Year 2000 Cyber Mess - Solution?

Posted on 9/18/1998 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

171

YEAR 2000 CYBER MESS




September 18, 1998


Have you started thinking about Y2K. Rohn Engh of PhotoSource
International
explains how it may impact photographers and stock agencies,
even if they aren't heavily computized.





November 18, 1998

Second Installment



If you have already read the first installment of this story and are just
interested in reading Rohn Engh's solution and suggested strategy for
dealing with the Y2K problem click on SOLUTION.



Y2K


ARE YOUR SUPPLIERS PREPARED FOR THE YEAR 2000 CYBERMESS?


The millennium bug, commonly called Y2K, will visit planet earth on
January 1st, 2000. It's not a virus or bacteria; it's actually a
genetic deviation built into punch cards and computer systems
world-wide during the birthing process of data processing and
computers back in the 50's and 60's.


Since memory and disk space were scarce and expensive back then,
programmers figured out they could conserve mucho space by using
two digits to designate a year, rather than four: 59 rather than
1959. Hardware builders also used the same thinking in designing
their BIOS and RTC chips.


When the clock ticks past midnight December 31st, 1999, main frame
computers designed, enlarged, and maintained by government and the
corporate world (adding new code as they progressed) for the past
30 years, will start making mistakes. Unless the date problem is
fixed. And it can't be fixed by the original Fortran and Cobal
software and firmware programmers from thirty years ago; they have
long departed -- plus much of the original code has been thrown
away, leaving only the binnaries (machine language.)


The task is similar to when you used to manually do your monthly
accounting and the total was off by a penny or two. To get it
right, you had to go back through every figure to locate the error.
Multiply that problem by 30 years' worth and you can see what Y2K
presents to corporate and government offices.


And here's the catch. This is a problem that modern man has never
faced before. We have no precedent to fall back on to figure out
how to get out of this cybermess we've put ourselves in. There is
no flexible fudging with the deadline. Even the challenges like
putting a man on the moon, cloning, perfecting a space shuttle, or
building an atom bomb, had flexible deadlines. This task doesn't
have that luxury. If it doesn't get done by midnight December 31,
1999, the problems start.


As I read the trade magazines, the Wall Street Journal, or the
local newspaper, articles about the Y2K problem are sprinkled with
phrases like, "no one really knows," "have fallen behind,"
"desperate measures," "controversial remediation techniques."


And the problem has been left in the hands of "the next guy." If
you ask a government worker at any level what the status is of
their compliance to fixing the "Millennium Bug," you'll get a shrug
and the comment, "Someone else is taking care of that."


What will it take to fix the problem?


When Windows 95 was first announced, it was called "Windows 4"
('93); then called "Chicago"('94); and then called Windows 95 to
focus on the year it was to be out in the market place. And when it
came out, it still had pesky bugs in it. Even all the king's horses
and all the king's men couldn't put Windows 95 out on time.


Catch Y2K


Y2K is a software challenge more than 1000 times the size of
Windows 95. What's more, it's got a deadline, an immovable date.
There's no "going back to the drawing board." January 1st, 2000, is
January 1st, 2000.


Business and government have been working at Y2K the past several
years. It's taking a lot of money ($500 million for General Motors
in 1998 alone,) to get main frame programmers to go in and hand
process each of the millions of lines of incorrect code. It's not
simply a matter of changing dates back to 1998 instead of 98--all
elements of all programs need re-tooling to recognize the new
dates. And the problem extends out to suppliers. The auto industry
has 30,000 suppliers that must also be Y2K compliant by December
31st 1999. If a door hinge or a carbuerator part does not arrive
"just in time," the manufacturing process is held up.


We have become a calendar-dependent society, thanks to computers.
Generally speaking, PC's at the work-at-home level are of concern,
too, but not like the main frames that feed your PC with credit
card numbers, shipping schedules, ISP hookups, order information,
delivery memos, anything that keeps your business humming.


Even if your PC or MAC is 2000 compliant, it won't matter if the
services you use to keep your business humming are not 2000
compliant.


We Put A Man On The Moon Didn't We?


And why haven't we heard more about this problem? Between
chauffeuring the kids to the soccer match or taking a few precious
moments for a weekend vacation, most Americans have little time for
contemplating Y2K. The last thing they want to think about is
something the "experts" can fix. After all, they say, "Didn't we
put a man on the moon? Leave it to the scientists."

