be done... and by the way, did Harry get that financing approved yet? And Mary, remind me to find somebody that knows what the heck an embedded system is, will you?'

Then as the deadline draws closer, reality intrudes. Life is what happens when you're making other plans. Shortcuts are taken, errors are made and unexpected troubles arise. It's not as simple or as quick or as easy as you told yourself it would be. The trouble is, you told others how easy it would be, too, and now you're stuck.

Strip away those modern fairy tale illusions and there's the reality of human nature staring us in the face. We waited too long. We didn't take the problem seriously enough soon enough. Only a small portion of what needed to be fixed has been. What has been fixed hasn't all been fixed adequately or competently. Things have been overlooked and comprehensive testing has been more talk than action. Do you really need to know more?

Sigh. Okay, I'll tell you. There will be a plethora of failures, in a broad range of types and an equally broad range of severity. Surprises will abound. Most of them will be unpleasant. Our collective patience will be sorely tried, the fabric of our social and business interactions will fray in some places, rip in others, and disintegrate altogether in still others. The shortsightedness of decades will come back to haunt us, as shortsightedness always does.

That ghost from the past won't go away in three measly days, either. It will cackle and boo around us for months if we're lucky, years if we're not. In late 1997 this story couldn't have had a happy ending and it can't have one now. The real story is an old-style tale, full of folly and pain. If we're fortunate, we may be able to discern the moral of the story and grow in wisdom as we work through the myriad problems and misfortunes we'll be presented with. But there will be a cost. It will be more than we want to pay.

Argue if you will. Call me crazy as a loon. I'll stick with my own form of literary prognosis, it's served me well all my adult life. There can be no happy ending to the tale of the two-digit date. Forget the illusions. The real story is penned in the style of Grimm, not Disney.

By the way, the two foolish little pigs who built their houses of straw and sticks and didn't think the wolf could get them? After the huffing and puffing was over, they didn't escape and scamper away to the wise little pig's house, as Disney tells it. They got eaten.

And the Little Mermaid? She died. The Prince married somebody else. That's the real story. But you didn't want to know that, did you?

That about says it all. I can see no way to rationalize this "fairytale". The question is, how many people realy want to know? Hang on tight, and God bless...

-- RPGman (, December 16, 1999


Thanks RPGman for posting this exceptional article by Bonnie Camp. Bonnie has worked tirelessly to dig up "The Facts" regarding y2k, especially as it concerns the electric utility industry. Her efforts have been enormous and much appreciated.

I read a thread recently where Ken Decker was questioning some aspect of her writings, to Decker I say simply, you cannot hold a candle to the wisdom this woman possesses.


-- Ray (, December 16, 1999.

Devastating, truly devastating...

Bonnie reminded me of a saying earlier this year...Every system is critical to somebody's mission!

Folks, it's gonna be a mess!! (think chopped toes and heels and perhaps other things)

-- K. Stevens (kstevens@ It's ALL going away in, December 16, 1999.

Few can say it like this!!

-- Larry (, December 16, 1999.

What a sombering piece Bonnie. Thanks for the find RPGman.

"The good news is we're 99.9% out of the woods. The bad news is that the remaining 0.1% is snake infested quicksand." - Bill Clinton's conscience

-- a (a@a.a), December 16, 1999.

Now there's a nice piece of writing. Thanks for putting it up, RPGman.

Bonnie Camp, ayy? Anyone have links to her other work, Y2k or otherwise? I could read that style all day long.

-- semper paratus (, December 16, 1999.

semper, try this and then e-mail Rick Cowles at and he will send you an e-mail with a password. (no trolls) 0Utilities%20and%20Y2K

-- ghost (fading into, December 16, 1999.

Oh well, just E him at the info addy.

-- ghost (fading into, December 16, 1999.

Bonnie Camp has been a bit longer winded but much more eloquent than I was. She says the EXACT same thing that I have been repeating for more than two years.

