Calm down and clean up

Are you tired of hearing about the year 2000 problem yet?

 Today two books arrived in my office from publishers anxious to cash in on doomsday.
One refers to the software fix as "the challenge of the century," a pun, of
course, but in keeping with the way everyone is touting this issue.

 In fairness, both books are filled with practical advice. But listen to how they
frame the subject.

 "The information technology industry is facing the largest crisis in its brief,
50-year history," one volume asserts.

 The other, in promising a five-step disaster prevention plan, is blunt in its
foreword: "The approaching year 2000 problem may have the same effect on software
systems that severe epidemics such as the black plague have had on human


 Then there are the pricey consultants, with their dire predictions and, in my
opinion, outrageous costs estimates for fixing software to handle dates come 2000. The
highest price tag I've heard is $600 billion. Heck, why not round it off to a trillion?

 Clearly it is time to bring some rationality to year 2000 discussions. The hysteria
grows as the problem gains stature with each retelling.

 A big portion of that rationality must come from Congress and the Office of
Management and Budget. 

The overseers need to tone down the scare talk and work more closely with agencies to find
money for conversion work, even at the cost of other projects that may have more political

 For practical information on what's happening at the federal level, see our special
Spotlight, beginning on Page 43. In it, find out how feds such as the Defense Department's
Carla von Bernewitz and the Social Security Administration's Kathleen Adams and Judith
Draper are-with little fanfare and lots of common sense-identifying important applications
and fixing them or junking those not worth fixing.

 You'll also find the latest software tools, fix-it advice and other information
sources of particular interest to feds.

 When you strip the year 2000 issue of hyperbole and Chicken Little talk, the whole
thing comes down to what smart shops have been doing all along: maintaining applications
worth maintaining and replacing the rest.

 Such a great opportunity for housecleaning only comes along every 100 years. 

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