RE: Y2K: Scientific American

Billy Brown (
Thu, 11 Feb 1999 08:23:29 -0600

Ian Goddard wrote:
> 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.

I suppose it would, but that prediction doesn't follow from the data. According to their numbers, maybe 0.1% of all embedded systems are likely to fail. Of those, probably 90%+ of the ones used by critical services will have been replaced in time. Most of the failures will therefore be in toys, consumer electronics, and other non-critical items. The net effect on critical services will be very small - enough to cause temporary localized outages, at most.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I