Koskinen defends amount spent fixing Y2K and gives examples

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-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), January 04, 2000


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Tuesday January 4 1:29 AM ET

How Y2K Bug Money Was Spent

By TED BRIDIS Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - For anyone who believes the $100 billion spent in the United States immunizing technology from Y2K bugs was wasted, consider this: Three minor computers known to have problems and deliberately left running crashed completely at the century's dawn.

``All three of the systems failed following the Y2K rollover and could not be used,'' said John Koskinen, President Clinton's top Y2K adviser. ``The systems simply stopped and became unusable.''

Koskinen said all three computers had been replaced before the date rollover, but he described the unscientific experiment by one of the states ``an interesting example of what happens with systems that have failures.'' He declined to identify which state let the computers fail.

Across the nation, Americans killed the Y2K computer bug the best way they knew how: drowning the problem in money by spending an awesome $100 billion on repairs and preparations.

But days into the new century, the well-cheered victory over a potential technological nightmare also raised questions about whether the government and corporate America threw too much at the problem, especially considering apparent victories overseas where far less was spent.

The United States, easily the most technology-dependent nation on the planet, spent roughly half the world's total repair costs, or about $365 in America for each citizen.

Koskinen allowed Monday that as much as $10 billion may have been wasted in the United States since 1995 as ``somebody may have bought something they didn't need or figured it was a great way to get a replacement system.''

Another early estimate was even higher. International Data Corp., an analyst firm, put the amount wasted in the United States as high as $41 billion, including $2.7 billion on extra staff who spent the holiday weekend twiddling their thumbs after Y2K failures failed to materialize.

``The hype generated over Y2K came at a price, in terms of both the costs of contingency planning and overspending on fixing computer systems,'' said John Gantz, a chief research officer at the firm.

But Koskinen and other experts defended the overall effort as ``a marvelous accomplishment'' and crucial to keeping the nation's most important computers healthy.

To those who suggest money was frittered away, he said: ``Corporations don't naively spent hundreds of millions of dollars.''

Where did that money go?

The government, which began its Y2K efforts in earnest in 1995, spent $8.5 billion to update and repair its computers while setting up an elaborate monitoring system for each major industry at risk, from nuclear power plants to hospitals. It also aided other countries that were behind in repairs to help insulate the U.S. economy from global problems - and to ensure that foreign nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants were safe.

Americans also got a healthy dose of forewarning, thanks to commercial campaigns that highlighted problems and sold repairs. Computer manufacturers set up help lines and gave away small fixes, known as patches, to repair programs or chips that had the glitch in which some computers might misread the year ``00'' as 1900 instead of 2000.

``There were very few pockets of people in this country who were not aware and prepared for the Y2K,'' White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said.

Software makers flooded stores with software that promised to catch hidden problems and fix them. And consultants offered pricey new Y2K services to detect, fix and double-check Y2K problems in corporate computers.

After the fixes were deployed, confidence-building became key. New computers contained stickers declaring they were ``Y2K compliant.''

The phone industry, which spent a whopping $3.6 billion to make sure phone systems were Y2K-compliant, ran advertisements aimed at calming the jitters. US West declared in its newspaper ads, which featured the sun rising over trees, that ``on Jan. 1 the sun will rise and the phones will ring.''

Banks, which fixed computer systems early, kept extra money on reserve in case Americans made a run for cash.

Cuba's communist government said the lack of problems worldwide ``brings suspicions that the enormous investments in computers obeyed an audacious market maneuver.''

Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, said questions of excessive spending were inevitable given the remarkably few reports of problems.

``I don't believe it was hype,'' Miller said. ``It was a real problem. So many people worked so hard to solve the problem, we should see this as a sign of success, not cynicism.''

Bruce McConnell, head of the United Nations group monitoring Y2K failures overseas, agreed. He called the estimated $200 billion costs worldwide a ``responsible and measured approach.''

Koskinen said the great Y2K battle will pay dividends for years to come.

The government discovered that one in every five of its computer systems was outdated or redundant and could be scrapped. Other computers were exchanged ahead of schedule with faster, more productive ones.

``History will show that the glitches that continue to come out will continue to remind people that those are glitches today that would have made major system failures,'' Koskinen said. 


-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), January 04, 2000.

"known to have problems and deliberately left running crashed completely"

Am I being overly cynical, or did he just look for three systems with comments in their code like:

/* WARNING! WILL CRASH COMPLETELY ON 1/1/00 (note to self: must remember to fix this before then!) */

-- Servant (public_service@yahoo.com), January 05, 2000.

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