Don't forget the Toasty's "response" to HOFF : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread


And these errors are not minor. The MCI/Lucent story, while not Y2k related, provides a perfect example. They apparently spent about a week diagnosing the errors, and never truly uncovered the cause. The potential source could literally be anything, from load capacity to invalid installation to actual code problems.
Yup -- you're right.  So much for the optimistic statement that all of these problems can be found in a matter of minutes, or hours, or at most three days.  Keep in mind that while the MCI/Lucent situation was obviously difficult and frustrating, it took place in an overall environment (i.e., the rest of the country) that was relatively stable.  To use a current metaphor, imagine that they were trying to do their debugging in North Carolina, in the middle of Hurricane Floyd.  Imagine debugging efforts like this going on in early January 2000, when the situation is likely to be complicated by dozens, if not hundreds of extraneous distractions and complications.
In fact, using sources you yourself so often cite, it is readily apparent that the resulting errors from this massive upheaval far outweigh the potential Y2k errors in total, and the simultaneous occurrence of these errors are at least on par with potential Y2k errors at the date change itself.
Sorry, you lost me here.  It may be "readily apparent" to you, but not to me.  If I understand you correctly, you're suggesting that the majority of Y2K-related errors will come from mistakes that have nothing to do with the date change (but why else, and where else, would the maintenance programmers be changing the code, huh?), and those errors are all surfacing now -- so that while it's disruptive now, the problems will all be fixed prior to January 1, 2000 -- after which we won't have any significant number of date-related errors.  If that is indeed what you're trying to suggest, I'm afraid that I'll need a lot more detailed explanation in order to understand and accept it.
Perhaps, Mr. Greenspan understands this? Where is the evidence for "systemic" collapse, that will "bring the whole thing down like a house of cards"?
Well, if Mr. Greenspan understands whatever it is you're trying to hypothesize, then you and he are obviously on a higher intellectual plane than me.  I salute you both -- but I hope you won't be insulted if I choose not to trust my family's safety and comfort to a programmer-turned-banker/economist, and an anonymous Internet poster whose logic and reasoning I can't follow.  I don't claim to be a genius, and I don't claim that I'm smarter than you (or Mr. Greenspan); but I've got sufficient faith in my intellect and my experience in the computer field that I don't feel compelled to "bet the farm" on assurances and explanations that don't make what I consider to be common sense.
You cite international uncertainties with "corrupt data" and banks. Banks in the US are a perfect example. One can quibble about percentages, but having been through two rounds of audits, it is almost certain that somewhere over 90% of the banks have in fact either fixed or replaced their systems. Where is the "data corruption" from the undeniable errors that have resulted?

 In fact, where is any evidence, other than the tired string of "IF"s?

Maybe I missed something here.  If 90% of the systems have fixed or replaced their systems, what about the other 10%?  Don't they matter?  And while there may have been two rounds of audits, as well as some testing between individual banks and some of the central clearing-house systems, have we seen any evidence that there has been testing of the interfaces between the banks themselves?  Even if they had done so, my earlier point remains: they might all be running remediated systems in production now, but they're doing it with vintage-1999 dates.  By definition, nobody has run production systems with post-2000 dates; and whatever time-machine testing that has been carried out, using post-2000 dates, by individual banks, is not the same as the entire banking system running, in toto, in a post-2000 production mode.

But in any case, I wasn't even trying to challenge Mr. Greenspan in this area.  As you noted, the concern that I raised was with the international situation.  Are you going to tell me that all of the banks around the world have reached the same level of remediation that U.S. banks have, and that they've all done the same degree of testing, and that they've carried out extensive inter-bank testing to ensure that there are no data corruption problems?  Why, then, did the international bank clearing house S.W.I.F.T. express such concern a couple months ago that so few banks had tested their interfaces with S.W.I.F.T.?  I apologize for not having the time right now to track down the reference on the Internet, but I'm sure it won't be hard for your if you're at all interested.

