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(Links to documents appear after the summary.)
The mythology of the silver bullet is an appealing one. It is the main hope of those who believe -- without any evidence -- that "this problem will be fixed. I'm safe. I don't have to rethink my entire future."
People who have heard about y2k desperately want to believe in a silver bullet. They are not interested in hearing evidence as to why such a device is impossible. No programmer who is involved in a y2k project affirms the existence of any such device. I have never read a posting by any y2k mainrame programmer who affirmed even its possibility. The silver bullet is at best a silver bee-bee.
The two silver bullet stories that have received the most press coverage involve a 14-year-old and a 77-year old.
In September, 1997, a story received worldwide press coverage: a 14-year-old boy had discovered a solution. I was sent this report by dozens of people. They all wanted to know: "Is this true?" Of course it was not true. The boy said it was not true. These people were sending me this report weeks after I had posted information showing it was not true. No matter what I write here, people will believe any silver bullet story -- the more improbable, the faster it will be believed -- because it calms the panic that this problem legitimately creates.
In early 1998, the press has picked up on the mid-1997 story of Bob Bemer, a 77-year-old retired programmer who has a new approach to dealing with y2k. As of mid-January, 1998, his product was in the testing stage with one firm. Yet his Web site promised on January 21 that it would be available in December, 1997. No report of any third-party tester has been released. No product is commercially available. The solution does not work on embedded chips. The company has no sales force. The directions for using the product have not been translated into the major languages of the industrial world. That is to say, with less than a year to go before the testing stage, companies cannot implement this solution.
On August 11, 1997, I posted Prof. Leon Kappelman's response to early Bemer stories. Kappelman is a professor in the business computer department of the University of North Texas. He wrote: "But even if Bemer is 100% right about this and can deliver the product to implement it, and say it works with no manual intervention at all and is 40 times faster, it still only addresses code remediation which is only about 10% to 15% of the work. That's not to say that a 97.5% reduction in 15% of the work won't help; it certainly will. But it still leaves over 85% of the work remaining to be done."
Nevertheless, in early January, dozens of readers began sending me brief news media notices about this product, just as they sent me notices in 1997 about the 14-year old, despite the fact that my e-mail instructions specifically request that people not send silver bullet stories to me. They cannot restrain themselves. They are desperate to believe in a miracle. They ask what I think, as if I had not made my position clear. Is this "the answer"? They will not accept the fact that there can be no cheap, fast, universal technical solution. They want to believe in miracles.
Nothing I can do or say will convince the person who does not want to consider the fact that his future hangs on the y2k problem, and that no easy technological solution exists. He will not listen.
But maybe you will.