Year 2000 Bugs

by Franklin E. Bliss

I have spent a great deal of thought, energy and money lately preparing my business and life for the coming of the year 2000. As the owner of a computer operation that is immersed in the technical world, I have a unique perspective on the upcoming millennium.

The average guy has no idea of the complexity of these bugs. lllians by definition are not average but I would venture to guess most of you have not put much thought into this subject. Following are a few observations, predictions and opinions. Take them for what they are worth.

These bugs stem from really a very simple issue. The memory chips and software we use to control technology were designed incorrectly from the start. The assumptions and actions of those brilliant technology designers back in the 1960's are going to catch up to us soon. The issue here is that computers use chips to tell the hardware how to react to input. These chips had limited space on them early on. The designers saved space by using only two bytes of information to describe the year on the chip. (The thought being why use 4 bytes when 2 bytes will do.) Good idea in the middle of a century. Many software designers did things the same way throughout the 1970's and 1980's as well. Billions of chips utilized by all forms of technology (not just computers) have this design flaw built into them.

What does this really mean? While the cause is simple, the symptoms of the problem are very complex and have quite serious implications. Examine your daily lives and note where a computer chip plays an active role. From Fed Ex to our cell phones, we are totally reliant on this technology. Our entire distribution system for our society relies entirely on these chips at all levels. It only takes one critical component to fail to really mess up the chain of events that have to happen for us to function in our daily existence.

The obvious issues such as computers and even embedded chips in industrial equipment failing are just now being addressed by the federal government. A failure rate of even 1 % would effect each and every one of us, and estimates have been as high as 5% failure rates. Another estimate I just saw on CNN said 500 Billion Dollars have been spent to date on this issue. The mainstream press is reporting that with 18 months to go and counting, most of the government is NOT going to be ready. What a surprise! The Internet has been saying that for years.

What does this mean to you? It means that we will probably have a flat tax bill hitting congress by summer next year because the IRS computers are not ready. It means that we will have an FAA that will not be able to run the air traffic control system because its computers are not ready. The military has a variety of systems that will not work. There are hundreds of other examples. We are not even considering other countries in this discussion either. Do you suppose that Russia has addressed this issue by throwing money at it? What about the rest of the world economy on which we are so reliant? Can we be sure that our trading partners have the ability to survive these bugs?

A government panel of experts representing various fields of technology testified to congress. The experts were asked what to expect, and had a variety of opinions on the matter. On a scale from 0 to 10 with 10 being a 1930's style depression as a result and 0 being no effect, the experts rated their expectations at 7.5 with NO one stating there would be zero effect on society.

What can you do? Not much on a national level. But you can watch out for number one. The people that do well in hard times are those that are prepared. I suggest accumulating lots of cash and precious metals. Get out of the stock market early and pay off all debts possible. Buy at least 6 months of storable foods per family member and pets because there is no guarantee that food stores will be able to supply community needs. Have a good firearm and ammunition handy for hunting and protection. A national power outage is possible for weeks. Have alternative sources of heat and electricity along with plenty of fuel to power those sources. You need to have at least 6 months of prescriptions on hand. Have anyone you care about in rural areas during the first months of the year 2000.

These items are not all easy to do. I would suggest to you that if you achieve this level of preparedness that you will be able to weather the storm that might occur. Start early because some of the busiest companies in the country right now are the survival food supply houses and generator manufacturing/supply companies. Propane companies are busy putting in ground tanks and doctors are being asked about long term prescriptions.

If I am wrong with this argument, you can eat the food, spend the money and keep the generator for outages that happen here anyway. You should be none the worse for wear.

This discussion is just food for thought that should motivate you to undertake your own research on the issue. I suggest that the internet has numerous Year 2000 sites (Y2K) and they are easily sought out. For those of you not on the internet, get on the internet.

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