Karl Feilder's June, 1997, estimate is about 300,000,000 PC's in use today. The Gartner Group is estimating repair costs of $15 to $700 per machine, not counting upgrades from 486 to pentium. This is a lot of money. Will every PC user pay it? No.
Well, so what? Are all the old units -- 286 machines and 386's -- used only for word processing? Or are they important for small businesses? (Even more frightening, are they used to feed data into mainframes?)
Here is a June 3, 1997, posting on the matter.
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From: email@example.com Date: Tue, 3 Jun 1997 05:58:30 -0700 Subject: Re: Announcement: PC: Size of the potential PC problem
I know of large numbers of 286 and 386 machines being used to run spreadsheets, accounting, and payroll applications. Nearly all of these are in use in small businesses. The software hasn't been updated in years because it works and they don't want to spend the money to upgrade because it will require upgrading the hardware too. Date-based calculations are common.
386s are in heavy use in schools, many donated by government agencies. DOE Hanford, for example, has donated several thousand 386s to school districts across the pacific nw in the last few years. Having tested the three different models that were in heaviest use at Hanford for Y2k compliance, I found that two of the three crashed and would not reboot until the date was returned to the 199x date. The third crashed but could reboot; it still would not run with a 2000 date. These machines are running spreadsheets, cad/cam, accounting, student accounting, etc. Even if the software is upgraded to Y2k compliant versions, the basic machines will have to be replaced.
Large installations where thousands of PCs are online still have considerable numbers of 386s. Assuming an active upgrade program of replacing 20% a year, some 386s may remain. Depending on manufacturer, these machines WILL catastrophically fail on 1/1/2000.