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The Y2K crisis that never happened: Part 4

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Continued from Part 3 of this topic

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Events in the months leading up to Y2K: 3

As the year 2000 approached, news was relatively comforting:

bullet Overall: Senator Robert F. Bennett, (R-UT) headed a Senate committee examining the issue. He felt that disruptions would be minor:  "I'm very optimistic that this is not the end of Western civilization as we know it."

bullet Telephones: AT&T had fixed and tested all of its phone and data systems. They expected that any unexpected glitches will materialize in billing and network-management problems, not in actual transmission difficulties.

bullet Airplanes: Boeing found only three Y2K bugs in its planes' software.

bullet Medicare: Medicare renovated, tested and validated its 25 most critical computer systems.

bullet Overall: John A. Koskinen, chief Y2K advisor to President Clinton likened the effect of the bugs to a powerful winter storm: producing minor problems for some and severe but short-term disruptions for others. "We still don't know how many storms there will be, but the risk is localized storms, not national debacles." He predicted that 85 to 90% of U.S. Federal government conversion work will be completed by the deadline of 1999-MAR-31. In retrospect, his predictions appear to have been unduly pessimistic.
 
bullet Banks: The Federal Reserve had given U.S. banks a 1999-OCT deadline to have removed any Y2K bugs, and to have verified that their programs will survive the year end.

bullet Money: An extra 50 to 75 billion worth of bank notes of all denominations were made available late in 1999 to handle an expected large drain on bank accounts.

bullet Industry: Chase Manhattan Corp. expected to pay $363 million to fix their Y2K bugs. E.I. DuPont de Nemours expected to spend $400 million. The worldwide cost was expected to be between $300 and $600 billion dollars. Litigation and insurance costs are expected to boost this to over $1 trillion dollars. Relatively few disruptions were experienced at the end of 1999. The trillion dollar estimate is probably excessive.

bullet Government: As of mid 1999-JAN, two states planned to mobilize the National Guard for 2000-JAN-1. However, they did not call it a mobilization, because that might alarm folks. They are calling it a training exercise.

bullet Foreign Governments:
 
bullet Russia turned down help offered by the U.S. and NATO to revamp its nuclear missile and early-warning defense systems to remove any Y2K bugs. They were suspicious that this offer was a cover operation to spy on Russian facilities.

bullet China has found the ultimate technique to assure that its airlines will be free of any Y2K problems. They ordered its airline chiefs to be airborne on New Years Day, 2000.

bullet Canada's armed forces are organizing Operation Abacus which had almost 20,000 troops available for up to 30 days service in 2000-JAN. The name of the program was well chosen: an abacus is a calculating machine that is totally mechanical in operation, and will thus be useable even if the electricity fails.

bullet Airlines: The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) predicted that the world's airlines will spend about $2.3 billion (U.S. funds) to wipe out the bug.

bullet Electricity: There had been a number of tests of the electrical grid during 1999:

bullet The electrical utility serving the Canadian province of Nova Scotia set the computer clocks ahead into 2000 as a trial, without incident.

bullet The electrical utility, Ontario Hydro, conducted a test on 1999-MAR-7 at midnight. It involved the electrical service of 500,000 people in western Toronto, ON. They set the clock on various systems ahead to the year 2000 to confirm that all of the millennium bugs were eradicated. Streetcars and subway trains stopped at the nearest convenient station at 11:55 PM as a precaution in case the power failed. Otherwise, stalled streetcars could block intersections, and people using the subway could be trapped in tunnels. Bars scheduled extra bouncers in case of disturbances that might be caused by a power failure. O.H. spokesperson, Al Manchee, said: "The test was a complete success. All the equipment performed as we expected." There wasn't even a flicker.

bullet There was a massive test of the communications systems of North American electrical utilities on 1999-APR-9. All of the more than 3,000 electric utilities in the U.S. and Canada participated. They pretended that their inter-utility communication systems had broken down and had to be replaced by a manual backup. They reported that their communications contingency plans had no serious problems. Most worked well; some areas which can be improved have been highlighted. A second test was made on 1999-SEP-9.

bullet Airplanes: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration tested the air traffic control facilities in Denver, CO on 1999-APR-11. No problems were noted.

bullet Governments: The start of the fiscal year in Japan, Canada and New York State passed on 1999-APR-1 without incident. APR-6 marked the start of Britain's fiscal year. Again, the date passed uneventfully.

bullet Airplanes: The U.S. Transportation Department lacked sufficient data to predict whether 17 international destinations will be Y2K ready. They stated: "Prudence...dictates that travelers electing to fly in the civil aviation system of [these destinations] during the period immediately before and after the New Year should plan their itinerary carefully." They maintained a web site to help keep travelers informed. 7

When New Year 2000 finally arrived, few systems failures were observed. 

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Y2K Definitions:

A new series of terms has been created to cover the Y2k problem:

bullet Clean management: Making certain that replacement software and hardware for Y2K compliant computers are themselves compliant.

bullet Embedded systems: Electronic circuitry within electrical and electronic equipment that contains microprocessors. These are small computing devices with limited functionality. They are not programmable by the end user and are often not even known about. But they have some of the functionality of regular computers and could have failed due to a Y2K bug.

bullet Millennium bug: An inability of computer software or hardware to handle the transition from the year 1999 to 2000.

bullet Mission-critical systems: Computer systems whose failure would greatly impact an organization's ability to function. Process control systems are perhaps the best example of this; they control manufacturing systems on a minute-by-minute basis. Their failure could shut down a plant, electrical generator, communication system, etc.

bullet Rip-and-replace: Rather that repairing the hardware and software of a computer system to make it Y2k compliant, the hardware and/or software is discarded and replaced with more modern equivalents -- a good reason to update systems.

bullet Y2K: an abbreviation of the year 2000. One wag noticed that this sort of abbreviation is the type of shorthand that got us into the original mess.

bullet Y2K compliant: The status of a computer system that is either unaffected by the millennium bug or has been fixed so that it can handle the transition from the year 1999 to 2000 without failing.

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today. In fact, many date from the infancy of the Internet and have probably disappeared long ago.

  1. Shaunti Feldhahn, "Y2K: The Millennium Bug -- A Balanced Christian Response" Multinornah Publ., (1998) Read a review or buy this book
  2. "Y2K authors still advising Christians to prepare," Baptist Press. Online at Maranatha Christian Journal, at: http://www.mcjonline.com/news/news3408.htm
  3. "Midnight of the 'real' millennium approaches: Less hoopla, panic -- but 'end times' cultural angst still in vogue," AANEWS, 2000-DEC-29  
  4. Patricia Wilson, "FBI Director Freeh Warns of Millennium Violence," Excite News/Reuters, 1999-FEB-4.
  5. June Bearzi, "Millennium computer fear is a scam," The Star, 1997-AUG-4, at: http://www2.inc.co.za/Archives/Jan97toAug97/
  6. R. Chandrasekaran and S. Barr, "Major U.S. firms, agencies seem to have Y2K bug well in hand," Detroit News, at: http://detnews.com/1999/technology/9901/02/01020106.htm
  7. "International Civil Aviation Y2K Information Review," U.S. Department of Transportation, at: http://www.y2ktransport.dot.gov/fly2k
  8. "Gary North's Y2K links and forums: The Year 2000 problem: The year the earth stands still." This was at: http://www.garynorth.com. The URL has since been taken over by an unrelated site. However, mirror copies of the original essay are available at: http://www.dishangel.com/y2k/ and http://www.swikull.com/north/

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Copyright © 1998 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-DEC-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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