RE: Y2K: Am I paranoid?

Billy Brown (
Thu, 11 Feb 1999 09:50:26 -0600 wrote:
> However, that's just an assertion, and not a fact. The reports I've seen
> on power generation seems to show that some companies are doing well, and
> others have barely started. I still don't expect a big power problem
> because what resources are available will be thrown at them, and because
> of workarounds (e.g. the Swedes turning their nuclear plants back to
> But otherwise the power industry seems about as screwed up as
> the rest.

Look, obviously I can't offer personal evidence about every company in the world. I can say that my own company, which is one of the most incompetent, dysfunctional, directionless organizations I have ever seen, has nevertheless managed to tackle the problem successfully. I was in charge of the Unix side of our compliance program, and I can testify that all of our mission-critical systems were ready by September of 1998. We're currently at the level of doing BIOS fixes on older PCs and date-testing some low-priority embedded systems. The way things are going now, we won't even notice the date change.

Everyone else is doing exactly the same thing. I remember talk about the embedded-systems problem in the power industry back in '97, and I wasn't even an insider. The same is true of other critical industries. Most of the 'woeful unpreparedness' talk I've heard comes from people who are simply trying to work up a panic to sell their pet solution.

The only people with real problems are those that fall into one of these groups:

  1. Organizations that are totally reliant on huge, byzantine, totally antiquated software systems that no one really understands. A lot of these orgs migrated to newer systems over the last few years, and a few of them fixed the programs they have. The late starters don't have time now for either solution. Fortunately there are very few such organizations - the average corporate database system doesn't even come close to fitting the bill.
  2. Organizations that dismissed the whole problem as a fantasy until it was too late. The Doomsayers talk a lot about this, but I can't think of a single private organization I know anything about that has done it. Y2K readiness became a big issue for most people by early '98, which left plenty of time to fix everything.

> As far as I'm aware most gas stations have generators, so this shouldn't
> be a problem. However, the gas still has to be shipped into the country,
> refined, shipped around along potentially blocked and lawless highways.
> That might be a problem, might not.

You are creating a problem by assuming it already exists. Before you can conjure up a landscape filled with abandoned cars and roving packs of looters, you need to show that there are severe enough problems to actually create such conditions.

What I'm trying to point out is that modern civilization simply is not that fragile. There is no way to create the kind of total paralysis that the Y2K Doomsayers like to conjure up, and that means you can never get to the Mad Max situation in the first place.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I