Y2k: Finest Hour or Biggest Hoax?

Thank you for the editorial defending Y2k as ITs finest hour, rather than a hoax [ITs Finest Hour, April 9]. I have more than a bit of ego tied up in this topic, since Im the one who (accidentally) coined the term Y2K. A few people know it was a big deal that we avoided disaster via lots of dull, hard work. Most people simply titter and laugh, since, not knowing any better, they seemed to expect disaster.

David Eddy

Principal
David Eddy & Associates Inc.
Babson Park, Mass.
deddy@davideddy.com




Many aspects of Y2k were indeed overhyped, and embedded chips were the source of much of the scare. They supposedly had been counting time since their manufacture and would fail unpredictably at the millennium. Everything, from the power grid to water supplies to microwave ovens, would stop working. And they were the perfect fuel for the hype pervasive and impossible to check. Concerns about these chips led people to buy power generators and stock up on bottled water. Many people who should have known better were swept up in this hysteria. For example, our auditors required us to go through the ridiculous effort of certifying that all our printers would still function after Y2k.

The reality is we were never at risk for a massive failure as the clocks rolled over to the year 2000. It doesnt surprise me that nothing happened at the HACTL control center. The real Y2k problems were not those that would show up at midnight of the big day. They were primarily in business and financial systems. For example, our programmers had to modify our mortgage applications to ensure that interest calculations were correct, but the work was relatively routine: Expand the data field and search the code for all occurrences. As in any effort, a few lines of code were missed, and we were still cleaning up issues months later, but no catastrophe occurred. To claim that an army of programmers came to the rescue of the worlds computer systems and prevented a meltdown substantially overstates the case. The best evidence for this is the lack of almost any reported failures. We in IT are just not good enough to catch every potential problem in advance.

R. Kurt Huddleston
President
Inland Computer Services Inc.
Oak Brook, Ill.




I avoided getting caught up in most of the Y2k hype. I was contacted weekly for two years by consultants who were looking to sell me their services. They were satisfied when I told them we had a Y2k plan in place. What I didnt tell them was that my Y2k plan was to do nothing.

Im sorry Don Tennant spent his New Years Eve waiting for a transistor, which is only capable of measuring relative time, to self-destruct.

George Black
Vice president
AdvanTel Inc.
San Jose
gblack@advantel.com

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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