12.0526 the Y2K problem

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Wed, 31 Mar 1999 18:43:46 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 526.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Wed, 31 Mar 1999 18:26:04 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: Y2K

The following is an article (quoted in full) on the year-2000 bug.
Recirculated with permission, providing I provide the following statement:
"This information was provided by Executive Software, maker of Diskeeper and
Undelete for Windows NT. Visit their web site at www.executive.com.
<http://www.executive.com.> "

Comments welcome.


> Windows NT* Technical Article
> 25 March 1999
> The Y2K Problem
>"The Y2K Problem," as I understand it, is the unanticipated malfunction of a
>computer due to a two-digit date in the year 2000 being misconstrued as the
>corresponding month and day in the year 1900. The problem can be divided
>into two categories: (1) the malfunction of your own computers and (2) the
>malfunction of others' computers on which you depend.
>The first priority should be to determine whether or not there really is a
>problem. For your own computers, this can be done by direct inspection:
>First, carefully backup all the data on a computer. Then,
>(a) Sometime outside normal production hours, change the computer's
>system date to 31 Dec 1999 at 11:55 PM.
>(b) Observe the computer as the date ticks over to 1 Jan 2000 and note
>whether it continues to function normally.
>(c) After the date ticks over to the year 2000, try shutting down the
>computer and see if it will boot.
>(d) One at a time, run each of your production applications as if you
>were doing the normal processing that is done on that computer and note
>whether the application functions normally or not.
>(e) For any application that fails, obtain a fix from the vendor of that
>application or find a replacement application that is Y2K-compliant. Then
>(f) When you have finished testing, set the date and time back to the
>current date.
>These very simple steps will result in a computer that is extremely unlikely
>to suffer from "the Y2K problem."
>For computers on which you depend but which are out of your direct control,
>such as those of your banks, your suppliers, and so on, contact the company
>directly and request from them a certificate of Y2K compliance. An example
>of such a certificate can be found at the Executive Software web site
><http://www.executive.com/year2000.htm> . Such a certificate is the minimum
>assurance that your supplier will continue to provide needed goods and
>services after December 31st. For critical suppliers, of course, you should
>personally interview them on their state of preparedness and judge for
>yourself whether you should depend on that supplier, arrange a backup
>supplier, or switch suppliers altogether.
>As you can see, these measures are simple and not particularly
>time-consuming. So what's all the fuss about? Well, this is the point
>where I have to go beyond what I know to be true and into what I merely
>suspect to be true.
>I have never seen a computer problem attributable to a date beyond 1999, nor
>have I heard a rational explanation of any serious problem with any computer
>attributable to Y2K. There must be such problems in some computers
>somewhere, but I have seen no evidence of them. Just to put that point into
>perspective, I have a dozen computers in use in my home, hundreds in the
>Executive Software offices, and millions of customer computers in the care
>of our Tech Support. One friend said her laptop would not boot after
>setting the date to the year 2000. So she got a new laptop. End of scene.
>That's the only Y2K incident I have come across personally.
>Apple claims that all MacIntosh computers use a date system that will
>function correctly well into the next millennium. Microsoft states flatly
>that its Windows NT operating system will function correctly, as will its
>Windows 98 operating system, provided that the latest Windows 98 update is
>downloaded and installed. Even without the update, any Windows 98 problems
>are claimed to be remote and cosmetic. Most any Windows 95 or earlier
>system can be upgraded to Windows 98 for under $100. If your computer is a
>DOS or Windows 3.1 system and fails the Y2K test, you can replace it with a
>whole new Y2K compliant Windows 98 computer system for less than $1,000.
>And by acting now, you have plenty of time to save up the money to pay for
>it, even on a limited budget.
>Any bank and most any business engages in transactions that extend well into
>the future, such as a 30-year home mortgage or a credit card expiration
>date. These businesses have already encountered computer dates of 2000 or
>greater and are still around conducting their business affairs as usual. I
>believe it is extremely unlikely that these businesses will suddenly cease
>to function when the present-time date reaches 2000, after their having
