#18 - Time Bomb 2000 - Book Review
This article I doing is going to be a different style one, but yet related to the previous articles I have written. I am going to do a technical review of the Book "Time Bomb 2000: What the Year 2000 Computer Crisis Means to You!" by Edward Yourdon and Jennifer Yourdon.
The book takes a very good look at the Y2K problem and what it means to the person on the street. It approaches it with the scenario that there are four different scenarios that could occur. The first is that there will be scattered two-day problems, the second is there could be a one-month problem, the third that there could be a one-year problem and the last that there could be a ten-year problem. In each case they suggest solutions based on whether you are inclined to believe which scenario depending on the area of society they are looking at Y2K impacting. Personally I expect it to fall mostly in the 2 day problem, with scattered problem of one month, just like a major weather storm, normally one-two days, but it could impact up to a month in worse cases, such as Hurricane Andrew (although I also realize in something like that, everything was not fixed in a month or year, but basically society was operating as normal in a month or two). Also my projections do not apply outside the US as there are parts of the world the Y2K problem will never affect (isolated tribes in Asia, Africa and South America) and parts that I doubt will be ready for Y2K and will have major problems (former Eastern block nations and parts of Asia and South America). I very much like their approach and most of the time agree with them.
Ed Yourdon is a distinguished author in the computer field from over the years. Jennifer Yourdon works for an investment bank in New York City. They bring a strong and varied background to this book. I would strongly recommend you go out and read this book. It has been out over a year now and is just as reliable today as when it came out. There is a second edition coming out this month that I have not seen. The book is very readable, and I think a non-computer expert would be able to read and follow the book fine.
Appendix A gives a very good overview of the problem for those who do not understand what the Y2K problem is.
Now for the rest of the review. Although I overall agree with the book, there were a number of places I had some problems with them. The following will list these places. Although there are a number of items, please remember this is on a book of 404 pages and there are actually a couple of chapters I had no disagreements with. This will be a technical review, so you will need to see the book to see the problem I had in many cases. I will be referring to page and paragraph numbers. Needless to say my copy is very dog-eared.
Page xiv paragraph 2. "...but the machine gobbles up your bank card". How did the ATM gobble up the bankcard when the scenario has already established no electricity anywhere?
Page 1 paragraph 2. States there are not enough programmers available. I would say the shortage is much less than the computer industry builds it to be. Graduates of technical institutes in small towns with computer programming training have to hunt to find a job. I do not find recruiters trying to get these people. Also my experience is that the tons of empty $100K + jobs do not exist like the publicity claims.
Page 2 paragraph 2. Y2K is better than a hurricane or earthquake. With them we never know when or how hard they will hit. We know Y2K will hit when 1/1/200 occurs or anything that references a date after 12/31/1999.
Page 2 paragraph 3. It took Congress over a month to provide loan funds, but relief efforts were underway long before then.
Page 6 paragraph 1. Reminder the FDIC insures to $100,000 on your money in a bank. If your money is not in an insured financial institution, get it in one. If the FDIC were unable to pay off, (backed by the full faith and credit of the US government) then even if you had withdrawn your money it would be worthless unless you had it in gold. Tried to use a Confederate dollar lately?
Page 7 paragraph 2. Suggests you go to your basement if a hurricane is hitting. Not smart in a hurricane unless drowning is your preferred method of death. However if a tornado is approaching, go to the basement.
Page 8 paragraph 2. Insurance companies hit the Y2K problem two years ago with three-year commercial policies and have already past the Y2K day on most other policies now that we are in 1999. They could have minor glitches still. However not all insurance companies have corrected their problems yet. The ones I expect to possibly to still have problems are the specialized ones who issue only short-term policies.
Page 9 paragraph 2. Suggested taking money out of stocks in late 1997. Of course you would have missed the 16% gins in 1998. As it says in the book, stocks always have risk, and someone always makes money whether the market is bull or bear, and vice versa.
Page 13 paragraph 2 States WWII was fought with out computers. This is wrong. WWII was primary reason for early invention and development of computers.
Page 18 paragraph 2. Comments on the fall of USSR. The political system fell, but the economic system did not. They have been redoing the economic system to a capitalist one, but it is still socialistic and the ruble is still the currency.
Page 19 paragraph 1. Predicts 5-7% of US businesses will go bankrupt from Y2K. My question is what percentage normally go bankrupt in a year, and even how many go because of other computer glitches. Remember only a small percentage of businesses last 5 years.
Page 25 paragraph 2. States 11% of all households had a zero or negative net worth. I was surprised not higher with borrowing for houses and vehicles.
Page 30 paragraph 1. But this is why we have been told we have had a deficit for most of last 30 years. Increased spending when revenues were down to spend our way out of recessions.
Page 42 paragraph 2. To correct the damage use their backup tapes, produced by the backup you are urged to do regularly, and required by auditors and the FDIC. If you have a computer make sure you have backups done the last week of 1999. Of course you need to be doing them now also.
Page 45 paragraph 3. Credit cards had to fix many of their Y2K problems already. By late 1998 they had expiration dates in 2000 and beyond working relatively fine.
Page 46 paragraph 2. Suggestion of putting money under mattress. I would suggest the risk of being robbed or the house burning and losing it all is greater than leaving it in a government insured bank account.
Page 50 paragraph 1. Shortage of 300,000 professionals. See my previous note on this.
