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Summary and Comments

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1998-04-07 21:33:12


When the Programmers Flee, Y2K Repairs Will Cease



The programmers want to believe that they can save the system. It is an article of faith with them. "We created this mess; we can solve it."

They can't solve it. It's a systemic problem. But they like to believe they can.

One overwhelming problem faces them: if they don't get paid, they can't solve it. They'll leave the big cities to protect their families. A bank run is the brick wall that demolishes the myth of the omnipotence and omniscience of programmers.

Ed Yourdon raised the departure issue in the summer of 1997. He has now left New York City for rural New Mexico. He is wise. He is also an affront to those who, for the moment, are staying behind in comfortable urban environments.

William Ulrich takes the familiar approach of blaming the inevitable breakdown on those who flee. If it just weren't for all those fleeing programmers, this could be solved.

He shamelessly invokes that effective pejorative word, "compound." You know: as in Waco. Programmers will be fleeing into compounds. They are the cause! They are the evil-doers! If it weren't for them, all this could be solved! If they should decide to flee, "The alarmists essentially would have created the problem they intended to flee."

In Asia, Africa, Europe, South America -- where 80% of the world's code is -- it can all be solved if American programmers just stay on the job in large cities.

And if the COBOL fairy shows up on time.

Programmers can sit in their urban splendor in 1998, hurling epithets at a handful of their peers who have decided to protect their families. But, one by one, they'll quit when the checks stop coming. When the bank runs begin in 1999, the programmers will depart for greener pastures. That's why it's naive to believe that y2k will be fixed.

He ends his diatribe with this: "Say no to safe havens." If ever there was a nonsensical battle cry, this is it.

I reply: "Say no to fruitless suicide missions in a lost war." Y2K is a systemic problem. It cannot be solved. Why stay on the deck of a sinking ship if you can get off? Why volunteer for a kamikaze squadron if the A-bomb is clearly on its way?

Courageous sounding, suicidal talk is cheap now. It will be expensive in late 1999. Economics tells us that as the cost rises, less of it will be demanded.

This appeared in COMPUTERWORLD (April 6).

* * * * * * * *

As the century draws to a close, the time will come for many of us to either run and hide or to take a stand and help our communities. What am I talking about? For those of you who haven't been tuned in to various year 2000 discussions lately, there are several IT professionals who have decided to escape and establish year 2000 "safe havens."

Their plans include creating environments that are immune from the disasters they say will plague us as computers begin to fail near the end of this century. I question the rationale, on the one hand, and the self-centered attitude, on the other, of such a move.

Safe havens are self-contained, emergency-equipped compounds that have been paid for in cash to avoid mortgage foreclosures should a year 2000 problem result in banking failures. The compounds apparently will have their own water supplies, power sources and ability to grow food. They are typically located in warm climates so that extended power outages have little impact on the lifestyle.

The situation being created by the safe-haven alarmists is disconcerting on several fronts. . . .

Clearing out bank accounts and food stores might become commonplace. The alarmists essentially would have created the problem they intended to flee. . . .

Say no to safe havens.


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