Comments and Y2K Impact Ratings for January 17, 2000 and the First Quarter of Year 2000 : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

The following Comments have been posted at
They will also be posted shortly on Russ Kelly's website and Roleigh Martin's listserve, as well as the Comments section of my website at
These comments have been based on a draft of a portion of Part 7 of my White Paper. Part 7 is entitled Serious Y2K and Embedded Systems Concerns That Are Continuing Beyond 1/1/2000: Its Still Not Over Until Its Over and We Are Only in the Top of the First Inning". Part 7 should be ready for posting by the end of January. I hope readers find the attached of interest and of value.


Comments and Y2K Impact Ratings for January 17, 2000 and for the First Quarter of the Year 2000

*Impact Ratings

Impact Rating of 1.5: Current impact as of January 17, 2000, based on an assessment of reported problems

Impact Rating of 2.5: Current impact as of January 17, 2000, based on an assessment of currently reported problems and of problems that have not been reported by the media or made available by official sources

Impact Rating of 2.5 to 3.5: Estimated impact by March 31, 2000, assuming 1) Everything possible is done between now and then to avert any date conversion problems on February 29, 2000;

2) Everything is done that can be done to ensure that the remediation of the highest hazard systems, plants, sites, refineries, pipelines, dams, water systems, sewage systems, etc. has been completed by February 29, 2000;

3) Everything is done that can be done to ensure that the Y2K and embedded systems problems that have become evident before and after January 1 have been corrected by February 29;

4) Everything is done that can be done to ensure that the remediation has been completed by February 29, 2000 of all those public and private sector systems that are most essential to economic and societal stability (Note: according to assessments released in December, significant percentages of the following had not completed remediation efforts: small and medium sized businesses, cities and counties, and small and medium sized chemical plants); 5) Everything is done that can be done to deal with the problems that have become evident; and

6) The current 4% shortfall in fuel does not rise significantly between now and March 31, 2000.

Minimum Impact of 4 to 5.5: Estimated impact by March 31, 2000 if the shortfall in fuel exceeds 4%


I have limited these estimates to the first quarter of the Year 2000. My chief reasons for limiting the estimates are the following:

1) It is not clear the extent to which the worlds infrastructure was powered down at the time of the Century Date Change and it not clear the extent to which powering down, reverting to manual, and going off line may have all contributed in significant ways to the absence of major infrastructure disruptions and technological disasters during the first weeks of January 2000.

If such a powering down was a major factor in keeping the impacts to their mid-January level, then it stands to reason that the impacts that could be felt on and after the February 29th date, may also depend on whether or not there is a similar powering down of the worlds infrastructure at the February 29 date.

[A note concerning the powering down of the worlds infrastructure: According to a number of observers and accounts, the world's infrastructure was "powered down" to an extremely low level on January 1, 2000. Indeed, the worlds infrastructure may not be operating at normal levels even now. A recent thread on the Time Bomb 2000 Discussion Forum is about the powering down of the worlds infrastructure at the time of the Century Date Change. The topic is also discussed in Ed Yourdon's letter to Rodney Dangerfield article ( Click on recent articles.) The thread about the status of the worlds infrastructure at the Century Date Change is entitled: "Week 1: Was it Russian Roulette with the Lights Turned Down Low? The gun, fingerprints, & related URL's". This thread can be found at the Time Bomb 2000 Discussion Forum site at ]

2) The extensive collection of incident reports that has been accumulated by the Information Coordination Center of the Presidents Council on Year 2000 Conversion has not been made public and there is no way for researchers, the media, or the public to access the voluminous data that has been collected. In fact, these reports may not become accessible until March or sometime after March. Since research efforts are extremely time consuming and labor intensive, it would be difficult to compile, let alone analyze a collection of incident reports the size of the ICCs collection. A more informed and timely estimate of the possible impacts of these problems could be made if the reports were made accessible. It was my understanding that a purpose for establishing the ICC was to provide the public and the media timely information concerning the incidents that were being reported. To date, this has not as yet been the case. The majority of the incidents reported as of mid-January have involved information system problems.

3) Members of the media, with few exceptions, seem to be lacking in incentive, interest, and/or expertise regarding the technical issues involved information systems and embedded systems. With a few notable exceptions, they are not choosing (or, in some cases, not being tasked by their networks, newspapers, wire services, etc.) to report on incidents that have suspected or proven connections to Y2K or embedded systems. Another reason for ignoring Y2K and embedded system problems at this point in time is that many have accepted the Administrations declaration of victory and see no reason to question it. Some think that they would look ridiculous continuing to report on Y2K since everyone knows, the problem has been solved.

Since so many are convinced that Y2K has been solved, it will be very difficult to persuade them that this is by no means the case. Estimates of impacts that include major technological problems or technological disasters that come from persons outside the government are likely to mean little or nothing to the vast majority of those in either the public or private sector, including the media, who are quite convinced that the problem is behind us. Few in government and few in the media are actively acknowledging even the small- and medium-sized technological problems and small scale disasters that have occurred to date (before as well as after January 1, 2000). While it is true that reports on a portion of these incidents can be found on government websites, few people search these websites or make the connections to Y2K and embedded systems. I do not consider placing information on a website an active way of acknowledging that the problem has occurred. One of several notable exceptions was the Office of Pipeline Safetys prompt attention to the gas pipeline explosion in Bellingham, Washington in June of 1999 and the rapid action they took in establishing new guidelines on pipeline safety.

