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					                Journal of Information, Law and Technology

                            The Year 2000 Problem
                                  A Literature Review
                                            Reviewed by

                                       John S. Craparo
                                     Pace University
                              john.craparo@gecapital.com
Books Reviewed:

K.C. Bourne's 'Year 2000 Solutions for Dummies', IDG Books, 1997, US$24.99, 334pp, ISBN: 0-7645-
0241-7

Peter de Jager and Richard Bergeon's 'Managing 00: Surviving the Year 2000 Computer Crisis'John
Wiley and Sons, 1997, US$19.99, 222pp, ISBN: 0-471-17937-X

Jim Keogh's 'Solving the Year 2000 Problem', AP Professional, 1997, US$27.95, 257pp, ISBN: 0-1257-
5560-0

Jerome T. Murray and Marilyn J Murray's 'The Year 2000 Computing Crisis', McGraw Hill, 1996,
US$49.00, 321pp, ISBN: 0-0791-2945-5


This is a Book Review published on 27 February 1998.

Citation: Craparo J, 'The Year 2000 Problem: A Review of the Literature', Book Review, 1998 (1) The
Journal of
Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/bookrev/98_1y2k/>
John S. Craparo                                                             The Year 2000 problem: A Literature Review




1. Introduction
History has provided us with a great deal of evidence regarding mankind's penchant for destroying the
knowledge of which it is the progenitor. An early example is the destruction of the great library at
Alexandria in 640 AD by invading hordes. Fast-forwarding six centuries, we come upon the Inquisition
which provided mankind with ways to torture and
kill individuals branded as heretics when, for the most part, they were just people with a desire to explore
new areas of science and philosophy. The twentieth century bears witness to fascist book burners and their
allied atrocities. This historical pattern of destruction is rooted in religious and political fear .

We are rushing toward another window of knowledge eradication. This one is not rooted in politics or
religion. It stems from a poor and myopic implementation of technology; a hidden war between good and
bad programming. When the year 2000 is reached, computing devices around the world will begin to
return miscalculations if the programs they execute use dates in their formulas. The problem has to do
with the way the year is stored. Most programs store the year as two digits. For example, 1997 would be
stored as 97 with the assumption that it refers to the twentieth century. Come the year 2000, any program
in which this assumption was used will execute its calculations as if it were the year 1900.

This computer bug has far reaching implications. Everyone should be actively engaged in understanding
and repairing this problem. Today the fix has been left to the leaders of commerce and the information
industry. It has been estimated that the cost to reprogram the world's computers and allied devices will
exceed US$ 300 billion prior to the close of 1999. It has been argued by Steve Elias and others that the
legal profession should join their business and technology counterparts in this effort. Proactive
participation before the close of the millennium will help mitigate the US$ 1 trillion in litigation that will
likely follow 1 January 2000.

This article will consist of a review of four recently published books which claim to assist in the efforts to
eliminate what is alternately known as the Year 2000 Problem, The Millennium Bug, or the Y2K
Problem. Perhaps the answer to a computergeddon lies in one or more of these manuscripts.


2. Part 1
This is a subject that does not lend itself well to cookbook solution approaches. There are too many
variables involved to make such an approach valuable to an audience whose information systems may
date from the 1960s. In The Year 2000 Computing Crisis, the authors attempt a cookbook approach
which fails to assist a broad audience. The book is
aimed at technical personnel who already understand where the problem with their systems exists. Too
much time is spent discussing the historical aspects of how modern calendars came into existence. This
background is irrelevant and can be covered in a chapter sidebar. The authors supply a 3.5" floppy disk
which includes the ASCII source-code of programs which can be used to convert various date types and
algorithms encountered in COBOL programs to Year 2000 compliant forms. The text of the book is
mainly hard copy printouts of these programs, a true waste of valuable natural resources.

Solving the Year 2000 Problem boasts a title that promises to deliver a solution. Here the author takes a
management approach to the problem. The book is well organized and makes a good attempt at stepping
the reader through an awareness and project management scheme. The problem is explained from the
view of the central organization. It then
presents the reader with various scenarios that illustrate where dangers exist. Customers, suppliers,
documentation and employee turnover all have an effect on the situation and the reader is warned not to
take an organization-centric view. The author provides the reader with good advice regarding litigation,
pointing out that damages awarded to plaintiffs in
legal actions will likely outweigh the costs incurred in order to fix the problem. Five common system date
fixes are covered. The downside here revolves around the use of pseudocode to illustrate those solutions.
The book is aimed at a general management audience and then it suddenly slips in some source-code
program listings that assume the reader is also a programmer. This could have easily been avoided by
using program flow chart diagrams instead. A good technician could build flow diagrams that anyone can
understand.

