Millennium Madness . . . The Countdown Begins
By Robert Ross



Twenty percent of all businesses close down, the stock market crashes, banks go belly up, transportation links are halted, airlines crash, a world in chaos . . . or so the recent rash of radio ads and books would have us believe. After all, it's the dreaded Y2K! And we're only months away.

We are in the final countdown to "Y2K." Officially, Y2K begins at one second after twelve midnight, December 31, 1999. For those of you who have managed to tune out all forms of the mainstream media "Y2K" is an acronym for the "year 2,000." The Y2K theory goes something like this. The world has become so dependent on computers ‹ a phenomena that began in earnest in the 70's and early 80's - that when the year two thousand rolls around many of the older computers will not have been programed to make the date change from 1999 to 2,000.

The "Y2K" dilemma stems from the use of a two-digit field to represent the year in computer software. For example 99=1999. Software that was created with this practice may be unable to properly address dates after 1999. For those computers and software programs "00" would represent 1900 not 2,000 (Mac users will not be affected by the Y2K computer problem). As a result of this programming glitch the alarmists say, there will be computer crashes galore. Computer crashes translate into . . . you guessed it, stock market crashes, transportation gridlock and economic paralysis.

You may be saying, "Hey, wait a minute, I mean really, everybody knows about Y2K. In fact this Y2K pandemonium talk has been on the cocktail circuit as a 'sure to get a rise' topic for discussion for a couple of years now. Congress even held hearings on the subject in 1996. It's all hype. Just an attempt to sell books, . . . a bunch of doomsday hooey."

Hype? Hooey? Maybe, but . . . erring on the side of caution, let's just say most of the doomsday scenarios are hype. But, there is an element of truth to some of the Y2K concerns.

I think it's safe to say that all of the major banks, airlines, hospitals and government agencies in the U.S. have been immunized against the problems associated with Y2K. It's also safe to say that all of the international banking links and military defense links have also dealt with this potential problem. Still, having said that, I am sure that some small businesses are going to be in state of confusion when they boot up their computers the first work day of the year 2,000. What to do?

I guess it's a bit ironic, but if you want to get the lowdown on the Y2K computer problems, your best bet is to, (yeah, I hate to say it) go to your computer. Not only will you be able to test whether or not your computer can handle the date change, but (if you're connected to the Internet) you'll be able to educate yourself on the ins and outs of the Y2K phenomena.

The first place you'll want to visit is . was put together by a group of technology attorneys after the Y2K congressional hearings in 1996. Initially the site discussed legal problems associated with Y2K but has gone on to be a portal for all aspects of Y2K. The site discusses problems and solutions to the Y2K dilemma and has links to topics ranging from Legal and Management, News and Events, Technical and Diagnostic, Consumers and Small Business, and it even has a link to spiritual sites where "loftier" Y2K questions are addressed.

If that site doesn't answer your questions or lead you to a page that will, you might want to visit the U.S. government's web page on Y2K at: ( ) or Microsoft's Y2K web page ( ). Between these three sites you should have a firm understanding of what you need to do in order to avoid any problems with your computer system. There are also a number of freeware and shareware programs available on the Internet that you can download for free that will allow you to test your own computer to see if it will stand up to the year 2,000 date change. To locate the free software, do a search for "Y2K testing software."

Y2K is going to catch some people off guard, but if you do your homework, backup your important computer files, save your December 1999 financial statements (just in case), when January 1, 2,000 rolls around you'll be wishing those around you a happy and prosperous Y2K!

Robert Ross is a San Diego-based writer and can be reached by e-mail at   

Copyright 1998 by Robert Ross, all rights reserved

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