A Personal Letter: My Plea To Investigate
Updated: January 6, 1999
I would like to raise an issue which you have probably heard about from the news media, but like me, probably dismissed. I have never done anything like this before, but I have come to feel that I must share the information I have started to gather.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I listened to a radio interview with a man by the name of Gary North. It was a rather lengthy interview lasting four hours. The topic of his interview was the Year 2000 computer problem, or what is often referred to as Y2K. In short, his message was that the millennium bug, or year 2000 problem, has not been dealt with in sufficient time to make a smooth transition into the next century. As a consequence of not being ready by the year 2000, when the year kicks over at midnight on January 1, 2000, a multitude of problems will occur.
What is the problem? Simply, when programmers wrote programs for computers 20 and 30 years ago, they abbreviated the year to two digits (1971=71, 1998=98, 1900=00). This was done to save expensive storage space, thinking that the situation would be dealt with well in advance of the year 2000. This programming problem continues in use in most major computer systems. Thus, when the clock ticks midnight on January 1, 2000, many computers will think the date is 1/1/00 or January 1, 1900.
What will be the consequence of erroneous information streaming through computer systems? According to Mr. North, it will trigger all kinds of computer and equipment shutdowns. He claims that the problem will create power grid shut downs, communications problems and shutdowns, financial market disruption, and a host of other problems. He believes that the computer problem will be so great that it will cause the dissolution of society as we know it. Mr. North has purchased a home in rural Arkansas, with both water and natural gas wells. He is prepared for total chaos in society.
As my wife and I listened to the broadcast, we both wondered if Mr. North was spinning a doomsday tale or if he could possibly be on to something. We both knew that if he was right, we had to do something in advance to prepare for the consequences of what could be a difficult situation. Over the past few weeks I have started gathering evidence surrounding the Y2K problem and have come to the conclusion that, at the very least, we will be suffering some temporary inconveniences. I hope that is all that happens, but the more I read, the more I begin to think that we may be dealing with the most significant event of the modern era. I have a hard time believing that we are facing the collapse of modern civilization. But, I have come to believe that we are facing a big unknown and we should be prepared for major inconveniences, which could last for several months.
I wanted to keep this letter relatively short. You may decide that I have gone off the deep end and don't want to read further. I am including, on the website, personal notes from a variety of sources along with my own commentary. It may persuade you to look into the situation further. It is up to each of us to make an informed decision. I will be happy to provide you with sources of information on the problem and ideas for preparation that I am starting to gather. I hope nothing happens. I will be delighted if at 12:00 AM on 1/1/00, we toot our horns, pop our firecrackers, and go to bed with no major disruptions. But if Gary North is even partially correct, I will be a little more secure knowing I have tried to prepare for possible disruption of essential services.
January 6, 1999
The above letter was posted on my website in July of last year. How do I perceive the Y2K problem as we grow closer to the Year 2000 and after several more months of study? I have nothing to change in my above plea. I still believe that the consequences of the Year 2000 computer problem have the potential of severely disrupting society. Minor date related computer glitches are already taking place. I still believe that people should take a serious look at this problem and draw their own conclusions. I have found that when people study the problem, they come away believing that it is real. But, I do not believe people should panic. A panic will accomplish no good as we move towards the new millennium.
We should make measured, reasonable preparations for the potential troubles that may be visited upon us as we begin the Year 2000. What is a measured response? When you go to the grocery store, buy an extra half dozen cans of tuna, an extra bottle of peanut butter, and an extra pack of toilet paper. When your two liter Pepsi bottles are empty, clean them, fill them with water, and treat them with chlorine (see Individual Preparations for the Year 2000 listed in my preparation section). Don't empty your bank account, but put a few extra bucks of cash away each paycheck. What is a reasonable response? Each family needs to make that decision. I don't plan to quit my job or sell my house and move to the wilderness (though I would love to do that because I love the wilderness), but I do plan on stocking extra food, water, and medical supplies. If everyone made a measured, reasonable response and, if the Year 2000 starts out rough, we will be able to buy time because people have provided for some basic needs.
Activity continues at a frantic pace in many businesses and in government offices. Only time will tell if their efforts are sufficient. I hope it is. But, if I wake up on January 1, 2000 and find that I can't watch the Rose Bowl because the power went out, I'll be glad I have my kerosene heater and enough pork and beans to last for a few days. Please consider this situation carefully. Explore the links on my page. Look at some of the preparation ideas. It won't hurt. Good luck on your preparations. If you have good ideas or comments, please write.