What Is The Basis Of The Problem?


Once you get it to work, software works amazingly well. Programmers
today use the same 0's and 1's (onoff) programming techniques they
did forty years ago. Back then, whether it was an airline, bank,
electric company, trucking company, or telephone company, they
developed distinctive software. Once it worked, they didn't change
it until industry expansion required it. Then they would add on to
the existing software.


Since most programmers stay with an organization an average of six
years, the new programmer would build on the solid "legacy" of the
former programmer. ("If it's not broken don't fix it.") Since each
subsequent programmer had different programming styles and
techniques, most major industries today are faced with thirty to
forty years of complex changes made by people who have long since
departed. The only remedy is to go into the legacy software and
change each pertinent line of code by hand.


It's said that each line of code costs $1.10 to fix, and there are
millions upon millions of lines of code to go through. Most
business people shudder at the idea of putting manpower toward a
task that isn't improving the bottom line. Plus, there are not
enough programmers familiar with legacy software, available to do
the job before December 31st 1999.


If you know about computers, you know that one little glitch in the
software will cause the computer to shut down (crash).


We only have to extend that analogy to the world-wide network of
interdependent computers to see that if one bank or one hospital or
one government office or one electric company has not been
compliant in fixing their Y2K software problem, it will affect
hundreds (thousands - millions) of other computers.


And all this has come about because we have put our faith in "Hal."
Remember the metaphysical voice in the movie, 2001 -- A Space
Odyssey? Hal 9000 was a main frame computer's voice that knew
everything, yet, in the end, knew nothing. And, like the Wizard of
Oz, turned out be a vacuum.


The irony is that the world of computer networks was conceived
without any central governing authority. The very freedom that the
network has enjoyed is at the core of the Y2K problem. No one is
accountable.


It cannot be fixed piece by piece. It is a systemic problem. And
that needs to be handled by a central authority, which as stated is
non-existent for the world-wide network of computers.


The Good Ol' Days just might be around the century corner.


Where The Chips Fall


December 31st 1999...The scene is the printing plant where a
publishing company you frequently deal with has sent your
transparencies. A production manager has left them on the light
table. He phones his girl friend to let her know he plans to meet
her at the New Year's eve party, but he'll be late. He wants to
check out "the millennium effect" at the printing plant at
midnight.


All goes well. 12:00 a.m. Bong! It's the year 2000. The clocks
work, the phone works, and lights stay on. As he is about to lock
up the building, an alarm at the main press sounds off. At first,
he thinks it's part of the New Year's celebration. When he checks
it out, he discovers a microchip in the printing press has signaled
that it was about to overheat, and if something weren't done, it
would catch on fire. The printing press thought it had been
running since 1900 without maintenance! He shut the machine down
immediately. But too late. A signal had already been sent by the
machine's microchip to the sprinkler system, which showered the
whole printing plant, including your transparencies.


Where The Chips Fail


To complicate the Y2K cybermess, millions of microchips embedded in
factory robotics, satellites, vault doors, elevators, airplanes,
even some cars, are calendar-reliant. They will shut down when the
microchip calendar rolls over to 00, which, incidentally are the
two digits many software programs roll to when a wrong date is
entered in an application. The software tells the program to halt
until the correct digit is entered. Or, as in the above scenario,
it may be interdependent with another system and give that system
wrong instructions.


How will this whole Y2K problem introduce itself?


Our burgeoning economy has been built on a trust basis -- that is,
we trust that a credit card is valid, that our bank statement is
accurate, that the order will be delivered on time, that the
airliner will take off as scheduled. We trust that our health
insurance or social security is safe, or that we'll get a dial
tone, or that the lights will turn on when we flick the switch. All
these components are maintained by embedded microchips (tiny
computers) in the product itself. If the chips "don't work," in
other words if they spurt out faulty information, trust flies out
the window -- because the water isn't coming out of the tap, the
fuel oil isn't being delivered, there's no gas at the service
stations.


The embedded chips that affect our lives most are the kind that
make life easier for us. They not only remind us to perform certain
quality control and safety tasks, but actually perform those tasks
for us. (Like turning on the sprinkler when the printing press is
about to catch fire.) These are the controller types: when the chip
rolls over (like an odometer) to a certain number or date, it tells
the machine, or appliance, airplane or vehicle, to perform a
certain task.