>successfully dealt with future dates of 2000+ for so many years.
>I can't imagine a microwave oven or refrigerator or an automobile
>fuel-regulating computer caring what the date is. Nor the Hoover Dam's
>power generators, for that matter. Computers in such environments are
>called "embedded systems" and are extremely focussed on a specific task,
>such as counting seconds, maintaining temperatures and monitoring pressures.
>In the year 2000, a VCR might display 00 on the date portion of its
>front-panel display, but most VCRs, by survey, blink "12:00" simply because
>their owners have never set the date and time in the first place.
>In the world of business, the Y2K problem has been well-publicized. Surely
>every CEO and Chairman of the Board of any medium or large business has
>considered the problem. A CEO spends his life anticipating future problems
>for his business and heading them off before they can cause trouble. And
>how secure is a CEO's job if the stockholders lose their dividends due to an
>unforeseen Y2K glitch? Surely such a CEO would be viewed as incompetent and
>shown the door. My point is that the technical problem, if it exists, would
>have to escape pretty severe scrutiny and correction efforts by people whose
>livelihoods depend upon successfully doing so.
>The bottom line is, from an analytical and technical point of view, the
>problem is minor to non-existent, having already been addressed and fixed in
>all but the most elusive cases or in the presence of incompetent management.
>Where an organization has a critical dependence upon a particular
>computerized activity that may be susceptible to the Y2K problem, it may
>make more sense to simply replace the computer lock-stock-and-barrel with a
>new one that is Y2K certified than to endlessly scrutinize and debug the old
>All that being said, I have to bring up the factor of hysteria. As you may
>know, some people are already emptying their bank accounts, stocking up on
>survival food and moving to the desert. It would not take very many people
>emptying their bank accounts to jeopardize the solvency of a bank. Even if
>a bank's computers function 100% perfectly on Y2K day, excessive withdrawals
>prompted by fear could bring about a banking crisis. The likelihood of this
>is offset by the fact that most people will simply do nothing, and by the
>fact that the fear-driven people are likely the smaller depositors, while
>the larger depositors will probably have cooler heads.
>What We Can Do
>I met with the manager of my bank and suggested that he send a letter to all
>his customers telling them that the bank had done everything imaginable to
>ensure there would be no difficulties and that no matter what happened, the
>bank would guarantee the availability of its depositors' funds and the
>completion of its customers' transactions. He instantly agreed. Banks and
>governments need only instill confidence to head off the financial aspects
>of the crisis completely. But will they do so? Probably not. Not on their
>own, anyway. Perhaps if you contacted them directly and suggested it, they
>would do so, as my banker did.
>You can be sure that the media will leave no stone unturned when the time
>comes, looking for any hint of trouble, scaring people and sensationalizing
>even the smallest problems. This could result in panic and hysteria on the
>part of some people. If so, it will be up to you and me and other sensible
>folks to calm down these people and show them that the world is still there.
>We can start now simply by being knowledgeable, calm and confident on the
>subject of Y2K. It can have a bigger effect than you might think.
>Given that there will be some hysteria (there already is), this seems like a
>job for all of us who are knowledgeable in computers to get out there and
>handle. Calm things down a bit. Instill confidence.
>I also believe that we could have a considerable calming influence merely by
>encouraging others around us to look at the problem rather than listen to
>the alarmist rantings. Getting someone to set the date on their computer to
>31 Dec 1999 and watch it tick over to 2000 can go a long way toward
>deflating the potential hysteria. Either there is a problem or there isn't,
>and they will see it right there before their eyes. Even if the computer
>fails, the person should see that it is now a known problem and they can do
>something to fix it before the end of the year.
>We can surely have an impact just by being there and communicating about
>this subject in a calm, confident manner: "Let's have a look and see whether
>there is a problem or not. Then we'll know what to do about it."
>What do you say? Let's put some order into our environment.
>Craig Jensen
>Executive Software* International, Inc.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 873 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 873 5081
<Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
maui gratia

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