In 1977 most Americans thought that New Year's Eve 2000 would be the
biggest New Year's Eve celebration in their lifetime. Only within the
computer programming profession was there an awareness of the problems
that could arise as a result of a single date change. The publication of
"Time Bomb 2000," authored by Edward and Jennifer Yourdon, changed those
perceptions. Edward Yourdon, a software engineer, editor of American
Programmer, and the author of 25 computer books, and his daughter
Jennifer, an economist, took it upon themselves to explain the impending
Y2K problem to the general public. The book's premise was that a
properly informed citizenry would be able to take appropriate steps to
prepare and make contingency plans for Y2K caused problems.
The book in the past two years sold over 175,000 copies. While that
is a very respectable number, it's a very small drop in a very big ocean
of more than 220 million people. The book's publication turned Ed
Yourdon into a Y2K guru, maintaining an excellent Y2K information
Internet site and giving speeches about the pending Y2K crisis. Although
his views were controversial and he had both supporters and detractors,
everyone expected him to continue his writing and speaking on the Y2K
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Thus when a friend of mine informed me that Yourdon's site was no
longer covering Y2K issues, I went online to see for myself. What I
found was Mr.Yourdon's farewell, Sayonara Y2K,
to his involvement with the Y2K issue.
Some who read this article will surmise that he has been bought or
scared off by those who have a vested interest in Y2K worldwide havoc,
while others will say he's quit because the Y2K bug will be under
control and January 1, 2000, will be just another holiday.
I, on the other hand, find Sayonara Y2K alarming, yet
consistent with Yourdon's other Y2K reports. What Yourdon keeps telling
us is that Y2K will cause unknown problems; he writes, "I still have a
pessimistic outlook about the outcome of Y2K." But as the self-appointed
town crier, he says that he has done all he can to warn us of the
impending threat. Maybe he has. Y2K stories appear daily in newspapers,
on television and in magazines. The July 12, 1999 issue of PC-Week
includes an article entitled "Global Warning,"
which reports that "Many U.S. companies that have been busily exploiting
electronic commerce to expand their global reach are now realizing that
the international partners, suppliers and government agencies on which
they rely may quickly become unreliable after the year 2000 date
Over two years ago Yourdon discussed the interconnections of
personal, corporate, and government Y2K issues in Appendix B of Time Bomb
2000, "Ripple Effect of the Year-2000 Phenomenon." At the same time Sen.
Robert F. Bennett, R-Utah, became chairman of the Senate Special
Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem. In a speech before the
Third Annual Financial Services and Technology Conference he warned us
in great detail of the many interconnections that could cause Y2K
problems. Yet, as pointed out over the past year by this columnist and
many others at WorldNetDaily, the efforts required by both government
and private enterprise to solve the myriad of potential problems have
been too little too late. At this late date neither private enterprise
nor federal, state, and local governments can really assure the public
that the transition will be without serious peril.
Last Thursday two conflicting reports were presented to Sen.
Bennett's Committee. The National League of Cities (NLC) issued a
glowing report on Y2K readiness: 92 percent of 400 cities surveyed will
be Y2K ready. On the other hand the General Accounting Office (GAO)
study claimed that only 2 cities -- Dallas and Boston -- out of 21 major
cities are Y2K ready now. Although both studies were based on responses
to questionnaires sent to the cities, the GAO, probed and assessed
specific areas of concern such as utilities, emergency services,
hospitals, and other city services. By asking specific questions
requiring specific answers GAO, unlike NLC, determined that the real
level of compliance by the cities was significantly less than they were
willing to report.
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Senators listening to the testimony were concerned about the
projected completion schedules of the cities. According to
ComputerWorld IDG.net, "U.S.
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., vice chairman of the committee, said any
city that has set October to December as its Y2K completion date 'is
traveling in a fantasy world -- you're just not going to get it done.'"
Should the senators and the public even believe the results published by
According to a July 1 Orlando Sentinel article
, the claims
of Y2K compliance among businesses can be bogus 50 percent of the time.
The chairman of the Florida Governor's Task Force on Y2K compliance, Tom
McGurk, stated, "In some cases, we've been told the Y2K lying rate is as
high as 50 percent." A spokesman for Lockheed, Elaine Hinsdale added,
"In some areas, we've had vendors say all their systems are compliant,
but when we delved deeper, we found out they weren't when combined with
other third-party systems."
If completion date or the percentage of Y2K readiness information
given out by businesses is unreliable 50 percent of the time, it is very
dubious that any government information or predictions concerning Y2K
has more validity. As someone who has worked as a software programmer
and computer systems consultant, I know that predictions of when
software will be delivered is not only unreliable, but usually too
optimistic: at least 15 percent of all projects finish behind schedule
and the average error count on projects is one bug per thousand lines of
code. Even without government-induced bureaucratic snafus, schedules are
slipping as midnight Dec. 31 relentlessly approaches.
Yourdon states in Sayonara Y2K, "I believe that we are
entering the 'end game' of Y2K, and that the outcome isn't likely to be
changed significantly because of last-minute strategies, edicts,
proclamations, or demands for deathmarch-style overtime on the part of
programmers. About the only thing that's still an option, both for
organizations and for individuals, is contingency planning and
preparations for some degree of disruptions."
So to help others with their contingency planning and preparation I,
as a columnist, will remain on watch for breaking developments on the
Y2K front. Just yesterday Jacquelyn Williams-Bridgers, the State
Department's inspector general, publicly stated that "the global picture
that is slowly emerging is cause for concern." At this late date the
concern should be taken very seriously. I agree with Yourdon's comment
that there is "no absolute, guaranteed 'answer' to the Y2K debate." We
are on our own no matter what optimistic or misleading pronouncements
come from either governments or businesses. Caveat emptor!