editor's desk - The Year 2000: Is the Sky Falling?

In one form or another, I have been covering the IT market since 1989. It’s taken a while, but I am finally getting good at measuring the pendulum swings of technology and the implications for businesses. At least I thought I was.

The latest conundrum is trying to predict what the world will be like in the days following December 31, 1999. Will there be global chaos or business as usual? I waver between both possibilities, sometimes in a single train of thought.

On one hand, I have complete faith that when money is involved, things have a way of getting fixed. However, I don’t think many organizations will achieve total compliance. Most will fix their most critical systems, cross their fingers and hope for the best with everything else. It’s not a pretty strategy, but it will mitigate the risks.

Too much is at stake for companies and governments to just sit this one out and let the sky really fall on Chicken Little’s head. Governments and businesses worldwide will spend an estimated $500 billion in an attempt to fix the Year 2000. So, despite the politicians, at least some of that money will be put to productive use. Unfortunately, lawyers see Year 2000 litigation as a $1 trillion windfall. Which brings me to the other hand -- there are only 71 weekends (17 months) before “Judgement Day.”

Knowing how IT projects spiral out of control and deadlines slip, it appears that the year 2000 is moving somewhat faster than the remediation efforts.

It may be too late to complete all the mission critical projects. Granted, the U.S. is ahead of the rest of the world in its Year 2000 effort, but even here companies – both large and small – are displaying a remarkable lack of urgency. And until recently, our own federal government has shown a lack of leadership. As a result, it is estimated that over a third of the critical systems used by federal agencies will not be Year 2000 compliant in time.

The real problem with the Year 2000 lies in the fact that not every line of code or embedded chip is vulnerable. Yet, since it is difficult to tell which are and which aren’t, every line of code and every embedded chip must be treated as guilty until proven innocent. The same holds true for our suppliers and customers.

Even if our software and embedded controllers are Year 2000 compliant, no company or country is an island. We are all dependent of the success of those businesses and government organizations around us. As long as we are working toward a solution, we are not part of the problem.

While some businesses will fail, those that survive may actually thrive as a result of turning the Year 2000 crisis into an opportunity to clean their IT houses and make technology finally deliver on its promises.


In an effort to better organize our coverage of the Year 2000, MIDRANGE Systems is adding a new department to focus solely on this crisis. The new department makes its debut in this issue on page 36 with Warren S. Reid’s intriguing comparison of 1912’s Titanic disaster with today’s “millennium” crisis.