The Ripple Effect


For example, an embedded chip at a film processing plant might
control the building's lighting management system. On December 31st
1999 the system might become locked into its nighttime cycle,
sounding an alarm every hour then turning off all the lighting in
the building until reset by a key-holder. Every hour the alarm and
lights would go off until the chip is located and repaired. This
type of thing may be just an inconvenience. But if twenty or thirty
chips in the plant fail to perform their tasks, and additionally
trigger other failures (like falling dominoes), the situation
becomes serious both for productivity and morale.


It also becomes a legal problem. If processed film were promised
for next day delivery, or if film is ruined because temperature
controls went haywire, who is to blame? It might not be a good idea
to send any film to a processor near the end of December 1999.
Can these embedded chips be repaired? In most companies, the
technical staff will have to rely on outside trouble-shooters to
locate chips that are date-sensitive. Once they find the chip in
each case, they'll recommend upgrading the entire circuit board or
buying new control equipment for the machine because the machine
cannot be allowed to operate in an unmonitored condition. This can
be costly. Some companies are following an FOF (Fix On Failure). No
one really knows what effect Y2K will have.


Who Has The Answers?


One reason no one really knows is that many manufacturers haven't
even completed a plantwide assessment to determine the depth of the
Y2K problem. With the economy now into its eighth year of boom,
many manufacturing plants are running three shifts, seven days a
week.


There's no time to make tests during off-peak hours. They choose
not to shut down and buy expensive back-up software and hardware to
replicate year 2000 conditions to test things beforehand.


When I first began looking into the problem a year ago, I asked my
suppliers in casual conversation, "What are you doing about the
Millenium Bug?" Few people understood the question. When I asked in
1998, the suppliers understood the question, but didn't consider it
something they should personally address.


I find the Y2K problem more a "human" problem than a technical
problem. It's human nature to put off addressing a problem that
sounds so far away: December 1999. Yet Y2K is an immovable date.


The consequences will be dramatic if nothing is done. Most
companies are in denial, or simply don't see the wisdom in putting
out money to fix something that they feel might not be so bad after
all.


Some of you will say I am being Chicken Little and declaring the
sky is going to fall. As one corporate executive said in one of my
trade journals, "We won't really know until January 1st, 2000."


I for one would like some answers before that. Right now, from my
reading and research, given the slow rate things are progressing,
I'm betting that our entire cyber system - electric power, fuel,
phones, etc. - won't work. Anyone want to make a wager and offer
something more than hope on this Y2K problem? I'd like some
assurance and would gladly lose the bet.


The Root Of The Problem


As kids, we would hear in miltary or industry parlance, "All
systems are GO." It meant everything checked out and the ship,
plane, train , or production line was ready to go. In those days,
"systems are go" meant the diesel lines were pumping fine, the
steam pressure was within range, the electric voltage was adequate.


With little fanfare, gradually, a new generation of systems has
evolved in our military, industry and corporate spheres. Thanks to
computers, we can fly faster, use less fuel, are more accurate,
environmentally safe, and the external world is more predictable.
Computer software is designed on a simple principle of 0's and 1's
(on and off). If the software is designed correctly, it works. If
it isn't, the programmer redesigns the software until it does work.


When you see an airplane in the sky you know that "all systems are
go" - whether it's a commercial airliner or a private aircraft. All
systems in that plane are coordinating with each other. If they
weren't - the plane's software would not allow the plane to take
off.


Why not? Computers are dumb, yes - but they are smart enough to
know that if something doesn't check out correctly - they shut down
and ask a human to "come fix me."


The message that most computers respond to for a shut down is "00."
And because most computers use a date as their counting method
(like the date on a camcorder or VCR), the counting system will
become confused on the first day after 12/31/99. All current
systems expect two digits that are higher than "99." But, like on
your odometer, when "00" comes up, which is definitely not higher,
the computer shuts down. In computer talk, it "crashes."


This is not to say the plane will crash - but not only will it shut
down before flight, the airline's reservation system will also
crash and become confused if all systems are not "GO."
Next time you make a plane reservation - ask your airline agent,
"is your company Y2K compliant?"


Even Bill Gates Isn't Prepared


Will Bill Gates save us from the Year 2000 Millennium Bug? Some
analysts think not. An article in the trade magazine, INFO WORLD
(July 6, 1998), pointed out that customized macros in Excel (the
spreadsheet) have no way of interpreting the dates and cannot use
the 100-year Window that Excel uses.


