Y2k Global Shutdown Essay, Research Paper
Y2K Global Shutdown?: Problems and Solutions of the Millennium Bug Computers are the dominating factor in today s society. They operate virtually everything from traffic stoplights to our governments national security. What would people do if these computers decided to crash all of a sudden at the same time? There would be mass confusion that could result in Armageddon. On Januray 1, 2000,at exactly 12:00 a.m., this may happen due to a simple programming overlook coined the millennium bug , also referred to as the Y2K bug. Knowing the cause and effects of the Y2K bug will help society avoid the problem before the turn of the century. Before the year 1995, programmers formatted the computers BIOS, Basic Input Output System, to recognize only the last two digits of a year. This was done to conserve precious memory space. The BIOS is the part of the computer hardware that processes and calculates data. For example, the year 1998 would be acknowledged as 98 . You may ask yourself what s the big deal with that? . The answer is simple. Most computer software is written in the same format as the BIOS, so that they will be compatible with one another. The problem is when the year 2000 ,or 00 , is inputted, the computer will recognize it as 1900. This will inadvertently cause programs to freak out . Calculations will be processed incorrectly resulting in computer shutdown. If you own or operate a computer that was created prior to 1992, you should be very concerned (Charski). Not resolving the problem could cause your computer to crash and all data stored on the hard drive will be lost. Do not panic. Identifying the problem is fairly simple. Although it is not a very reliable test, changing the date in the DOS program may give you an idea. If you input any date after the year 2000 and the program doesn t recognize it, you have a problem. If it is recognized, then your DOS program is ok; but your system may still be jeopardized due to the fact that DOS and the computers BIOS run of different clocks. The safest, cheapest and most efficient way to determine if your pc is millennium compatible is to purchase a program that searches for the bug. These programs are fairly inexpensive and easy to use. The Microsoft Company will release service packs free of charge via the Internet that will fix Y2K problems for most of their non-compliant software (McWilliams). It is best to check the hardware compatibility first since it is the biggest part of the input-output process and is the most expensive to fix or replace. On October 2, 1998, the government passed The Year 2000 Information Readiness Disclosure Act. It is designed to encourage companies to work together to find solutions for the bug. The law was the first big step that the government has implemented in the effort to resolve the issue before the end of this decade. The bill express that computer manufacturing companies of hardware as well as software are not to be held liable in law suits resulting from the Y2K bug unless the software is said to be compliant but does not do its job. You would think that our government is on top of the situation. Research done by IDG News Service graded how the departments and agencies of our national government are doing with mission-critical systems concerning the Y2K bug. The base grades were affected by four factors: contingency plans, telecommunications systems, embedded systems, and external data exchange, as well as when they are estimated to be year 2000 compliant. The grades were recorded as follows: A+: Social Security Administration A- : General Services Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Science Foundation B : Department of Commerce, Small Business Administration, NASA, Nuclear Regulatory Commission C : Department of Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, Labor and Veterans Affairs C- : Office of Personnel Management, Department of the Interior D : Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Justice, and Education F : Environmental Protection Agency; departments of State, Health, and Human Services, Energy and Transportation; Agency for International Development (Weil,Gov..). Although seemingly insignificant, all of these departments and agencies effect every citizen and their well being. Hopefully the problems that they are encountering will be resolved before the millennium. The Gartner Group estimates it could cost up to six hundred billion dollars to fix the problem worldwide (Reuters). Hitting a little closer to home, it would be a major catastrophe if local businesses in your community do not address the problem. One source indicated that most power companies run on a computer generated schedule. These programs are designed to shut down the generators if they have not had their regular maintenance. In other words, if power companies do not resolve the Y2K problem before the turn of the century, people will be left in the dark . The IRS sent information about the problem to more than six million small businesses; half of which are expected to do nothing, which could result in spending twenty thousand to three and a half million dollars to fix the problem after their systems have crashed. Without dramatic improvements, the nation s air traffic could face serious disruptions after December 31, 1998. Although most financial institutions are ahead of the compliance, some industries such as food processing, agriculture, construction, law, and medical services are very far behind in the resolution. If you own your own business, the Small Business Administration suggests you follow these steps:
1. Assess the problem. List your entire business computer systems- and don t forget that can include alarms, heating and air conditioning, copiers, cash registers, and other devices that aren t computers. Prioritize fixing them, according to how critical each is to the business, how they interact, and how soon they are likely to start having problems. 2. Research the solutions. Ask vendors and technical support providers about what it will take to fix each system, or whether it makes more sense to replace it. 3. Do the work. 4. Test the results on a copy of your business data, not the real thing. Set the systems clocks so you can watch them go from December 31, 1999, to January 1, 2000, and from December 31, 2000 to January 1, 2001. It s also wise to check February 29, 2000, as well as September 9, 1999 (programmers once used 9999 to signal abnormal situations). 5. Expand the research by asking your suppliers and partners whether they are ready. 6. Make a backup plan. Line up alternative suppliers, stock up on important items, and make hard copies of important records (Peltz). Even if our nation does resolve its Y2K issue, other countries such as Asia, South America, and the Middle East are far behind the year 2000 compliance rush. Sources indicate that two-thirds of the small businesses and governments in these countries do not have the means or just simply do not care about the issue (Weil, Y2K..). This will effect everyone due to the impact it will cause in the stock market and import/export business if their computers are down. Bottom line: begin preparing for the year 2000 immediately. Keep accurate, written records of bank accounts, insurance issues, mortgage data, stock information, and anything that might effect your monetary well being to compare with statement received after the year 2000. Avoid major financial transactions during the first few weeks of January 2000. Don t plan any unnecessary travel around the holiday season, especially by air due to the possibility of technical malfunctions of onboard aircraft computers. If your home or office is powered by electricity, insure that your furnace and cook stove will not fail, relying, of coarse, that there will be power. It would also be beneficial to stock up on non-perishable food and water. For a more in-depth explanation of preparing yourself for the turn of the century, visit the World Wide Web at www.readyfory2k.com (Brown). The site gives you an excellent contingency plan and allows you to purchase books and videos to insure your family is safe and healthy during the crisis period .
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