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Summary and Comments

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1998-02-28 15:15:40


Y2K Repair Problem Described by an Engineer



This description of the problem is concise and professional. It was written by an electrical engineer, Mark Haselkorn, a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and a professor of technical communication at the University of Washington. He has been appointed by the National Science Foundation to coordinate the foundation's external efforts to address year 2000 problems.

In that position, Haselkorn will lead an effort to study the extent to which NSF-funded researchers are prepared to deal with the Y2K problem and help those researchers develop strategies to tackle potential problems.

Problem: this is very, very late in the process to be writing position papers and developing strategies.

Anyone who shrugs off y2k as a minor problem has not studied the problem. This man has.

* * * * * * * *

A significant percentage of the world's information system infrastructure is in jeopardy of failing or operating in an unpredictable manner on or around January 1, 2000. While the central element of this danger is the two digit representation of the calendar year, there are numerous interrelated causes that contribute to the magnitude of this problem and the difficulty of solving it. These include:

(1) the enormous size of the problem

(2) the misunderstanding and insufficient status of maintenance activities

(3) the difficulty in locating all affected year indicators

(4) the complexity of interconnections and interdependencies between and among software and data

(5) the unavailability of some source code

(6) the diversity of systems that share data

(7) the difficulties in analyzing embedded systems

(8) the difficulties of integration testing

(9) the existence of a relatively short, immovable deadline

(10) the immense project management and staffing challenge

(11) the lack of standards for system development and evolution

The Year 2000 problem is only one manifestation of a general class of problems related to the evolution of large complex systems (Appendix M). Successful remediation of the Year 2000 situation will need to account for the above issues, particularly the non-linear and interdependent aspects of the problem. At this time it is difficult to predict what can or will be fixed in time and what will be the consequences of incomplete or unsuccessful remediation. Impacts will vary across organizations and institutions, and there will be uncertainty going into January 2000.


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