Nevertheless, the average PC user will accept the pronouncement
from Microsoft that its Office products are year-2000 compliant.


And, like a serf who huddles in the protection of the Baron's
Castle walls when he learns the Huns are swooping over the horizon
(or like the dog who crawls under the bed when he hears the coming
thunderstorm), Microsoft Word, Access and Excel devotees are going
to flock to their shepherd, Bill Gates, for solace. Will it be
forthcoming? Information technology managers are beginning to doubt
Gates' pronouncement that Office products are year-2000 compliant.


According to the Giga Information Group, Microsoft products - Word,
Access, and Excel -are not compliant, unless you install a patch
available on their Web site (www.microsoft.com).


In an article in INFO WORLD (August 24, 1998), Giga has said the
costs related to fixing the year-2000 problem can be high.


Depending on the size of your business, some third-party software
can cost as much as $2,000 per unit. Since the "fixing" must be
done by hand (no automation), the cost in people hours can be high,
too. If you are not computer savvy, you'll have to endure the cost
of a consultant to fix your machine(s). Ugh!


Another problem is that no patch or hardware fix has a guarantee to
go along with it. For example, in an article in Digital Production
Executive, the author quotes Scitex, the software company, as
saying it will not provide written letters or statements of
guarantee. The same article mentions a New York consulting company
as providing a "comprehensive Y2K battle plan," but, the customer
laments, "One thing the proposal and resulting contract did not
include was a guarantee."


No One Knows


The year 2000 cybermess can be likened to a professional dance
team, or a high school cheering squad, whose members may be
individually prepared - but who will need many dress rehearsals
before they get their act together. No one knows how well the
Microsoft patches will work come December 31st 1999. The BIOS
repair (an internal chip on your computer that regulates the date
and counting) may be correct, but the big question is how will this
affect your operating system, software programs, the data you have
previously entered, and the data exchange you will have with other
computers in your office or the outside world?


As one advertisement for a Y2K fix software company, CHECK 2000
advises in a full page spread in a trade magazine, "Check your
networked PC's continually as 2000 approaches and as users download
or exchange files." They are saying, "it might work when you test
it today, but it might not work tomorrow." Like when one member of
a dance troupe gets out of synch with the other dance team members,
it may not bring the performance to a standstill, but it certainly
won't win the troupe any prizes.


(INFOWORLD: www.infoword.com; DIGITAL PRODUCTION EXECUTIVE:
(203-358-9900; FAX: 203-358-5831)


Rohn Engh is director of PhotoSource International and publisher of
PhotoStockNotes. In his next issue of PhotoStockNotes he will offer
a solution to the Y2K. For more information about this publication
call: 715-248-3800.


For more on Y2K (or CDC, Calendar Date Conversion):
Rep. Stephen Horn, R-CA, Chairman, House Subcommittee on
Government, Management, Information, and Technology, B-373 Rayburn
House Office Bldg, Washington, DC 20515; Tel. (202) 225-5147; Fax
(202) 225 2373.



SOLUTION


Y2K - IS THERE A SOLUTION?


Everyone who has studied the Y2K dilemma seems to have a solution, so I
better offer mine.


As many people predicted, computers have taken over our society and wrestled
us to the ground and declared a knockout. If you weren't quite certain of
this before, witness the staggering implications of the Y2K problem.
However, here is one person's Y2K solution that solves the dilemma and
returns the computer to where it belongs, in a stall as a workhorse.


Computers do exactly what we tell them to do. In effect, legacy programmers
have inadvertently told computers to shut down when the calendar reaches
January 1st, 2000. Of course, all computers won't shut down. Y2K repairs
have been made to some, and new computers and programs have been and are
being designed or modified to cooperate with the century date change. But
it's the 30-40% of the computer systems that are not prepared, or can't be
repaired, that systemically will affect, and sometimes corrupt, all the
others that are prepared. The result will be the same if we took the major
tools away from a society and then expected it to carry on with business as
usual. It's like taking all or part of the tools from a society and asking
it to go about its daily tasks. This is a culture shock that is predictable.

AOK -- A Modest Proposal


The solution to prevent worldwide chaos while the experts labor to change
the computer to conform to the calendar, is to change our calendar to
conform to the computer's calendar. Temporarily, that is.


This strategy, I'll call it AOK, admits that we are dependent on computers
to run our daily lives, but it also serves notice that we are still in
control -- that artificial intelligence is no match for the human spirit.