Some General Comments on the Year to Date as of January 17, 2000

We do indeed appear to have "lucked out" and escaped major disruptions or disasters in the first days after the January 1, 2000 Century Date Change. Some have been quick to declare this luck a total victory. It is not. I would use the following criteria to gauge the success of efforts to address Y2K and embedded systems problems:

~ no widespread major disruptions attributable to Y2K and embedded systems (including significant societal impacts) through the first quarter of 2001

~ no Chernobyls, Bhopals, or major environmental disasters that can be directly or indirectly linked to unremediated or poorly remediated systems through the first quarter of 2001; and

~ achievement of success by the end of the first quarter of 2001 in addressing the problems triggered both before and after January 1, 2000.

All of the remediation that was needed to prevent such disruptions and disasters was not completed by January 1, 2000. There are instances too numerous to mention where such remediation was not even begun. Problems can still be expected. Problems will continue to become evident as long as remediation efforts remain incomplete.

A monumental fallacy that is rampant in the world is that all problems, large and small, would all be evident by now. It is assumed that they would all have been triggered and would be observable by now. That is simply not the case.

It is unclear how and when such a mistaken notion gained currency. It is unclear how so many have come to the conclusion that it would be possible to assess the overall impacts of Y2K and embedded systems problems within the first two weeks of the New Year. (January 1, 2000 is, of course, the first of several problematic dates to come.) It is unclear how this mistaken notion that the overall impacts could be assessed in such a short time gained currency so quickly, including, apparently, among some who have been spending considerable time studying Y2K over the past few years.

So far as I am aware, none of the most respected consulting groups, companies doing hands-on remediation and testing, and none of those who have extensive backgrounds in relevant technical fields, ever suggested prior to January 1, 2000 that a final assessment of the impact of Y2K and embedded systems problems would be possible in the week or two of the New Year. It appears that those who do not have backgrounds in relevant technical fields, simply jumped to unwarranted conclusions. With the spotlight of the media on them, they seem to have succeeded very quickly in spreading the mistaken notion to a largely unknowing public that an assessment of Y2K and embedded systems problems could be made in such a short period of time. Indeed, even if only a fraction of the problems reported in the first two weeks had occurred, there would still be no way that the books could be closed on Y2K. These problems have involved the following:

~ nuclear power plants here and abroad, a nuclear weapons plant in the United States, chemical plants, refineries, manufacturing plants, and pipelines (some of which have involved the release of hazardous materials, some of which have involved explosions, and some of which have involved both);

~ transportation-related problems (these have included train collisions; airplane crashes; and problems with airplanes, including some identical problems that have caused aborted flights; and

~ information systems in the public and private sectors (In Great Britain, an estimated 5% of all business have been effected according to a high level official in the United Kingdoms Y2K efforts. In the United States, 30% of over 2000 computer professionals surveyed had observed Y2K-related problems.)

The problems that directly and immediately place public health and safety in jeopardy are only now beginning to become apparent. Problems of lesser consequence involving billing and accounting errors and the degradation or loss of data are also becoming increasingly apparent. There are many problems that will not become obvious for weeks or months. Problems involving both information systems or embedded systems can both be triggered by the activation of unremediated systems or portions of systems that were not remediated or not remediated correctly. They can be triggered by the restart of systems as well as by their interaction with unremediated or correctly remediated systems. Not all such problems will be evident immediately. I plan on posting on my website by the end of January a longer discussion concerning what is going on and the actions that are still needed. I believe that attention needs to continue to be focused on remediation efforts. In particular, efforts need to be focused on making sure that the February 29 date will not cause problems.

In the meantime, I commend to your attention the following websites for reports of problems:

~ The Grassroots Information Coordination Center at tion%20Coordination%20Center%20%28GICC%29

~ The Chemical Safety Board's website at for hazmat incidents

~ Todays Crude Oil, Gasoline & Distillate Market Developments at

~ For daily reports (and archives) of problems involving nuclear power plants: Such reports can also be compared to reports during the same time period in previous years. For instance, see and

~ The Center for Y2K & Societys list of problems at






~ Y2K: Latest global problems:

~ Glitch Central at

~ for a list of incident tracking sites

~ The International Y2K Cooperation Center at

The last site contains assessments that are largely self-reported. One must be particularly careful not to jump to conclusions as a result of assessments or reports that are based primarily or solely on self-reporting, whether that self-reporting is being done on behalf or a corporation, a plant, a government agency, or a country.

(It should be noted that there are major disincentives to report problems relating to Y2K and embedded systems. There are not only legal implications and insurance concerns, there are bottom line concerns and concerns over possible damage that will be done to a companys reputation. People who decide to report such problems may well be placing their jobs and their chances for career advancement on the line. There can be major disincentives not to come forward and tell the truth about what is actually happening.)

