In 1940, 10,000 Japanese troops invaded Singapore on bicycles. Nothing to worry about, said the British press on Singapore.
Those of you who have seen the magnificent film, "Paradise Road," remember how the movie begins with a dance in a Singapore pavilion. They danced as the Japanese advanced. Then the bombs began to fall.
The men could have sent their wives and children to safety. They refused, or their wives refused to go. "No big problem."
Denial is a powerful force. Even when lives are at stake, denial flourishes until the moment that reality creashes in.
This is from the AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW (April 20).
* * * * * * * * *
Last year I was asked to give a couple of talks on Y2K.
By coincidence, at the time I was preparing my material I was reading a book about the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in World War II. I was struck by the similarities between the mindset of the British garrison on Singapore and the IT industry today.
The British were quite aware that the Japanese, on 10,000 bicycles, were pouring down through the jungles of the Malayan Peninsula. They were quite aware Singapore was barely defended from the north, across the Straits of Johore. But they did nothing.
The sheer size of the catastrophe that was about to befall them was beyond their capacity to think about rationally. Even when the Japanese were streaming across the causeway they were holding garden parties in Government House and refusing to tell the populace about what was happening for fear of lowering morale.
We all know what happened next. Now it is happening to the IT industry. People know what is happening, but they have reacted far too late. The problems are already with us. Take out your wallet and have a look at your credit cards. Most of them used to last three years, but few in existence today expire beyond December 1999, because the software hasn't been written.
Research by my company and others shows almost half of all IT systems will not have been converted on time. Some people are only just starting, with about 90 weeks to go. Few IT projects finish on time, but this one cannot run late.
Many organisations will be overwhelmed by the Y2K problem. And they know they will be but they have done nothing about it. It's all too big and too widespread, and too inevitable; best to do nothing and hope it's all a horrible dream.
Except it isn't, of course. Whatever happens at the stroke of midnight at the end of next year, no-one will be able to offer the excuse they weren't warned.