Fun_People Archive
14 Jan
Definitely A Neo-luddite Victory

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 14 Jan 97 18:12:38 -0800
To: Fun_People
Subject: Definitely A Neo-luddite Victory

Forwarded-by: Keith Bostic <>
Forwarded-by: Rob Mayoff <>
From: an article that originally appeared in Computer Business Review


    Airports are never particularly busy places on New Year's Eve - and few
people will choose to spend the night of probably the biggest celebration
of the year at 35,000 feet above an ocean.  But on New Years Eve 1999, they
are likely to be even quieter than normal. The reason is that three airlines
have already decided to stand down all flights for 24-hours on New Year's
Eve 1999, and others are expected to follow suit. But the decision has
nothing to do with revelry - it is based on fear that the turn over from
the year 1999 to 2000 will cause major glitches in air traffic control
systems across the globe putting both passengers and crew in untenable
danger. Airlines are not the only companies facing such risk.  According to
the Millennium Bomb, up to 90% of computers could malfunction as a result of
the millennium change. 50,000 mainframes, the computers running
mission-critical programs at defense installations, power companies, water
companies, manufacturers and financial institutions across the world, are
at risk, and as many as 50% of companies could be wiped out. The end result
- social and economic chaos - and all because computer programmers in the
1960s took a shortcut, building date fields into operating systems and
applications with only two digits to represent the year instead of four.
The Millennium Bomb, by Simon Reeve, a former Sunday Times journalist, and
Colin McGhee, a technology journalist, is a book which clearly aims to shock
and, given the nature of the subject, it is an easy goal to achieve. There
are hundreds of quotes throughout its pages from information systems
directors, politicians and academics stressing the severity of the year 2000
issue and outlining its likely consequences.

                   Impending global disaster

    What the book does not offer, however, is advice - theoretical,
practical or otherwise - as to how companies can diffuse the 'millennium
bomb' and advert impending global disaster. There is no detailed evaluation
of the tools and consultancy aid on offer to help companies modify their
systems, no in-depth case studies of how other companies in similar fields
have addressed the issue, and no step by step action plan. On the contrary,
the authors dismally predict that society is doomed and that, with little
more than three years left to run, time has already run out. The millennium
issue, they say, will take 400 man years for the average large company to
sort out and the alterations should have begun before the 1990s even began.
In fact, somewhat strangely, The Millennium Bomb paints the year 2000 crisis
as something of a neo-luddite victory, and suggests that the only good thing
to come out of it may be the marginalisation of the computer and a move back
to a non- automated society. Computer industry 'techies' have selfishly
brought this on the world by taking programming shortcuts, the authors say,
and the industry's endless pursuit of advance, means no-one has ever
bothered to sort the problem out. Now society is set to pay them back by
switching back to manual methods. The year 2000 date issue is clearly a
significant event in the history of the computer, and potentially in the
history of the world. The subject has already commanded a considerable
number of column inches in newspapers and magazines across the globe but,
unfortunately, The Millennium Bomb seems to have been designed just to cash
in on the hysteria without really trying to take the subject forward. For
systems managers struggling to get their company to acknowledge the
existence of the year 2000 problem, or for those struggling to get the
budget to try and sort it out, this book could prove a useful education tool
and one worth distributing widely. For those already aware of the issue and
its possible consequences, it will probably be a frustrating read.

The Millennium Bomb - Countdown to a $400 billion Catastrophe by Simon
Reeve and Colin McGhee Publisher: Vision Paperbacks.  ISBN: 1-901250-00-8.

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