Y2K: Scientific American

Ian Goddard (Ian@Goddard.net)
Wed, 10 Feb 1999 17:51:40 -0500

At 02:08 PM 2/10/99 -0600, you wrote:

>> 1) Y2K problems in embedded chips cause a certain critical
>> minimum of power stations around the US to shut down..
>> Because it's the middle of the winter, the other stations
>> along the grid are already taxed to the limit. These
>> critical minimum failures start a cascade or domino effect
>> by draining power from other stations, thereby shutting them
>> down. This taxes the remaining operational infrastructure
>> even further and finally shuts the entire grid down. A
>> nationwide, if not global wide power outage occurs..
>The problem is unlikely to start with, because most embedded chips don't use
>date information for anything especially critical - your reports might come
>out looking strange, but the machinery will probably keep running.

IAN: Scientific American (Jan 1999, p. 92) states that there are an estimated 32 to 40 billion embedded chips, and, as you note, most are not date sensitive. However, we're not out of the woods just yet. It says:

"...most of the systems [ embedded-chip dependant ] do not depend on any knowledge of dates and will therefore not be affected by Y2K. Of those that area date-sensitive, only a very tiny fraction will suffer anomalous processing. Nevertheless, even that minute percentage is still cause for concern. Although nobody knows for sure the exact number, Gartner [ Group, in Stamford, Conn. ] estimates that millions of those embedded systems are vulnerable."

The author of Scientific American's Y2k article (page 93) concludes: "I believe that severe disruptions will occur and that they will last perhaps about a month." Wow! A month or so without water, electricity, or telephone, or all of the above, might even thin out the population.

Visit Ian Williams Goddard ------> http://Ian.Goddard.net

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