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1997-12-02 15:06:21


Programmer Warns of Disaster, Calls on Others to Get This Fixed


David Hall is a y2k programmer. His fear is that there is not enough being done to solve the embedded chips problem, and time is running out. This problem, he believes, threatens everything. As he puts it,


I agree with his assessment. I agree so much that I have just ordered a 10kw electrical power generator that operates on natural gas. I have also bought a property with its own natural gas well.

I agree with this so much that if I thought the Federal government could fix the problem, I'd recommend a tax hike to pay for it. I don't say such things often.

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Date: Mon, 01 Dec 1997 11:38:54 -0600 From: "David C. Hall" Reply-To: To: Subject: Embedded Systems: Diatribe and Rant

Warning - Embedded Systems Diatribe - Those people not concerned with keeping the world working in 1999 and 2000 may delete this without reading any further.


I have just been asked for the umpteenth time for "specific examples of embedded microprocessors that fail pertinent to my systems. My engineers (plant people, corporate board, etc.) won't (don't) believe that our embedded systems will fail (cause problems, generate erroneous control signals, etc.) unless I can show them specific examples of our systems". This is a TOTALLY BOGUS, TIME-WASTING, AND VERY IRRITATING STATEMENT (IMHO!).

Anyone who knows anything about microprocessors and embedded systems KNOWS that there is no way anyone (or any group) can take the time to provide a host of specific examples since; 1) most companies are very reluctant to allow "competitive information" out; 2) ALL embedded systems test data is SYSTEM SPECIFIC; and 3) you can check the manufacturer's web pages or use the telephone as easily as I can for equipment specific information.

Those of us trying to get Y2K embedded systems information out don't have the time, your company doesn't have the time, to go through this denial nonsense. If you can't convince your "engineers, board, plant people, etc." to accept the plain FACT that embedded microprocessors have Y2K problems and WILL FAIL, AND WILL CREATE CONTROL ANOMOLIES, after all the examples our e-mails, web pages, solution providers, manufacturers data, etc. have provided, then I recommend that you find yourself a job in another company. The one you are working at WILL HAVE MAJOR DISRUPTIONS in the next two years. And you may quote me on that to your board. I don't care what company you are working for, what they do, or how they do it, if they are not right now working on their embedded systems problems, then they ARE GOING TO HAVE MAJOR DISRUPTIONS IN THEIR OPERATIONS, PERIOD, END OF STATEMENT!!!!!

Those of us working the embedded systems (to include PCs and networks) area have proven to anyone who has the intelligence to read a report and understand a diagram that ANY SYSTEM THAT USES ELECTRICITY MUST be considered guilty of harboring Y2K problems until PROVEN innocent. Not to so consider systems guilty until proven innocent means you WILL HAVE MAJOR DISRUPTIONS, PERIOD. This denial period is the equivalent of the mainframe denial period and is thus understandable, BUT WE DON'T HAVE THE TIME FOR IT ANYMORE!!!!!

QUIT ASKING FOR SPECIFIC DATA AND GET BUSY PRODUCING YOUR OWN. If that's what it takes to convince your "people", then get on with it. Do some testing on your systems. Pick a few critical systems and ask the manufacturer about their Y2K compliance, do some testing to verify anything you get. We can provide you some information and some help, but not much of it will do you any good since all of it will be SYSTEM SPECIFIC. There are no embedded systems out there that are generic, NONE, NO WHERE. My test data CANNOT be extrapolated to your systems even if I am using the exact equipment you are. Installation compliance overrides individual equipment compliance. And with no standards of how to become compliant, installation factors insuring one windowing scheme works with one four-digit scheme are paramount.

FACT THESE FACTS, AND GET YOUR COMPANY, COMMUNITY, TOWN TO FACE THESE FACTS OR FACE MAJOR DISRUPTIONS SOMETIME IN THE NEXT TWO YEARS. The foundation we have built our society on - electrically powered systems using microprocessors - has a keystone. And if that keystone is jiggled or pulled completely out, our foundation will crumple. A small crumple will cause major disruptions, a large crumple is normally called a disaster. That keystone is the logic controlling all the systems and is very vulnerable to Y2K problems. The FACT that we are sitting on a major national and global disaster is undeniable (to anyone with a modicum of intelligence). The FACT that this disaster WILL OCCUR is a certainty, UNLESS more people get off their "business as usual" thumbs and start fixing their Y2K problems. No one who has even superficially examined their systems has been able to argue those TWO FACTS!!! Make your organization, enterprise, community, government, etc. aware of those TWO FACTS.

So stop using those of us who are trying to get embedded systems info out there as your reason for not doing anything. Specific information about YOUR systems MUST come from you, not from us. The FACT that this kind of system exhibits Y2K problems is as good as it gets. Embedded systems Y2K problems are unique to each system, just like mainframe program Y2K problems are unique to each mainframe program. Unfortunately we cannot use automated tools in the same degree to aid in our work, as many embedded systems are unreachable. Resources MUST be spent. My estimate for embedded systems is that it will cost 3 to 4 times the currently estimated total costs for mainframes at least!

FACE FACTS and insist that others face these FACTS regardless of their wants and desires. The longer we wait before getting started, the fewer systems we will fix and the larger the disruption/disaster will be. We as an engineering community have screwed up and based our global foundation on faulty logic and it is catching up to everyone. Acknowledge the FACTS and get busy fixing your problems.

If nothing else will convince people to get started, consider this. At some point our Government regulatory and legislative bodies will wake up and put regulatory and legal teeth into Y2K checks. Since embedded systems are health and safety systems, what are you going to tell OSHA next year when they ask how do you prove your systems are safe to operate? What are you going to tell the AG Dept when they say prove your system will adequately and safely process meat? Remember, all they have to do is define a problem to shut you down. You must prove you are safe.


---Rant Off---

Those with opposing opinions may call me to discuss this rationally and calmly. Or you can flame me privately at the e-mail address noted below. If you have been following my postings to these maillists, you know I am not normally a Doom and Gloomer type. However, if we don't get more people working on their embedded systems problems, I see no other outcome but a disaster. It all depends upon us getting the word out and quickly. We have how many days left? Not enough.

Dave HallOpinions are my own and not those of my employer (definitely!!) The Millennium Investment Corporation

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