JILT Issue 1998 (1)                http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/bookrev/98_1y2k/                        Book Review
John S. Craparo                                                             The Year 2000 problem: A Literature Review




Peter de Jager is one of the authors of Managing 00. The book jacket boasts that he is, 'the leading
spokesperson for the year 2000 problem, appearing at an average of two conferences a month'. Sadly, this
becomes evident very quickly. The book does little to help the reader gain any deep understanding of the
problem or how to go about fixing it. It is full of disjointed charts and examples that seem to be the
anecdotes a public speaker might use to surprise and delight an audience. For example, a list of 20
Microsoft products is presented with a column that shows the highest date the associated product is
capable of handling. All the authors do with this chart is tell the reader that it is important to treat the rest
of the firm's portfolio with the same diligence presented here. This chart, borrowed from the Internet, does
not illustrate great diligence. Later in the book, the authors discuss the merits of various software tool
types that can be used to uncover and fix the Y2K bug on various platforms and software programs. This
gives the reader an idea of the tool types that exist, but leaves them wondering where to go to find them.

It is clear that Year 2000 Solutions for Dummies was contrarily written for a very smart audience. K.C.
Bourne purports to be a database admininstrator (DBA). These are the folks that normally design the
schemas and manage the organization of data that is stored in computer systems. They are the hub around
which most application programmers and system analysts revolve. Bourne is much more than a DBA - the
author is a thoughtful writer. The problem is explained with greater clarity and with better illustrations
than can be found in the other three books combined. The book presents a solid methodology for auditing
all of the systems and associated incoming and outgoing data feeds in the
organization. The different types of date problems and their solutions are presented and expertly
explained. The reader only needs a basic understanding of mathematics; not a degree in computer science.
Project management, budgeting, personnel management and rewards, and legal ramifications are all
addressed in fine detail. The book is also a rich
source of references to software, user groups, journals, and software sites related to solving the problem.


3. Part 2
As the year 2000 approaches it is clear that several things will happen. The cost to fix the year 2000
problem will increase, qualified personnel needed to correct the problem will become scarce due to a
demand for their skills, staff will begin to turnover due to better offers and in some cases fear,
overburdened consulting firms will cease taking on new
clients, and systems that have not received remedial maintenance will become more difficult to bring into
compliance.

The urgency involved with correcting the systems and allied devices that can have a material effect on a
business organization, a charity, a government, or the citizens of the world cannot be underestimated.
Resources which slow down those charged with correcting the problem should be avoided. Reference
books that dwell on the historical
aspects of the problem or are narrowly focused (Murray & Murray), mislead the reader with annotated
directories of consulting firms which are little more than thinly veiled reprints of marketing literature
(Keogh), or amount to poorly organized high-level white papers ( de Jager & Bergeon) should be
avoided. Those charged with fixing the problem or
understanding how to assist in assuaging its risks are well advised to read Year 2000 Solutions for
Dummies.


4. Conclusion
As I completed writing this review, an envelope was delivered to my office. It was a certified letter which
required my signature for release. The return address was Oracle Corporation, the software manufacturer.
The envelope contained a form letter which explained that certain products sold by Oracle are not Y2K
compliant. The list of offending products was attached along with a statement that the manufacturer
strongly recommends that its customers immediately migrate to the suggested versions that are compliant.
Was this a customer focused manufacturer warning a client of an impending problem, or a software
company that is proactively trying to reduce both parties risk of future litigation, or a savvy legal


JILT Issue 1998 (1)                http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/bookrev/98_1y2k/                        Book Review
John S. Craparo                                                            The Year 2000 problem: A Literature Review



department creating a paper trail? As a customer and a professional, I hope the answer is yes to all of the
above.

There are also a number of places on the web to turn for assistance. The following web pages are fairly
generic and will lead to software companies, consulting firms, law practices, and government agencies.
This is not an exhaustive list; however, it will provide a doorway to hundreds of resources.

The Year 2000 Information Center - www.year2000.com

Management Support Technology - www.mstnet.com/year2000/yr2000.htm

Information Technology Association of America - www.itaa.org/year2000.htm

CIO Magazine Y2K Page - www.cio.com/forums/year2k.html

The National Bulletin Board for Year 2000 - it2000.com

US Government Year 2000 Government Directory - www.itpolicy.gsa.gov/mks/yr2000/y2khome.htm




JILT Issue 1998 (1)               http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/bookrev/98_1y2k/                        Book Review

				
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