Abstract: A noted expert in computer software engineering presents the scope of the year 2000 computer problem, how it can affect various aspects of daily life, and constructs planning scenarios. A must-read!
Keywords: book review, current_events, year2000, survival, millennium bug, year 2000 date conversion, computer systems, Y2K, software crisis, software maintenance.
book cover
Title: Time Bomb 2000: What the Year 2000 Computer Crisis Means to You! Revised and Updated Edition
Author: Edward Yourdon, Jennifer Yourdon
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Date Published: November 1998
ISBN: 0130205192
LOCN: QA76.76.S64Y68 1998b
Dewey: 363.34/97 21
Pages: 627
Bibliography: 42
Footnotes: 232 entries
Figures: 10
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REVIEW by Orville R. Weyrich, Jr.

Preface to the Second Edition


The authors correctly point out that the track record of the computer industry is not very good at delivering programming projects on time and within budget, and that software maintenance activities have a tendency to unintentionally introduce unanticipated software bugs. Given the fact that the task of finding and addressing all Year-2000 problems involves review and patching of a large portion of all the computer code ever written, the magnitude of this effort is likely to stress the abilities of most organizations.

I note that a corollary of this is that we can expect an increase in computer program errors long before January 1, 2000, as programmers rush hastily patched software into production.

Chapter 1: Year-2000 Planning Overview

The authors introduce their framework for Risk Management:

The authors then summarize their view of what the risks are as follows:

Chapter 2: Y2000 Impact on Jobs

I have one nit to pick with the Yourdons. They say:

Since 1982, the correlation between government employment tax receipts and the unemployment rate has been -0.64 -- suggesting that if the unemployment rate were to double [i.e. from 4% to 8%], the government should expect roughly 60% less in employment tax [receipts].

Such an extrapolation seems unwise -- it suggests that if the unemployment rate were to rise to 16%, then the government would collect no taxes from the remaining 84% of the workers. I suspect that the problem with the Yourdon's analysis lies in the fact that in the time-period they mention, most of the unemployment increases were due to corporate down-sizing of mid-level managers [who pay substantially more than average in taxes]. It is not at all clear that the demographics of those affected by a Year-2000 glitch would be comparable.

Chapter 3: Y2000 Impact on Utilities

See also Rick Cowle's book, Electric Utilities and Y2K. Rick makes the point that errors in the billing software is not likely to lead to everyones lights being turned off for delinquent bills dating back to 1900, because turning off the power is a manual operation, and the dispatchers or field personnel would raise a red flag if they were suddenly deluged with cut-off orders for entire neighborhoods. There are, however, serious issues facing the Electric Power industry, and I look for brown-outs and power rationing due especially to nuclear power generating facilities being taken off-line due to safety considerations.

Chapter 4: Y2000 Impact on Transportation

To my knowledge, no automobile manufacturer has yet publicly announced that the embedded computers in late-model automobiles are Year-2000 compliant. Maybe this is posturing by lawyers (if you make no promise, you can't be sued for breaking said promise), maybe there is a serious problem they are grappling with, or maybe everything is just fine, and they are silent only because nobody has made an issue of the question. My personal Year-2000 pro-active planning includes keeping my 1978 Volare in service until after January 1, 2000, and then assessing the situation.

Chapter 5: Y2000 Impact on Banking/Finance

Don't wait until New Year's Eve to get some cash from the ATM -- there is likely to be a run on cash as people panic at the last minute. The stock market may well "get the flu," but this last issue is very sensitive to people's perception of the severity of the Year-2000 problem, as well as real technical issues. Expect a strong effort on the part of politicians and the financial community to "Jaw-bone" away any perceived weaknesses, and take such pronouncements with a grain of salt.

Chapter 6: Y2000 Impact on Food

Our centralized production and distribution methods might be severely strained by failures in transportation.

Chapter 7: Y2000 Impact on Your Home PC

It depends on what software your PC uses, but I expect to be OK with a simple reboot of my computers and setting of the date [my accounting system is manual and my only date-sensitive software is expected to be replaced before the Year 2000 simply because of obsolescence.] A large proportion of the PC's will need AT LEAST this level of attention. Because I suspect power brown-outs and other irregularities, I will be turning off my PC's before midnight anyway. If your computer must be powered on and doing something during the midnight passage from 1999 into 2000 [as might a hospital's computer], then your hardware and software probably require considerably greater scrutiny.

Chapter 8: Y2000 Impact on News Information

Chapter 9: Y2000 Impact on Health/Medicine

Chapter 10: Y2000 Impact on Government

Chapter 11: Y2000 Impact on Embedded Systems

Chapter 12: Y2000 Impact on Education

Chapter 13: Y2000 Impact on Telephone and Mail Services

Chapter 14: Y2000 Impact on the Rest of the World

Chapter 15: Conclusion

Appendix A: What the Y2000 Problem Is All About

The technical details about why the Year-2000 problem exists.

Appendix B: The Ripple Effect of the Year-2000 Phenomenon

Also known as "The Domino Effect" -- failure of one category of industry can cripple both those who sell to that industry, as well as those who buy from that industry.

Appendix C: Additional Sources of Information


Author:        Yourdon, Edward.
Title:         Time bomb 2000 : what the year 2000 computer
                  crisis means to you! / by Edward Yourdon and Jennifer
Edition:       2nd ed.
Published:     Upper Saddler River, NJ : Prentice Hall, 1998.
Description:   p. cm.
LC Call No.:   QA76.76.S64Y68 1998b
Dewey No.:     363.34/97 21
ISBN:          0130205192
Notes:         Includes bibliographical references.
Subjects:      Year 2000 date conversion (Computer systems)
Other authors: Yourdon, Jennifer.
Control No.:   98055447 


I have taken this program and I highly recommend it to all health-care providers - Orville R. Weyrich, Jr PhD NMD.
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Copyright © 1998     Orville R. Weyrich, Jr.