It is also important to know if the assessments were made when systems were powered down, turned off, and/or being operated manually. This may not be clearly noted in the assessment. Then again, it may be inadvertently noted such as the case of a Third World country which acknowledged that they did not report a failure as a failure because they implemented their contingency plan which was to revert to manual operation. Since Y2K readiness is defined as being able to continue to operate, they did not consider that they had experienced a failure. They were Y2K ready.

In addition to semantics, one needs also to pay attention to the date when the report was submitted.

Two other rich sources of information concerning Y2K and embedded systems problems are available owing to litigation on the one hand and to insurance claims on the other. According to a recent edition of a newsletter from the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), (t)he Federation of Insurance and Corporate Counsel, Inc. (FICC) maintains a website engaged in a general discussion of the insurance issues raised by Y2K claims under different lines of coverage. The site also tracks some of the major insurance-related Y2K cases. To access the site, click FICC Y2K Index.

It is also possible to review information on the eighty or more law suits that have been filed. Such documentation provides detailed accounts of what aggrieved parties are alleging went wrong.

For ITAAs Legislative and Litigation Table, see and Calendar at

I particularly commend to your attention the Time Bomb 2000 Discussion Forum as an up-to-the-minute source of information. The Time Bomb Discussion Forum is an extraordinary source of both confirmed and non-confirmed reports of problems. It is also a one-stop source for latest breaking media coverage and press releases. The Discussion Forum also serves at once as a useful source of leads about problems and as an invaluable research tool. Anyone can initiate a thread by posing a question concerning Y2K or embedded systems. It is possible to obtain nearly instantly, answers, as well as leads: qualified and unqualified. Those participating in the Time Bomb 2000 Discussion Forum include numerous seasoned professionals with many years experience in relevant fields.

For a list of current threads at the TB 2000 Discussion forum, see

Because the Administration has made only a very small fraction of the extensive data bank of incident reports available to date, it is essential, if one wishes to have any idea of the problems that are being reported, that one utilizes other sources of information, including any of the various sources of information that have been noted here.

In addition to becoming more knowledgeable concerning the problems that are being reported, it is also critically important, particularly for the media and for others in roles of public and private sector responsibility, that far closer attention be paid to embedded systems and their potential role in infrastructure disruptions and technological disasters. Closer attention will need to be paid these concerns well beyond the next weeks and months. By learning more about these problems, more are likely to identified, recognized, and properly assessed and remediated. By paying closer attention, it is more likely that lessons will be learned and that knowledge can be used to prevent other disruptions or disasters from occurring. Those outside a company, agency, or a plant, etc., can benefit from such lessons learned only if the lessons are shared. These lessons are not being shared as freely as they should be now. For instance, if the information in the ICCs collection of incident reports were shared, many more people would be given a heads up concerning problems that they are facing or are about to face. The names of companies and businesses, etc. could be deleted from such reports and the reports could still be of value to others.

Those who think that they have fully remediated their systems may learn about unexpected problems from others who had also remediated their systems, but still had problems. Understanding when a problem has its source in an embedded systems failure can be key to trying to deal with the problem in a timely and effective way.

The following threads may help shed light on embedded systems failures and on the time delays that can be involved in some embedded system failures. Material presented in the following threads may also help explain why embedded systems continue to pose such a threat:

~ A thread about embedded systems and buffer overflows: "An Overflowed Buffer Could Make a 9 on the Richter Scale" (1/5/2000)

~ "Embedded Systems Failures That Can Occur More Than a Week After a Trigger Date or a Restart" (1/9/2000)

~ "Why the embedded issue isn't 'dead' yet" (1/9/2000)

~ "Did you notice the embedded systems problem is growing? Look at these reports!" (1/13/2000)

~ Can anyone explain embedded chip buffers filling up to a person not knowledgeable in the field? (1/14/2000)

A paper of mine entitled "Some Major Y2K & Embedded Systems Concerns at the Rollover" was released December 28, 1999. It includes attachments with pertinent background on embedded systems, including a statement on embedded systems that Mr. Koskinen issued in November of 1999. The paper with attachments and my comments on his statement can be found at Endnote

The working title for Part 7 of my White Paper is Serious Y2K and Embedded Systems Concerns That Are Continuing Beyond 1/1/2000: Its Still Not Over Until Its Over and We Are Only in the Top of the First Inning".

These comments have been taken in large measure from the current draft of Part 7. (The rest of my White Paper can be found at )

When Part 7 has been completed, I will post it at my website and send out an announcement that it has been posted here at GICC and on the Time Bomb 2000 Discussion Forum at %28Y2000%29 . I will also plan to send an announcement to those other listservs that have posted these comments and ask them to attach a copy of the announcement when Part 7 has been posted on my website.

Paula Gordon January 17, 2000


* Those unfamiliar with the "Y2K Impact Survey Scale" will find a copy of the scale at Click on Part 1 of the White Paper.


-- Paula Gordon (, January 18, 2000

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