Greenspan states it is "beginning of wisdom in thinking about the Y2K problem to recognize that failures and breakdowns in mechanical and electronic systems are a normal part of our everyday life", not that this is where wisdom ends.

The Greenspan Credibility index went up two notches here. Apparently, he has a much firmer grasp of IT reality than you, the "expert" with "30+ years experience".

Sigh... if you read the letter, you'll see that I acknowledge his point, but suggested that the ability of maintenance organizations to deal with those failures and breakdowns depend svery heavily of the quantitative value of MTBF and MTTR.  I don't know if my explanation was too complicated for you to understand, but it seems to me that it would be more constructive for you to respond directly to that point rather than making snide remarks about who has the firmer grasp of IT reality.
You claim you "would be very reluctant to trust the safety of my family to the ingenuity of some unknown engineers". But these people have and do trust the safety of their families to these engineers every day. And my guess is these engineers have been and are faced with far more complex  problems than Y2k.
This is actually a very interesting point that you've raised, and one that I've thought about quite a bit since becoming involved with the Y2K situation.  We've often been told that they layman doesn't understand the extent to which he depends on computers and automation.  But I sometimes think that none of us quite appreciates the extent to which we place our lives in the hands of strangers.  Airline pilots are the obvious example; do you realize what an act of faith it requires to strap yourself into a hollow aluminum tube, along with a couple hundred equally crazy people, and allow a total stranger to hurl himself, yourself, and all those other strangers through the sky at 500 mph, five miles above the ground?  It's amazing -- and yet we do it without even a second thought.

But the reluctance that I expressed in my letter had to do with voluntarily exposing myself to situations where the metaphorical airplane is breaking down, and where my life depends on the ability of the pilot and crew to respond to completely unexpected failures.  Suppose you got on a plane, and the pilot came on the loudspeaker to say, "Hi folks, glad to have you on board.  By the way, there's a good chance that we'll be flying through a Force-6 hurricane on this flight.  You may have only heard of hurricane levels 1-5, but we're going to be the first to experience level-6.  Chances are it will rip both wings off the plane -- but hey!  We're ingenious!  We're resourceful!  We rise to every occasion!"  I don't know about you, but I would get off the plane if I possibly could.

You severely disparage the resourcefulness of the workforce "who can barely swim through water, let alone walk on water". It has been my experience through project implementations that they can, and do, tend to get the job done, even under unexpected and trying conditions.
Okay, fair enough:  I'll apologize here for another inappropriate use of hyperbole.  But Mr. Greenspan, in the speech to which I was responding, was drawing our attention to the incredible innovation of the NASA engineers who helped save the crew of Apollo 13.   I don't know about you, but I remember every minute of that mission, and I stayed up all night to listen to the radio to see if the crew managed to circumnavigate the moon and head back to the Earth intact.   I don't know if the Tom Hanks movie was entirely accurate, but if so, it was the backup crew that was largely responsible for coming up with the solution.  Great drama, very inspiring -- but the point I was attempting to make in my letter to Mr. Greenspan was that it involved a level of training, education, and native talent that one cannot reasonably expect of the clerical and administrative staff of the typical organization.  The average citizen -- you and me included -- wouldn't have the intellectual, physical, or psychological profile to even qualify for the backup crew, let alone the "real" crew on that flight.  Depending on such Hollywood-style heroics on the part of average people as a silver-bullet, fix-on-failure strategy to solve potentially serious Y2K problems does not sound very realistic to me.  Perhaps I'll be proven wrong, and perhaps (if such Y2K problems do occur) the optimism that you and Mr. Greenspan apparently share will be proven correct.  If so, I'll be the first to eat humble pie and apologize.  In the meantime, though, I don't think it's realistic to base one's contingency plans on such hopes.
Your points on time constraints may be valid. But where are the resultant strains on the available work force? Where is the massive increase in demand for Y2k remediators, that had some predicting $500/hr rates? Some have suggested that they have just "given up", but where is the evidence for this? My experience is the last thing to happen would be to simply "give up"; corporate management, in particular, would immediately tend to through "more bodies" and "more money" at the problem.
Well, it's possible that you and I have had different experiences.  My experience has been that IT departments have often been told to fix the Y2K problem with little or no additional money.  As for the resultant strains on the available work force: you're right, it has taken many of us by surprise.  I believe that the simplest explanation is that organizations have opted to fix only their mission-critical systems, which probably represents only 10-20% of the overall portfolio of systems.  As a result, far fewer personnel were required than we estimated a couple years ago, when we assumed that organizations would try to fix all of their systems.
The remainder seems merely more reinforcement of the general belief that "they" cannot be trusted, and are not telling the truth. Quite frankly, I don't have the patience to wade through these again.
Well, suppose that your stockbroker called you and recommended that you you buy a thousand shares of stock in a high-tech firm called .  Suppose you ask the stockbroker for a copy of's latest financials before making your decision, but your stockbroker says, "Sorry, but XYZ doesn't bother issuing financial statements; they've simply announced that they're highly optimistic that this year is going to be their most profitable year ever."  If you expressed some reluctance, how would you feel if your stockbroker said, "Oh, come on -- I don't have the patience to wade through all of your general beliefs that 'they' cannot be trusted, and are not telling the truth."?  Suppose that when you asked for financial statements, your broker sent you a P&L statement scribbled on the back of an envelope, prepared by a guy named Cousin Vinnie, who happens to be the cousin of's CEO?  And suppose that when you ask for audited statements, prepared by a Big-6 accounting firm that hires CPA's, your broker again complains, "Aw, not again!  Don't tell me that you don't trust these guys?"

