This analysis by a former mainframe programmer appeared in the Calvinistic magazine, CREDENDA AGENDA (Feb. 1998). The author says that the y2k threat is real, widespread, and possibly dangerous. As for what it will do, he says it's hard to know. Then he says that God is in control.
I, too, am a Calvinist. I, too, believe that God is in control. But this man's analysis reminds me of a physician who diagnoses his patient and tells him "You have a problem." The patient asks: "How big a problem?" The physician replies, "It's hard to say." The patient asks: "What should I do?" The physician answers: "That depends." "Depends on what?" "On how serious the problem is." "How serious is it?" "It's hard to say." "Am I in danger of dying?" "Maybe." "Will I live?" "Maybe." "Doctor, what exactly are you telling me?" To which the physician then quotes our programmer verbatim:
"It is enough to know that God sovereignly orchestrates all things according to His plan. Whatever the outcome, it must be acknowledged that Christ has been granted all authority in heaven and on earth and will 'reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet' (1 Cor. 15:25)."
To which I answer: "That, plus $49.95, will buy you a used two-volume copy of Battles's edition of Calvin's INSTITUTES."
This programmer's analysis of the technical program is today almost universal. We're told that y2k is indeed a problem. But they don't want to say just how big or what kinds of contingency plans -- institutional and personal -- are called for. They prefer to remain unspecific. I don't blame them. But this lack of specificity is what keeps people complacent. "If it were a really big problem, the experts would tell us." Well, the experts aren't telling us.
By the time they do, it will be too late to take effective action.
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Many of us who were employed programming mainframe computers decades ago were instructed to code date variables with 2-digit years. Dates such as July 4, 1976 were coded 04-07-76 and not 04-07-1976. Why? Because the cost of disk space was formidable back then. Since every personnel action or financial transaction had one or more dates associated with it, a large amount of money could be saved by reducing year codes from 4 digits to 2, so 1976 was merely represented by a 76. We all knew that this would cause a problem as the year 2000 approached, but almost nobody anticipated that the computer systems we were developing would still be around 20 or 30 years later. Besides, the money saved in reduced database storage seemed well worth it at the time. . . .
How widespread is this problem? The Y2K problem, to the extent it is embedded in legacy software, affects every time-related calculation: retirement, pensions, interest calculations, payments, etc. The problem is most serious in mainframe software systems, but to varying degrees other technologies may be affected. Systems that could malfunction include air traffic control, ATMs, banking, card entry, cars, credit cards, electric utilities, elevators, engines, factories, government checks, heating/cooling, insurance policies, medical equipment, office buildings, phone systems, safes, scales, security systems, sprinkler systems, thermostats, timers, and traffic lights. . . .
What does it take to fix the Year 2000 problem? Unfortunately there are no quick fixes. Some software utilities are on the market to expedite the repair job, but the only real solution is to go through computer programs one line at a time. . . .
Who is most vulnerable? Companies and organizations that depend on old mainframe software, most notably banks, insurance companies, and particularly the government. This is where the conspiracy theorists have a heyday: What happens if the banks close? A ripple in the fractional banking system could bring the whole house of cards down in a short period of time. And would you really want to be in the midst of a major metropolitan area when thousands of individuals suddenly fail to receive their welfare checks? or their social security checks? or their government pensions? Such considerations have some literally moving to the country.
Despite all the speculation, it's hard to predict what the Year 2000 shakeout will bring. It is enough to know that God sovereignly orchestrates all things according to His plan. Whatever the outcome, it must be acknowledged that Christ has been granted all authority in heaven and on earth and will "reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet" (1 Cor. 15:25).