The remediation could NEVER have been properly acomplished. It was NEVER a business problem. It was NEVER a technology problem. First and foremost, it was ALWAYS A HUMAN NATURE PROBLEM.

It was never possible in the first place to have been where we were in 1997 *AND* get the remediation done. The fact that most computer 'professionals' do not recognize that is a testimony to their raging ignorance, their inflated over-estimation of their own ablities and their cock-eyed optimism.

On top of that their is the laughable degree of cognitive dissonance sweeping the population towards their usaul expectation of a happy outcome. More 'Seventh Cavalry' coming over the hill in the nick of time. Absolutely laughable.

Two and a half years ago, I roared with laughter when I saw the projected budgets for the ammount of work to be done. And then, as if it could not get more funny, the specious 'triage' concept entered in. Hey, I was trained as a combat medic. I KNOW what triage means in combat medical situations . It means that you have some desparately injured people with which to deal. It does NOT mean what the IT world has led people to believe.....namely, that you can just simply 'prioritize' and work on less than ten percent of your systems.That is NOT 'triage'.

You can not work on only ten percent of the 'systems' in a human body and ignore the rest. There is no such thing, across the board, as a company or entity that can claim that it can remediate less than 10% of the totality of their systems and expect to function in any manner approaching normality. Nor possible. But most IT types can not understand that.

It is plainly true that 99.9% of all entities began LATE. Yet, utterly contrary to tens of thousands of hours of IT Metrics, conclusively showing that late starts ALONE is the number one cause of project failure, they have virtually ALL claimed to be 'ready' on time. No matter when they started, or how much they underbudgetted, or how few people they employed, they ALL are 'ready'.

Hey, not possible. Who are they fooling? Well, they have fooled almost everyone.

You have the USA, with slightly more than 25% of all the code in the world, having worked on about ten percent of the totality of it's systems. That's about 2.5% of ALL the code in the world. Then you have the rest of the world with 75% of all the code, having done WAY WAY LESS. But let's be overly generous and say that the rest of the world accomplished what we did and hit that 10% mark. This still means that we will go into the rollover with only about ten percent of the totality of the world's code 'allegedly' remediated. It would even embarrass Pareto to see how little has been done, but let's DOUBLE that 'alleged' remediation to 20% to make Pareto happy. You can still kiss your ass good-bye.

We are going down and we are going down hard. No fairy tale endings this time, and no Seventh Cavalry.

From day one the 'remediation' story has been re-defined and re-defined and re-defined again. First it was all of it, then most of it, then some of it, and then a year for testing and then almost no testing. The job has not been adequately done here, much less the rest of the world.

99.9% of the population is convinced not much will go wrong and has done next to nothing to prepare. Worse, the government and commercial organizations have demonized preparation and those who prepare.

Soon, very soon, it will all come out in the wash. The IT world has cut off it's "heels and toes" and thinks that it can walk around immediately after with no swelling, bleeding, infection or pain. It thinks that it didn't really need it's heels and toes after all.

Won't be long now.

Paul Milne

-- csy2k (csy2k@csy2k.csy2k), December 16, 1999.

Just got home from work (I posted this on lunch break) and noticed that my [snip]s didn't make it into the post. For the record, the last sentence --

That about says it all. I can see no way to rationalize this "fairytale". The question is, how many people realy want to know? Hang on tight, and God bless...

-- was my comment, not part of Bonnie's article. She certainly doesn't need any help from me.

Mr. Milne: Thanks for bringing the laughable spectre of the 7th Cavalry to bear. Pollies keep rubbing our noses in the "missed trigger dates". Most of us have been loathe to rub theirs in the myriad missed deadlines, balooning remediation budgets, and shrinking "mission criticals". We may have had a chance in '92 when I did my first Y2K remediation. Maybe '95 (not IRS/FAA, though). Bonneville Power started in '97. Many others later still. Paul and Bonnie are dead on -- the die was cast at least a couple of years ago. At this point all we can do is comfort each other and pray. God bless...

-- RPGman (, December 16, 1999.

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