Why SHOULD "Joe Average" Believe Y2K's Real? Where's the beef?

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In a long email posted to the 2000efn listserver on Saturday, 4/25/1998, by Harlan Smith, were a few paragraphs that hit a very big question on the head. They were written by Rick Albertson, a writer living near Atlanta, GA. The question here is, how ARE these basic questions answered for "Joe Public"? How AM I supposed to convince him or the mayor that the electricity, the water, the fire department, the phone system, the everything else is going to go on the blink, and all the high intensity intensity ISN'T just hype?

And NO. The purpose of this thread is NOT to gather a collection of standard "awareness" URLs a mile long (there's already one of those going here someplace else, isn't there?). The purpose of this thread is this. Here's the question:

What are the URLs or directions to the specific, credible documents that show what will happen if mainframes, PCs, software, and PLCs (embedded systems) are NOT remediated, fixed? Where are the real life examples and test results located?

And no. Not the URLs that show GM, Ford, Chrysler, and everyone else under the sun's spending 100 million dollars to fix it. "That doen't tell me anything except those companies ate the consultant's balony," Joe Average would say. Where's the URL that shows that when MIT hooked up a PLC configuration and tested the date, a washing machine stopped, or a television went out, and that neither of them could be "jump started" back into working order (as the writer put it below).

Or. To put it one other way: Where are the non-standard, empiric proof addresses that would make it much easier for this person to do their job?

Here's the part of what they had to say that led to this question:

"Rebecca Eisenberg wrote an article about one facet of the Year 2000 issue that presented information in an entertaining fashion. She presented a number of valid points, as they apply to her intended readers. There really is a lot of commercial hype and hand-wringing going on, and most consumers have gotten very cynical about it. The whole concept of the Y2K problem is difficult for even knowledgeable persons to understand. The average layman has a very hard time seeing what the fuss is all about.

"Joe Average might assume that "Y2K" is a company that makes zippers, but even if he knows that it is actually a data-crunching problem, he fails to see how it applies to him. He's heard that the IRS computers might go into gridlock, but for obvious reasons he doesn't think that this is something he should feel bad about. He's heard "the sky is falling" so many times before, he hardly blinks an eye when someone uses words like "panic" and "crisis" in discussing an issue that even the experts admit can't quite be apprehended until it happens. He doesn't see why this is such a big deal -- come January 1, 2000, all ya gotta do is jumpstart the computers one time and everything will be just fine, right?

"The truth is a lot more complicated than that, of course. But exactly how much more complicated, even you can't say for sure, and you're the ones who know more about it than the rest of us do. This makes it hard to communicate your concerns outside your own Y2K circles. Us regular folks? We just don't get it. From the outside world, it looks as though there's going to be a bunch of potholes suddenly showing up in the information superhighway come the millennium, but we expect that you folks will have them all patched up by Day 3 or so.

"I'm not naive enough to think it'll be that simple. But I also find it hard to believe that civilization as we know it will come to a screeching halt just because a dwindling bunch of legacy computers can't tell "1900" from "2000". I'm better-educated about these things than most laymen, but I still have a hard time separating hype from halfway when I read about the Y2K "crisis". Some folks say there's nothing to it. Some folks say the sky is falling. Most folks just say, "huh?"

"So here I am, a writer in Atlanta who focuses on technology a lot of the time. This unexpected email exchange about the Y2K issue has piqued my interest. Let's say I'd like to write a piece for the general public that will help them understand just what there is to worry about, and also what is not worth worrying about, come January 1, 2000. So what do I say to them? You're the experts -- you tell me. Let me know the facts about what matters and what doesn't, and I'll pass it on in terms they can understand. You tell me, and I'll tell them. Fair enough?

rick albertson rixter@bellsouth.net

-- Bill (billdale@lakesnet.net), April 25, 1998



I'm a grocer involved in Year 2000 Regional Preparedness in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. I was researching this very topic and found a URL - http://www.xs4all.nl/~zooko/Y2k-real-life.html - that has reports of documented problems at 4 different industrial facilities, including Chrysler, General Motors, and a power generator in Britain.

In Beans,


-- cynthia (cabeal@efn.org), April 29, 1998.

More goodies from comp.software.year-2000

NPR ran a piece this weekend on Y2k and electric utilities. You can hear it at:


...if you have the RealAudio plugin. It's a "must hear" for the denial heads.

Rick Cowles Electric Utilities & y2k

-- cynthia (cabeal@efn.org), April 29, 1998.

Discussions about "Real Problems": Yourdon's Forum- - a thread of "examples"...

-- cynthia (
cabeal@efn.org), June 21, 1998.

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