Would you ride on an elevator that had not been inspected and certified?  Would you buy a car from a dealer who refused to show you the Consumer Reports assessment of the safety of the car?  Would you feel comfortable flying on a plane if the airline refused to tell you whether its pilots and mechanics had been certified?  These are not abstract questions -- the point is that when it comes to safety-critical issues, we tend to "reverse" the normal judicial assumption of "innocent until proven guilty."  When critical issues are involved, many of us automatically take the position of "guilty until proven innocent."

In short, Mr. Yourdon, while you may have credibility as an "expert" on "Preparations", as witnessed by your testimony before Congress, your credibility as an"IT Expert" on Y2k was spent long ago. Obviously, my opinion; an opinion just as obviously not shared by the majority of this forum. So be it; I suspect yourpost served its purpose with its intended audience.
Yes, I have to admit that it's rather amusing that the invitation to testify before the Senate (not Congress) in a hearing on Y2K preparedness has given me some credentials as an "expert" in this area; actually, at least a few people on our Y2K forum voiced the opinion that while I might have some credentials in the software field, I had had no visible experience in the field of community preparedness before Y2K came along.  As for my credibility as an IT expert on Y2K, everyone is allowed to form their own opinion.  Without meaning to criticize or judge you, I'll simply observe that you haven't even shown me the courtesy of telling me your name, let alone your background or credentials for judging my expertise.  My credentials and professional career in the computer field are pretty much an open book, much of which can be judged by the material on my web site, and I'm willing accept whatever judgment that IT professionals may have of me.
You have been guilty of grossly over-exaggerating the potential effects of systems failures in the past, and continue to do so now.
I'm humble enough to acknowledge that this may turn out to be true.  If so, I'm sure that you and others won't miss the opportunity to remind me.  But for now, I think it would be more intellectually honest if you acknowledged that this is an opinion, rather than -- as the sentence currently reads -- a statement of factual truth.
Through your various"enterprises", you have set yourself up to directly profit from the fear and uncertainty you seem determined to continue to inspire. You both sell the "disease",and sell the "cure".

Now, I don't begrudge anyone the ability to make a living. How you do so is none of my business, whatever my opinion.

As an "IT Expert" with "30+ years of experience", your statements and opinions on the potential effects of Y2k should have carried some weight.