How do you change a calendar? This same question was asked of Julius Caesar
in 46 BC and Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Calendars, let's face it, are
arbitrary. The "western calendar" that all computers use is based on flawed
calculations dating back to 1603.


Because the moon is asynchronous in its revolutions (the lunar months of the
year) around the earth in conjunction with the earth's revolution around the
sun (the solar days of the year), all calendars are inaccurate. That's why
we have a leap year. This calendar "patch" is called an epact. Every few
centuries or so, there's an additional adjustment in the solarlunar
equation that comes into play; the next one is on January 1, 2200. At that
time, the current prowers-that-be will probably commission a Bill Gates to
get it right.


It's estimated there are 39 different calendars in use on our planet. The
Jewish calendar is in year 5758; the Chinese calendar 4598; the Korean
calendar 4331. The most accurate calendar devised is said to be the ancient
Mayan calendar.


Stonehenge Revisited


The Druids of pre-history or the Egyptians in the time of the Pharaohs
acknowledged that keeping track of time was important for their survival.
We have come to a point in western civilization where we face a task as
monumental as building a pyramid or a Stonehenge. Unlike the ancients who
tried to solve the calendar riddle by building phyical structures we need
to manipulate our existing computer calendars to solve our dilemma.


I propose that Western society take its computers back to 1900, and then
program its computers to add 100 to any existing dates that are prior to
Jan. 1st 2000. Add dates prior to 2000 would appear as a 1900 + 100 date.
All dates entered after 1/1/2000 would not be altered. We would conduct
our affairs on two levels: the computer calendar and the "real" calendar.


For example, for a 30-year bank mortgage made in 1989 and due in (real time)
2019, AOK would assume "1919," make the addition of 100, and state 2019 for
its comparisons and calculations. If the 30-year mortgage were made on Jan.
10th, 2000, the morgage would be due in 2030 real time. For non-calculating
dates, e.g. a date entered for historical purposes, the computer operator
would press a keystroke designeated as a real time entry. For a technical
explanation see "How the AOK Unit Works" below.


1) Computer networks are only as strong as their weakest segments. In use
today are 100,000 mainframes, 300 million PC's and 50 billion embedded
microchip systems. We can only imagine the aggregate impact if these
networked systems were to fail. There is not enough time to "fix" all the
computers and remote terminal units. Rather than fight the 1900 syndrome, we
will accept it and modify it, much as we use a spell checker, on an
individual basis. This will allow the software professionals of the world an
extended window of time to prepare the major permanent repairs to our
obsolescent software and hardware. It may even give us time to change our
computer technology from the soon-to-be archaic electronic networks to the
new fiber optic networks that operate at the speed of light, 186,283 miles
per second.

2) There are not enough programmers to "fix" all of the world's computers
before January 1, 2000. Many COBOL programmers are reluctant to remove
themselves from profitable mainstream network architecture occupations to
return to the dead-end field of COBOL programming. The shortage of
programmers can be solved by letting computer operators themselves intercept
and fix the problem with the AOK temporary solution -- thanks to a "black
box" unit attached to the user's keyboard, or mounted internally in the
computer.


Operators themselves will pick up the slack, until the programmers are able
to finish the permanent repairs...(in one to two years). Until then, each
computer station will be provided with an AOK unit ("black box"), whose
mission will be to intercept aberrant dates, change them accordingly when
the change is simple, or bring the problem to the attention of the operator
when it requires human intervention.


The unit itself will be a commercially produced "computer within a
computer," complete with thousands of patches tailored to the specifications
of selectable hardware and software.

HOW THE AOK UNIT WORKS

    The AOK solution puts Y2K in the hands of individual computer operators.
    This may seem preposterous to some readers. But given the fact that most
    computer users in the corporate environment or a home office situation who
    utilize traditional programs (spreadsheets, system controls, databases, word
    processing, etc.) have been at it for over a decade - we can trust that they
    can meet the challenge of Y2K. Perhaps given the approaching deadline of
    December 31st, 1999, there is no other alternative.

    The unit (black box) will be similar to a digital camera back with a
    battery-powered memory. The unit can be the same physical size as a mouse
    and can be integrated with the keyboard externally or fitted inside the
    computer as an internal board.

    Because software and hardware producers utilize a variety of data transfer
    methods, multi-step business transactions, math calculations, and
    subsystems, operators of the AOK unit will have a full range of specific
    program options to select their own settings for workflow integration.

