On This Day Pre-Y2K

Confused by any of the jargon you see below? Check the Y2K Glossary!

January 3, 2000 Permalink

As I see it, the doomers had about a 3-5 year head start to build up scenarios, write books, and collect isolated stories about real problems. This momentum gave them the leverage to confuse and concern some fairly technical people that should have known better. Those of us that weren’t concerned had little incentive to write about y2k early on, until the momentum was headed full bore toward a crisis.

By the time the “crisis” hit me in the face I was caught off guard. I found my self trying to explain technical things to persons that were already convinced of the crisis. Afterall, Yourdon was a national computer expert that had authored numerous books and I was just Ken (some buy who works with computers).

As the doomsaying books multiplied and the media printed hyped story after hyped story (and radio gave air time to overzealous doomsayers), the truth got covered in all the noise. Some people quickly jumped on the band wagon and started writing “what could happen” type articles for their own industries, before having even done a minimal analysis of their own systems. These industry “experts”, then became quoted on Norths (and other) sites as “proof” that things were going to be bad.

I had e-mail exchanges with some of these “experts” a year after they’d written their scare articles and they’d done an about face (no longer fearing the worse, or even relatively bad). But they were also unwilling to go on record as having been wrong, preferring instead to fade into the past.

—Ken Winters, comp.software.year-2000, 01/03/00

I am not dumb. I knew Gary North was over the top. But the Gartner Group? The US Senate? The governments of Canada, Australia, the United States and England?

A crisis? How many chemical plants had to find nothing before they called it off? How many power plants had to prove there were no issues before NERC decided everybody was ready? Hardly anyone was done by December 1998, but lots of people were from every industry.

Instead of saying “Don’t worry, we will catch up” they should have said

“Good news! It really doesn’t matter. The embedded system problem is not a problem. They can even breathe easy in Venezuala. nobody’s infrastructure is at risk anywhere. If you are smart you will look at this problem because it does exist. Businesses will look at their critical systems if they are smart because the design flaw is real. It just is not really consequential for most of us. For some the threat is real but if they don’t, well, their hard lines.”

Victory could have been declared then. No more Koskinen. No more GAO. No more Bennett. No more compliance charts or NERC reports. No funny monetary policy from the Fed. Las Vegas sells out New Year’s. No lockdown. No joint committee to make sure there are no accidental missile launches. No FEMA. No three day storms. No heroic remediation.

No more Gary North. No more Hamasaki either. He saw the same thing I did locally. The work did not get done because it never had to get done.

—Tom Benjamin, comp.software.year-2000, 01/03/00

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