Y2K: Millenium of a million headaches
I can assure you the Y2K problem is real. It will cause millions of problems in thousands of industries. There may be programmers hiding out in the woods somewhere but the majority of them are laughing all the way to the bank.
It seems the programmers of old may not have been short-sighted as they seem. The people who originally programmed the computers, mainly the mainframes, did so in languages now termed ancient. Programmers of COBOL, FORTRAN, and even a little PASCAL are now finding themselves the hottest commodity in the computer industry. They are commanding two to three times or more the pay that your top of the line C++ and Java programmers are. They come out of retirement and are instantly promoted to project manager status and get all of the frills that go with that job.
Before the government and doomsday announcers get all riled up, I think a few things should be set straight. The power companies (nuclear, boiling water, fossil fuels, solar, etc.) are not going to blow up if the Y2K problem is not resolved. The world will not shut down because every computer is not working right. Life will go on and the computers will be right there with us. However, many things that you are used to may cease to function. The student aid check you get from the government may not come anymore. The good grades you got in school may not be "in the system" anymore. There may not even be a "system"! Air traffic controllers may find planes disappearing off of the radar only to have them appear in the morning news in a ball of flame.
It is too late to catch every embedded system (all the microprocessors) and every CPU. There just isn't enough time and a lot of companies aren't acting like their business depends on it (it does!). The government has started working on it, but they are notorious for missing deadlines, and this time, the deadline is hard and fast approaching. The best thing right now is to continue the work on fixing the bug and to get more people working on contingency planning (what will happen when we don't get it all fixed). A good plan today is better than no plan tomorrow.
I work for a company that handles Y2K work for the nuclear power industry. I have seen and heard CEOs of Fortune 500 companies actually say, "The Y2K bug won't affect my company" and then wonder why the engineers were laughing. I have seen middle management say that they will "definitely fix all the Y2K issues and no contingency plan is required." I have also seen engineers and plant workers say, "There is no way we will ever fix all of this."
Yes, the Y2K bug is real. Yes, the Y2K bug will affect you. Yes, the Y2K bug will shut down parts of government and close many business. No, the Y2K bug will not signal the end of the computer age or the end of civilization. The dark ages are not returning. Chaos will not reign (any more than it does today). But if you see a lot of programmers disappearing from the face of the earth, you may want to head for the hills...
-Barry W. Colebank Jr.
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