    Each unit would have in addition to its RTC (Real Time Clock) chip, a "CTC"
    (Computer Time Chip) to manually make routine calculations and comparisons
    or historical date changes.

    The AOK unit (designed by a consortium of the nation's top software
    engineers) will effectively bypass RTC's, BIOs, and other operating system
    chips of mainframes, PC's, and older version Macs that reset to 1960, 1970,
    and 1980 dates.

    The unit will adjust results on an individual basis when a date-sensitive
    glitch occurs, future or past. AOK will also anticipate the havoc caused by
    embedded chips in machines, appliances, and other systems, when the chip
    makes the machine believe it is 1900 and reverts to a stand-by or shuts
    down. The artificial intelligence hot-wired into an AOK unit will ward this
    off by adding appropriate digits.

    When calculations and comparisons are required, the AOK unit will examine
    any digit lower than 2000, then add 100.

    The AOK unit will also address anomalies such as expiring passwords, and
    "999" and "00" numbers that traditionally signify to a computer to halt
    operations.

    AOK is based on the principle that there is not enough time for Y2K
    remediation if we leave the problem to consultants and re-programmers. AOK
    puts individual operators in the driver's seat.

    Many Y2K solutions have been advanced in the technology field, ranging from
    "year expansion" to "code years in binary." With the exception of replacing
    the existing software with a compliant commercial package, the most popular
    solutions are "windowing/pivoting," "year shifting," and "year
    interception." AOK is similar to the latter three, but with the exception
    that it allows the software to assume the year 1900 without previous
    tinkering. It then utilizes commercially adapted and purchased units ("black
    boxes") which are operated individually by the computer operator who already
    knows the nuances of existing programs and their application.

    The inventors of the Industrial Age in the 1800s had no conception of the
    societal impact of their machinery - ranging from creature comforts to
    sabotage. In contrast the techno-wizards of Silicon Valley could foresee the
    calamity Y2K can bring on us. They owe us. Designing an AOK box that works,
    will be their ticket to forgiveness.

The Unforgiving Deadline

AOK universal success will depend on two things:

1.) How well systems engineers can design and adapt the AOK unit ("black
box") and

2.) How well individual computer users intercept and interpret year 2000
glitches and problems on the fly. It won't be easy. There will be mistakes.
The advantages will come at the sacrifice of some accuracy. We have a year
of trial and testing ahead of us.

In Pope Gregory's time (16th century), the western world was small.
Messengers spread the word. Everyone was compelled to cooperate lest they be
excommunicated. Today the western world is territorially larger, with no
all-pervasive authority in control. Does this present communication and
conformance problems?

No - because the world of communication is actually smaller today. The
annihilation of distance, thanks to phone, fax, FedEx, and the Internet,
makes it possible for instant communication and quicker cooperation.

How do you convince autonomous countries with different cultures, customs,
religions, and languages, to agree to use this 1900 + 100 technique in their
computer systems, so that everyone, for global commerce, communication and
travel, is reading from the same sheet of music?

The do-nothing attitude and lethargy evident among most countries today
regards the Y2K dilemma doesn't create a good foundation for the cooperation
that would be needed for the 1900 + 100 system to work. How can these
countries be made to cooperate, a year ahead of time?

They can't be and they won't. That's why traditional Y2K remediation
(compliance) won't work. For various political and commercial reasons,
governments and industries will drag their feet until they experience the
actual devastation of Y2K. Just one month of Y2K disruption, like a major
strike, will cause millions of dollars of daily loss worldwide, and will
prod these countries to act.

To be ready to usher everyone into the 1900 + 100 system when they finally
are ready for it, there would be AOK commissions put in place in each
country well in advance. A global commission could be formed to do this, or
it could be accomplished through a global body such as the United Nations.

Reminder

Computer software is a network of 1's and 0's. If you connect all the dots
correctly, the program will work -- forever. If an electrical surge (glitch)
disrupts the 1's and 0's -- the program fails. You have two remediation
options:

#1) rewrite the software, referring to your (print form)
documentation;

#2) reinstall the program or your backup. Presto! Everything
is fine again.

The millions of computers in use today also form a network, but far more
complex. Telephone software is networked with banking software which is
networked with government and industry software. If just one of these
entities is not Y2K compliant the whole network (the connected dots) is
adversely affected. Presto! The system fails until a solution is discovered
to connect the dots again.

