Many of you have fallen for the media's Big Bang and Y2K O.K. : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

How many countless times on the forum have we discussed the cumulative, effects of Y2K. I've been amazed at the pollies declaring victory and the GIs regretting and questioning their prudence when no work days in the new year for most of the world have started. I post this Rick Cowles discussion from a Lane Core Westergaard article, Dec. 15, 1999. So far his prediction is correct, but we are very far from out of the woods. Also read Dick Mills after Cowles in the same piece who has the same long range concerns.


Rick Cowles: "When the inherent fault tolerance of complex systems becomes saturated, the system begins to fail..."

Rick Cowles, of (formerly EUY2K), and a Westergaard Year 2000 columnist, was recently asked some questions based on the following quotation:

"Cowles said he did not expect a 'big bang' on Jan. 1, 2000, but rather a period of perhaps two to four weeks when errors accumulate in data processing and control systems. 'If you don't start dealing with those errors during the period when they are accumulating, you are going to see some major crashes, but that is not unique to the electric utility industry.' He added that he expected some nuisance failures and a decline in the reliability of utility delivery systems next year. 'I don't think we are going to see anything that is catastrophic, that meets the end-of-the-world predictions of some of the stronger Y2K pundits,' Cowles said."

Here are the questions posed to him, and Cowles' replies slightly revised by the author and reformatted:

"Question: Which portion(s)/aspect(s) of the delivery system will be impacted?

Reply: Let's first define 'power delivery.' There are three major components to a typical regional power delivery system: generation, transmission, and distribution. 'Generation' is the factory where the power is produced. 'Transmission' is the bulk product distribution pipeline. 'Distribution' is the local (third tier; end user) end of the product distribution chain. From a Y2K perspective, I expect disruptions in each of the three major components, somewhere in every geographic region on the planet. But lest you think I'm less than forthright in this assessment, let me hasten to add that failures occur in each of the three major components of power delivery systems every day of the week. Each component of a typical power delivery system, though, has enough inherent redundancy that isolated failures are mostly transparent to the end user. The lights rarely go out, but when they do, it's sometimes in a dramatic and totally unexpected fashion. (Ref: NYC blackouts, and the recent San Francisco blackout). More on this in a minute.

"Question: When you say 'reliability' are you referring to a decline in dependability or security (or both), and will they result in customer outages or simply reduced safety margins?

Reply: Both, and both. I fail to see, after observing industry work on Y2K (and more to the point: participating in this work)  how anyone who has ever dealt with probabilistic risk assessment can even begin to say that the Y2K issue wouldn't result in reduced safety margins. When you have an organization like the NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] backing off on some of it's most basic regulatory tenets simply because of Y2K, you are (at least in some small manner) reducing safety margins. And if every industry, every government agency, every business is 'reducing safety margins' even just a wee bit, the net result to society as a whole is a big reduction in overall safety margins. Anyone that has a background in probabilistic risk assessment understands that creating safety margins (or in this case, reducing safety margins) is not a linear process  it is logarithmic in nature. (As an example of what I mean when I say 'logarithmic in nature,' think about earthquakes and the Richter scale. A magnitude 6 earthquake is 10 times as powerful as a magnitude 5.)

"Question: What components do you see failing due to Y2K that will act as the catalyst for the 'decline in reliability,' and can you describe the sequence events from the failure mode to the manifestation of the reliability issue?

Reply: I'm going to give a very simplistic explanation here. All the average person needs to understand is that most operationally important process control systems in any business or industry won't quit operating because of a single failure in the system. This is because there is a degree of fault tolerance built into every important control system, regardless of the industry. When the inherent fault tolerance of complex systems becomes saturated, the system begins to fail. Sometimes this fault tolerance saturation is instantaneous (such as in the San Francisco example), sometimes it takes a little longer to play out (such as in the Western U.S. power outage from several years ago). Any single or multiple component failure in a complex control system could act as the catalyst for a decline in reliability. It could be a single motherboard failure, or a UPS [Uninterruptable Power Supply] that doesn't correctly sense and respond to an instrument loop power failure because the UPS wasn't challenged until two weeks after 1/1/2000.

"Question: Will these Y2K failures occur on rollover, or as a result of a time window failure sometime after the rollover?

Reply: Both. "Question: How did you derive the 2-4 week prediction? Reply: First of all, it's not a prediction  it's no more than an educated guess about how the problem will most likely manifest itself, and again, I haven't changed my opinion on this since at least the middle of 1998. I arrived at this conclusion as no more than an educated SWAG [Scientific Wild Ass Guess] based on my own analysis of the data and observations that I've compiled while actually working on the problem for clients  much the same way that many electric industry personnel have derived that there will be zero impact. The same way that Ed Yardeni arrived at his recession prediction. The same way that other economists have derived that there will be zero impact on the economy."

-- PJC (, December 31, 1999


And this from the BBC News:


.... With the immediate worries over, only time will now tell what the final impact of the Y2K bug will be. Experts have warned that only a small fraction of any problems would be expected immediately.

This is because failures could occur any time a computer fails to recognise a year 2000 date. When offices begin to re-open and computers are turned back on, problems may start to appear.

As the millennium celebrations leave Western Europe, only the Americas await the start of the New Year. North America uses more computers than anywhere else in the world but is also one of the best- prepared places.

If the incident-free pattern continues there, the story of the Y2K bug is likely to played out over several months rather than on just a single night. One prediction says that less than 10% of Y2K glitches will occur in the first two weeks of January, with 55% hitting over the rest of the year.

So the first hours of the new millennium will be the beginning, not the end, of the millennium bug.

(End Snip)

The truth is out there, if any of you crowing pollies would care to look it in the face (very doubtful, I know).

-- Jon Johnson (, December 31, 1999.

Monday will be painful to many.

-- spider (, January 01, 2000.

Midnight can be viewed as stage one of the effects of y2k. Unfortunately some information may not be available from relatively closed societies such as china for weeks. Russia exists across 12 of the 24 time zones. It was good news that reactors in the first 2 time zones appear unaffected so far. Of critical impotance will be the embedded chips in their gas delivery systems. They are major suppliers to Germany etc. of fuel.

The second phase will begin next week when businesses and gov't agencies that are shut down now start up.

The third phase will play out as any effects on supply lines that will be reflected in company earnings in the 1st quarter.

The news so far is very encouraging, but it's not over by any stretch of the imagination.

-- Andy (, January 01, 2000.

Old Git, a lot of people who have lived with Y2K for some time now desperately want closure, especially if it is a happy ending. Regardless of whether they expected it to amount to much or not.

Let's keep our fingers crossed, these next few weeks, because only time will tell.

Day 1.

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.~net), January 01, 2000.

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