Doomsayers fear Armegeddon in Y2K

Doomsayers fear all computers will crash in the year 2000. In other words, the start of Armageddon will be because of a computer glitch, not a meteorite. Bugs are a real fear and the biggest one of all is about to bite and allegedly cripple every computer system in operation in the coming year 2000. It’s called the millennium bug, also known as Y2K, and it’s causing unnecessary panic.
Computer programmers of the past designed systems to read the year only by its last two digits. So most computers today will read 1998 only as “98” and assume the “19” before it. Critics say they did this either out of negligence or expediency — to save programming code. When 99 turns into 00 at the turn of the century, all the computers programmed as such are expected to crash or regurgitate bad data. Everyone from phone companies to electric companies, air traffic control systems and ATMs will be affected. The fear is that programmers will not manage to rewrite the millions of new lines of code needed to solve the problem.
Some opportunistic developers — calling themselves “millennium survivalists” — are capitalizing on the Y2K scare by buying and selling tracts of land in preparation for the big crash. They believe by learning to live close to the land now, they will be best prepared for when techno-society completely breaks down. These doomsayers are expecting devastating power outages, corrupted billing statements, chaos in airplane schedules, voluminous litigation and even the failure of the emergency broadcast system. Even the embedded chips that are central to the function of non-computer products — watches, cell phones and refrigerators — are expected to malfunction.
Despite all these fears, work is being done. The Social Security Administration discovered the bug in its system a decade or so ago and now 90 percent of SSA’s computers are Y2K compliant. President Clinton appointed John A. Koskinen as the “Year 2000 czar.” The Security Industry Association is working on insuring that stocks will continue to trade. Banks cannot issue loans to any business that is not Y2K compliant under a March 17, 1998, rule imposed by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council. Also, the Group of Eight –the United States, Britain, Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Canada and Russia — agreed during a joint economic summit in May to spend at least $16 million collectively on efforts to squash the millennium bug.
Those individuals and companies who dismiss the Y2K problem as no big deal, or something they can deal with later, are just as extremist as the millennium survivalists and doomsayers. The problem is critical but does not justify panic. Nor should it be ignored. The thousands of computer programmers, analysts and data-entry workers who ingeniously put the global computer system into place can be trusted to just as ingeniously fix and repair any glitch that will arise. Call them the “bugbusters.” They will effectively destroy the millennium bug and all the warnings will seem like a bad Hollywood movie.