Y2K as seen from the IT trenches -- through a periscope

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

This estimate of Y2K consequences is provided by Information Management Systems, Inc.: A Realistic Look at the Year 2000 Problem, By Alan C. Earnshaw.

It comes across as a fairly well-informed discussion addressed to business management from an exclusively IT perspective (aka tunnel vision). Its author seems to ignore some obvious internal contradictions, evident in these extracts ( my occasional emphases):

"Our own expectations fall between these two extremes. We anticipate widespread system failures, in both computer hardware and software systems. We do not expect major catastrophes to be caused by these failures, and we think that any loss of life that results from the failures will be indirect. (For example, if the computers in a 911 call center fail, the dispatchers may not be able to direct emergency personnel to the scene of a fire, crime, or medical emergency fast enough to save lives.)

"We also do not expect an economic depression or even a mild recession to result from the computer system failures.

"However, we feel confident that almost every company in the world will be impacted by the date change. Even if your own hardware and software systems operate perfectly after January 1, 2000, many of your suppliers will be affected. If your company is in weak financial condition or has particularly aggressive competitors, you could lose tremendous market share while you and your suppliers repair your systems and restore normal operations.


"The software that generates "pick tickets" for your supplier's shipping department might be designed to reject orders that fall outside certain defined parameters. An order that appears to be 100 years old might be rejected, and a clerk would either need to change the date of the order or process the order by hand. In either case the shipment will be delayed, and if your manufacturing operation relies on just-in-time inventory deliveries, your entire production line could grind to a halt as you run out of one or more critical components.


"Inventory management and control systems present the largest vulnerability for most companies. Such systems rely heavily on dates: inventory quantity projections, reorder dates, expected delivery dates, etc. If your company uses or sells physical goods (even if it's just spare parts for your service and repair facility), your inventory control system may begin failing in December 1999.


"As we mentioned previously, if you use just-in-time inventory methods and your suppliers have system failures, your entire production line could shut down. If the flow of spare parts for your products is disrupted, your customers' operations could be seriously hindered. And if the spare parts for your plants' machinery are not available, you could also suffer production disruptions.


"Some alarmists would have you believe that our society will be plunged into a new dark age on January 1, 2000. That isn't going to happen, but there will be widespread system failures. Many businesses will be seriously impacted, both financially and operationally, as we begin the Year 2000. Some may even be driven out of business. Procrastination is not an option; time is passing too quickly. You must act immediately to assess your exposure to potential system failures, develop a plan for resolving the problems, and then get to work."

IMS provides a staff roster -- interesting in itself:

Senior Developers: Dr. Sergey Dederer, Dr.Vladimir Gololobov, Gunther Ilzig, July Makashev

Junior Developers: Victor Djeiranov, Dimitry Victorovich Kalyagin, G|nter Kassube, Alexander Kiritschenko, Alexej Litwinow

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), April 03, 1999


Are these guys for real???No economic consequences??? Sounds like the are all affected with HITAS.

-- sal estrada (dedorojo@primernet.com), April 03, 1999.

An amazing piece!

"... any loss of life that results from the failures will be indirect.." --- LOL if it wasn't so serious.

How can they say there will be widespread failures but not even a mild recession --- I can't believe these guys are for real!

Or, on second-sober thought, maybe I can.

-- Jon Johnson (narnia4@usa.net), April 03, 1999.

Right! There is this HUGE storm coming, but don't worry, there is NO WIND associated with this storm, No SNOW or RAIN. It's just a major storm and it will not be a problem.

I feel like I'm a Greatful Dead concert, just spinning away. Jeezzz, I'm getting dizzy.


-- Rusty (iam@work.com), April 03, 1999.


I think they're trying to say something that isn't easy to say. It's very easy to say that all will be lost, or that nothing will happen. It's hard to describe an unknown but probably fairly moderate degree of degradation.

Maybe a better analogy would be, a storm is coming. It isn't a hurricane and won't destroy everything, but it will have some very nasty microbursts. The victims of these microbursts will be badly damaged or wiped out. But this won't be all that common, and others will quickly take their place. The overall economic impact will be slight, but the impact on the victims will be devastating.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), April 03, 1999.

It puts a whole new meaning to the saying of "talking out of both sides of mouth". At the risk of being seen as being an ass, how is it that none of the authors are English, Irish, French, Spanish, etc. All seem to be eastern European. Am I missing something here??

-- Taz (Tassie@aol.com), April 03, 1999.

"We also do not expect an economic depression or even a mild recession to result from the computer system failures."

Yeah Taz, I'm with you-- sounds like these guys are all from Noncomprehendestan...

-- Max Dixon (Ogden, Utah USA) (Max.Dixon@konnection.com), April 03, 1999.

What struck me particularly was the disjunction between their obvious understanding of the consequences of failure to fix the code, (widespread system failures, the vulnerability of operations to JIT inventories and suppliers' difficulties, etc.), and the effect all this would have on jobs in affected industries and the economic consequences of massive unemployment. Maybe this is typical in people who have only known a rigid state-controlled economy.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), April 03, 1999.

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