Back To Normal

And when can we expect worldwide computer systems to be back to "normal?"
Because millions upon millions of dollars worth of performing software and
hardware investments can't be thrown away, and because CEO's have to justify
their ROI (return on investment), we may see an overhaul of the system
taking two to three years.

In the meantime, the business world may find itself operating on two time
schedules, computer time and real time, -- much the way we presently accept
Daylight Saving Time.

Perhaps my Y2K solution is audacious, even laughable. Or perhaps it contains
a seed of harmony and workability that will inspire a software engineer to
pick up on this germ of an idea and expand it into a real solution for Y2K.

The bottom line is no one really knows what the outcome of Y2K will be.
Historically, we have never faced this problem before. It might be just a
high tide - or it might be a tidal wave. The mistake we could all make would
be to crawl into a hole and do nothing. Preparation, plus business as usual,
is the key.

What Can You Do?

Will Y2K be just a bump in the road as you travel along the information
highway?

With most national news, whether it be an O.J. Simpson trial or a President
Clinton debacle, we can do nothing but listen. In contrast, the coming Y2K
crisis is something you can do something about, by alerting fellow
small-business owners. If you are employed, alert your CEO to the importance
of the Y2K crisis and the necessity to invest in Y2K remediation. Early
action is the key.

As we move into 1999 and eventually 2000, here are some of the hobgoblins
that individual AOK computer operators will face:

1999

  • January: Some one-year projections revert to 1900. AOK operators will
    anticipate long-term glitches.

  • Spring: Fiscal years begin in many states and countries. Calculations,
    projections, comparisons, date-sensitive estimates, will produce curious and
    sometimes disruptive results.

  • July: Six-month projections need to be intercepted.
    August: Global Positioning System (GPS) rolls over from week 1024 to week
    0001.

  • September 9th: The date 9/9/99 is historically used as a "shut down"
    signal. The AOK unit and operator will intercept such predictable glitches.

  • October 1st: Three-month projections go awry. Need to be adjusted.

  • October 1st: Federal government fiscal year 2000 starts. Government
    operators will put in many over-time hours trying to correct the anomalies.

  • November: AOK units and their operators will have been put through
    severe year long testing and are now ready for the Y2K onslaught.

  • December 2: Thirty-day projections, calculations, and comparisons are
    intercepted and repaired.

  • December 31st Midnight: Non-compliant hardware and/or software will hit
    00 in their calendar sequencing. Since dates can be expressed in negative
    numbers, e.g. 756 BC, in the western calendar, the AOK unit will reset the
    "odometer" to 1900. Computers and networks without Y2K remediation such as
    AOK, networks will come to a full stop.

    IF IT IS TO BE IT IS UP TO ME

    2000

  • January 1st, 2nd, 3rd: The "Great Computer Holiday." AOK operators will
    be on hand to intercept and repair glitches over the long weekend in
    preparation for the new work week, Jan. 4th. The government may extend this
    holiday, much as president Roosevelt closed the banks for five days in 1933.

  • February 29, Tuesday: (Leap Year). The AOK unit and operator
    prepares for this "extra day" which has not been anticipated by some
    software applications and embedded chips.

    FOR Y2K TESTING: To evaluate your programs, hardware, or networks, check out
    free patches available from your vendor on the Web.

    For (general) free Y2K testing:
    MAC www.adppro.com/macy2k.htm;

    PC's: www.survive-2000.com/eval.htm;

    www.schoolhs.demon.co.uk/date2000.htm;


    BIOS problems: www.RighTime.com;

    COBOL: www.doitnow.com/~commtec/down.html;

    IBM's FixPak for PC DOS 7.0: www.software.ibm.com

    FOR Y2K INFORMATION:

    www.year2000.com

    www.yardeni.com

    www.garynorth.com

    www.euyzk.com

    www.y2ktimebomb.com

    www.y2kwomen.com

    www.y2knet.com

    www.support2000.com

    www.jvim.com

    www.kkm.org

    For an explanation of how RTC's (Real Time Clock) and your operating
    system's (BIOS) clock work: www.//devita.com/y2k.html.

    For an overall helpful site: http://www.dwd.state.wi.us/y2k/smallbus.htm


  • Copyright © 1998 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-251-0720, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

    Jim Pickerell is founder of www.selling-stock.com, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  

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