I assume that you have to make a living, too, unless you're lucky enough to have a large inheritance.  And since I have no idea of who you actually are, or where you actually live, I'll simply make the assumption that you live somewhere where the free-market, capitalistic style of economy prevails.  Thus, you too "profit" from whatever it is you do, presumably because the marketplace believes that you are delivering "value" for whatever it is that you do.  Mr. Greenspan also derives a profit from whatever it is that he does.  So do the bankers, and the CEOs of companies, and just about everyone else.  Did it ever occur to that most of the folks who are giving us the optimistic assurances about Y2K have a vested interest in continuing to "profit" by having us believe that everything will be okay?

Think about it for a moment, and ask yourself whether you should be aiming your criticisms at people who have a lot to lose if Y2K turns out badly, rather than criticizing those of us who have only a little to lose if Y2K turns out well.   Before Y2K came along, for example, I was making a perfectly good living as an IT consultant, lecturer, and author -- with, by the way, 35 years of experience, not just "30+" years.  I had already written some 24 computer books, and was considered by at least a few people as being an authority on object-oriented methodologies, structured methods, and other aspects of software development.  If I had been an absolute "nobody" in the computing field, I could understand your suspicion that I was trying to take advantage of a scary situation to make a quick buck -- and indeed, that accusation has been leveled at several people who are in the forefront of the Y2K field, but who had not been terribly prominent prior to Y2K.  But in my case, the irony is that my income has declined substantially since I began devoting my time to Y2K.  Yeah, Time Bomb 2000 was a New York Times best-seller; but it's a less-expensive book, sold at a higher discount, and with a lower royalty rate, than the technical books I've written in the past -- and as a result, I've made less money from that book than if I had spent the same amount of time writing a typical book on distributed, Web-based, object-oriented software development.  Lecturing fees? Lower than the fees I charged for conducting software engineering seminars in 1997 and 1998, and the Y2K conference business has collapsed to nothing in 1999.  MLM revenues?  Yes, I lent my name to one such venture, as did a couple other notable people in the field, because I sincerely thought that such a mechanism might help spread the word more widely than we could accomplish through traditional mechanisms -- but the level of public complacency and denial has been such that my income from MLM has been zero.  Not a penny.

Bottom line: if Y2K turns out well, I can go back to the stuff I was doing before, notwithstanding whatever "mea culpa's" I'll have to offer for predicting a pessimistic outcome.  But if Y2K turns out badly, a lot of the CEO's, PR people, government spokesmen, and other optimists, will be out of a job.  From that perspective, who do you think is likely to be more subjective about the state of affairs?

But as the statements and opinions of someone positioned to capitalize on the very fear and uncertainty you yourself create?  Sorry, but you're just another salesman, knocking at the door.

-- Hoffmeister (, September 21, 1999

If I have helped to create uncertainty, I have nothing to apologize for.  Anyone who feels that he can sell, or create, "certainty" about Y2K is a far larger and more dangerous snake-oil salesman than anything you could accuse me of.  As for creating fear ... well, I do worry about that, and I try as hard as I can to express my thoughts and opinions in an objective fashion that encourages people to make up their own mind.  If you talk about AIDS, or pollution, or nuclear accidents, or global warming, or the disappearance of the ozone layer, some people are going to be fearful; but I don't think that means we should stop talking about it, or only allow ourselves to express cheerful, optimistic statements.  The reality is that there are some scary things that confront us, and we need to acknowledge them and cope with them in a responsible fashion.  That's what I'm trying to do with Y2K; I may not have lived up to your standards, but I'm doing the best I can.

Ed Yourdon
September 21, 1999

-- anon (, July 24, 2000


Ah yes, another "file under" : NEVER HAPPENED:


Perhaps I'll be proven wrong, and perhaps (if such Y2K problems do occur) the optimism that you and Mr. Greenspan apparently share will be proven correct. If so, I'll be the first to eat humble pie and apologize. In the meantime, though, I don't think it's realistic to base one's contingency plans on such hopes.

-- cpr (, July 24, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