Page 62. Report on July 3 1996 power outage showing how grid will wipe out many more. Three 500Kvolt lines broke that supply up to 2.2 million homes, but yet they report only 1.2 million people lost power. Appears to me that the grid worked.
Page 64 paragraph 2. Agree with the consultant on this.
Page 89 paragraph 1. How many cars use dates in them? Mechanics tell me they have never put a date in a car.
Page 89 paragraph 2. Suggests having mechanic put a service date of several years ago in. See previous. Also if it really does use time to decide when you need to do service, all this does is say do service now when you leave garage.
Page 100 paragraph 3. Talks about car giving incorrect exterior temperature reading. Most cars do not have this feature. Means if you have cheaper and older car, then you are probably better off.
Page 129 paragraph 1. When the FDIC and FSLIC ran short of money in the 1980s the Congress and Federal Reserve provided the additional reserves.
Page 133 paragraph 1. States primary source of funds for a Savings and Loan is checking accounts. This is not the primary source of funds for any financial institution and is a very liquid account that they must keep most or all in reserves. Also only recently did S&Ls start offering checking accounts. Savings accounts are S&Ls primary means of money to lend.
Page 134 paragraph 2. States Ohio S&Ls were closed for nearly a year in 1985. I do not remember them being closed for more than a few days but I am unable to find any information backing my claim or Yourdon's claim.
Page 143 paragraph 2. Expiration dates on credit cards has been fixed.
Page 143 paragraph 4. Debit cards are much more popular in the US now that they have been connected with VISA and MasterCard and most people know them as their ATM card.
Page 151 paragraph 1. What evidence do they want? This is not to say it has not occurred, but what is the evidence you and I need to know bank has fixed the problem?
Page 152 paragraph 1. There is federal insurance on stocks held for us. However I would urge you to keep printed copies at end of 1999 showing name and number of stocks held.
Page 154 paragraph 2. Federal Reserve and FDIC are already having notices sent to account holders. Problem is the banks need to also tell us what they have done.
Page 159 paragraph 4. Next time you are in the bank. Notice the FDIC sign says it is backed by the full faith and credit of the US government.
Page 192 paragraph 3. Of course Microsoft always says with minor compliance issues. Of course Microsoft Office and other products have numerous different dates they will go bad after 2000, but no one is worried about that now or the 2038 problem.
Page 205 number 5. You can still use the DOS date function in Windows. And hard is it to tell someone to go to the DOS prompt, type date and enter the correct date. Happens regularly. Battery dies and you have to set it there or at initial startup setup. Besides it can be done in Windows 95 at Time/Date under the Control Panel.
Page 206 number 7. The 2038 problem also impacts all C programs and a lot of stuff on the Internet. Look at Eudora's response on the Internet about the Y2K problem.
Page 248 paragraph 1. December 1998, President Clinton announce the SSA Y2K project was successful and all SSA products would be fine. (SSA is the Social Security Administration)
Page 289 paragraph 1. Test your VCR the same way as your PC. I did and mine is ok.
Page 351 paragraph 3. Should be 990000.
Page 351 paragraph 2. The result was -990000. See 2nd item in list in book of what could happen.
Page 361 paragraph 1. The number overlaying the address should not happen unless the person only was told about certain fields and decided in her/his section to change length while reducing other field. If this was to occur, it was very poor programming and similar to the person deciding to drive through downtown at noon at 100 miles per hour. It is an accident waiting to happen.
Page 372 paragraph 2. Windowing. Warning this is the approach that Microsoft has used in Office 97 and other products.
Page 374 paragraph 3. My experience with the Gartner Group is that they estimates costs real high. Their cost estimates of having a PC in a business is well over $10,000 per year to operate it. They use high end PCs, while small businesses buy low end PCs, and then include salary of the user but fail to include if the employee is now doing more than before, in which case salary is negative cost. I always read their estimates with a grain of salt.
Page 376 paragraph 2. True that there are programs out there written in languages that no longer exist, but they are rare. More likely the old program will compile on the newer version of the compilers with minor modifications. I converted a major system in COBOL from a Burroughs 1900 to an IBM RS/6000 and most changes were that it had been written in screens in early 80s before standards on screens developed in COBOL. It will take some time, but entry level programmers can do it. I used my students, some who did not know COBOL to help me with my project.
Page 379 paragraph. Actually many organizations are also fixing the Euro problem at the same time as the Y2K problems.
Page 380 paragraph 2. You should develop and test all new programs with the new database using some real data. Then one weekend you do the conversion. It is not a simple task though.
Page 380 paragraph 3. Most often reason for budget and time overrun is the requirement keep changing. When people see what can be done they want and demand more.
Page 381 paragraph 2. Brooks Law occurs because more see more things that can be done and keeping adding to the project. Also they see simpler way to do things already one.
Page 382 paragraph 1. By inference to the earlier estimate of 1.57 billion function points in the US, there must be only 3000 firms with code and with a shortage of 300,000 professionals, that is 100 per firm.
Page 385 number 1. Notice that neither of the two dates (999999 and 888888) are ever a real date.
In conclusion I highly recommend the book for an understanding of the Y2K problem and the effects it may have on society and possible ways you and I can prepare for it. Although the above looks like a lot of problems with the book, it really isn't. I was not picking on paragraph two either. It is just that on most pages in the book there were 2-3 paragraphs. The book is published by Prentice-Hall.
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