The Coastal Post - June, 1998

Year 2,000 Bug-Boom or Bust

By Jim Fox, www.cyberthings.com

It's now less than 19 months to the year 2,000. There is a big possibility that economic and social chaos will emerge on a global scale on that date, because many of the world's computers will not be able to handle that date. By now you have probably heard of the Year 2,000 bug, also known as the Y2K bug. The Y2K bug has to do with computers not reconising properly the year 2,000. It's like your checks. Where you write in the date on a check looks like this:

_________, 19__.

You can't write a check for Y2K, your check only works up until 1999, likewise computers. It takes more computer memory to store the four digits 1999 than just the two digits 99. This was important 20 years ago when computer memory cost $200,000 a MegaByte. Now memory costs $5 a magabyte and there is plenty of room to store the extra 19. You would expect a computer you just bought to be able to handle this seemingly benign problem. You would be amazed as to what doesn't work, and that is only the tip of the iceburg. The laptop computer I am using right now, which is only 4 years old, blows up when the date hits 2,000.

Out of curiousity last night I set the computer clock in my laptop to "12/31/99, 11:59 PM" and let it run for one minute to see what date it would turn over to at midnight. It changed to 1/4/80!! Thank you Microsoft. This will force me to buy a new laptop in 19 months if I want my computer to at least be as smart as a wristwatch. Quicken, the most popular computer program in the world for personal finance (balancing checkbooks, paying bills, etc...), just last October, became Y2K compliant. That means there are close to 50 million copies of Quicken that will have to be upgraded to work in that year. Quicken makes $50 for the upgrade. They've had plenty of time to make the Y2K fix, and they waited to the last minute, but 50 million times $50 is $2.5 billion dollars.

To them definetely worth the wait. The longer they waited the more upgrades they could sell. This is the basis of a class action suit now in court against Quicken. Also the majority of small businesses use Quicken for bill paying. Will your bank cash a check that is dated 1/1/1900? The check will be older than the bank that issued it is.

In the past couple of days I was amused to read in the papers that the State of California has declared all their major computers to be Y2K compliant, and Wells Fargo Bank says it's getting real close. Do you believe them? That's the $100 trillion dollar question.

As Y2K gets closer and closer your are going to hear more and more about it. Even if all the computer bugs get fixed, there will be economic panic. People will not take chances and pull money out of their banks and stocks and invest in more tangible items. Now is a good time to buy gold. Why would you worry? Well say you just made a deposit, in 1998, now when Y2K comes, and the bank's computers think it's 1900, their computer might think that you haven't made the deposit yet. In fact it thinks you won't make the deposit for another 98 years. All of a sudden your money is gone. Now it's up to you to prove it was there. Many people are not going to take the chance, and pull their money while they can. This transfer of funds will have a major ripple effect on the economy, more like a tidal wave. The 90's boom will come to an abrupt halt, but it should not be the end of the world, or will it?

It's not the computers on Wall Street that will cause the ultimate problems. They are relatively easily, eventually can be fixed. It's the tiny computers in your cash register, car, pacemaker, nuclear power plant that will cause the problems. Why? Because those tiny computer's programs can't be changed. Why can't they? Because the computer program is burnt into the product when it is made. It would seem like the date wouldn't matter on these devices, but often they do. It definetely matters on a cash register. I don't think the IRS will accept a receipt dated 1900. It would also matter in a computer that controls a valve in a nuclear power plant, if that computer does a self test every month, that then failes on Y2K and decides to shut itself down. It would only take one computer failure in a power plant controlled by 1,000's of computers to cause lots of chaos. Rumor is that all nuclear power plants are going to be shut down in Dec '99 and slowly be brought back up. This may work all right here in the USA; but in France where 80% of their power is nuclear generated, it would make a difference. They don't have much choice but to take a chance in France, and pray in French that they don't have a melt-down. French toast could take on a new meaning. In Russia it's even worse and they don't have the money to invest to become Y2K compliant.

There are many doomsayers that are already building fortresses in the hills, bunkering down, preparing for the Y2K apocolypse. At Heritage Farms in South Dakota they are building a a self sufficiant community solely for the purpose of surviving Y2K. You can buy a plot of land at Heritage Farms for $34,000. You can go to their WEB site at http://www.heritagefarms2000.com or you can go to http://www.year2000.com for everything you wanted or didn't want to know about Y2K. You should check these WEB sites out now, because who knows, come Y2K the Internet might crash and it will be too late. While you're on the Internet don't forget to visit us at https://www.coastalpost.com For 3 years we have been diligently posting every issue of The Post to the net. All there for your viewing enjoyment. Plus the Coastalpost Online contains many articles that do not make it to the paper and ink version. We only have so much space on the printed version. In cyberspace there is always plenty of room for everything, including you. So come on down! And don't worry too much. From what I've heard, in the Y2K you will still be able to have sex. Though the legality of doing so with a person the computer thinks hasn't even been born yet, may get you in trouble. Hopefully we will be around to find out.

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