lems to our technological society ; we have grown to rely on the most basic computer systems to make our lives convenient. In our attempts to streamline programming computer systems, we created a monster by using only the final 2-digits to represent a 4-digit year. Programmers were excited that they could save a couple of bytes of memory by cutting back the dates to 2-digit numbers. With the turning of the odometer, on December 31st, 1999, we possibly could be in for some major inconveniences to our daily lives.
Religious broadcaster of the 700 Club television show, Pat Robertson said, “we are looking at a man-made global crisis of such magnitude that nobody can assess it”. The Christian Broadcasting Network has even issued a brochure about the millennium bug. Some religious leaders are saying that this could possibly be the end of the world, mankind would initiate Armageddon with there own technology (Szabo). Economist Ed Yardeni of Deutsche Bank in New York is at an extreme in predicting a 70 percent chance of a major recession (Samuelson).
The problem, dubbed the “Y2K bug”, has been deemed so serious that there has even been an U.S. Senate committee appointed to investigate it. Experts anticipate that computers controlling everything from banks, elevators, power grids and automobiles will go on the fritz, due to the date confusion. This could theoretically mean some sort of extended power loss could occur in the middle of winter, and thousands of people could possibly lose their lives. Either from hypothermia or starvation; just imagine the mass confusion that could happen (Meeks).
The United States has been furiously updating their computer-related systems, but we only house a small part of the problem. People sometimes forget of all the other countries in the world that use computer systems; the question of whether or not theyll be prepared remains to be seen. The total global cost of curing the Y2K bug is estimated to be in the neighborhood of 1.3 trillion dollars. Economies may be crippled across the globe causing a tidal wave effect (MSNBC News). Its not so much of how to fix the date problem; its finding the incorrect 2-digit dates that are contained in the millions of lines of computer program codes. Government agencies are going to be some of the hardest hit; for example, the estimated cost to Internal Revenue Service to fix 88,000 programs with 60 million lines of computer code is in the neighborhood of a billion dollars. If the deadline is not met, Late refunds, unprocessed returns, or faulty penalties for taxpayers could be the results, if forecasters are correct (Charbonneau).
Pat Robertson interviewed Edward Yourdon, a leading software consultant and co-author of Time Bomb 2000: What the Year 2000 Computer Crisis Means to You, said, “Well, it’s fairly simple to explain. For the last 40 years, we’ve been deliberately programming computers to keep track of only the last two digits of the year because everybody knows the first two digits are 19. This is 1998, the next year is 1999, and the year after that is 00. Unfortunately, the computers will generally think that it’s 1900, rather than 2000, and as a result, will begin making a whole series of mistakes, ranging from fairly simple too possibly catastrophic. We’ve been seeing one example lately, with the credit cards that are coming out now with a “00” expiration date, which a few restaurants and stores think is a credit card that expired in 1900″ (Robertson).
In the recent news reports the cost of fixing the Y2K bug seems to escalate everyday. In early December 1998 federal officials from the Office of Management and Budget and the Council on Year 2000 Conversion estimate the total cost of fixing the governments part of the problem is going to cost U. S. citizens 6.4 billion dollars (Hamblen). In august 1998 the cost was 5.4 billion, it would be pretty logical to say that the price tag could reach the 8 or 9 billion-dollar mark before the end of 1999.
In quarterly report released on December 8th 1998 from the Office of Management and Budget and the Council on Year 2000 Conversion, they stated that Of 6,696 federal mission-critical systems, 61% are year 2000 compliant. Currently only six federal agencies (The Departments of Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Transportation, State and the Agency for International Development) are making adequate progress (Hamblen).
The legitimacy of the year 200 problem has never really been doubted by those who have an understanding of how computer systems operate, its just a wonder that we procrastinated this long to take any action on it. Maybe its because people deny what they don’t like; the issue lacked political sex appeal; people assumed someone would fix the problem for us. If our current actions would have started back in 1995, very few of us would be panicking, and we could all be preparing to enjoy the New Years celebration. Well, its a little late now Here is excerpt from Robert Samuelsons article, Y2K Denial that really sums up what is happening with this issue:
The year 2000 computer glitch may be the ultimate vindication of a 1959 essay titled The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution by the British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow. The rise of science and technology, Snow said, was splintering society into two broad groups, those who did and didn’t understand science. Increasingly, these groups couldn’t relate or talk to each other. As they drift apart, he wrote, no society is going to be able to think with wisdom. Well, the Year 2000 (or Y2K) problem is a splendid example of unwisdom, But Snow’s essay foretold the larger cause. Most people have no conception of science and technology, he wrote. The general public is tone-deaf, he continued, over an immense range of intellectual experience, and as with the tone-deaf, they don’t know what they miss. So the technologists making the warnings could not really talk with their intended audience. The result is that whatever damage Y2K does, the wound will be mostly self-inflicted (Samuelson).
Some many people do not have an understanding of what a great impact this could have on our everyday lives. I think of what if I tried to going to the ATM machine to get money, and what do you know it says that you have zero dollar balance. Something that I have wanted to try was talking on the phone at about 5 minute to midnight and then have the year change from 1999 to 1900, conceivably this could be a 100 year phone call. Even at AT ; Ts rates of 10 cents a minute that phone call could cost anywhere in the neighborhood of 52 million dollars.
A number of things could happen, for the moment these are just theories, who knows, January 1st, 2000 could come with out a problem. We could also spend much of the next year wondering whether the Y2K problem is a genuine menace or just a bad techno-joke. One thing is for sure, we have to wait and see what happens and be careful not create our own disaster.
Charbonneau, Mellisa. Battling the Millenium Bug. CBN News. 04 Mar. 1998.
http://www.cbn.org/news/stories/980304.asp (09 Dec. 1998).
Hamblen, Matt. Study prices federal Y2K work at $6.4B. Computerworld. 09 Dec. 1998.
http://www.computerworld.com/home/news.nsf/all/9812093y2k (09 Dec. 1998).
Meeks, Brock N. Optimism over millennium bug. MSNBC News. 31 Jul. 1998.
http://www.msnbc.com/news/184535.asp (30 Nov. 1998).
MSNBC News. The millennium bug 1998.
http://www.msnbc.com/news/188031.asp (30 Nov. 1998).
Robertson, Pat. Countdown to Chaos: Preparing for 2000. CBN News. 23 Mar. 1998.
http://www.cbn.org/news/stories/980323.asp (09 Dec. 1998).
Samuelson, Robert J. Y2K Denial. The Washington Post. 09 Dec. 1998
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1998-12/09/010l-120998-idx.html (09 Dec. 1998).
Szabo, Liz. Robertson says stock up to prepare for Year 2000. 16 Oct. 1998.
http://www.pilotonline.com/news/nw1016pat.html (30 Nov. 1998).