The sky will not fall - EDITORIAL

If the year 2000 problem was a giant asteroid, it would probably be
flaming out in the upper atmosphere about now. A few embers would hit a roof here and
there, but society could exhale.


We’re not out of the woods yet on 2000, but there are signs that the
professional scare consultants ought to find other work.


Like religious fanatics who gather regularly to await the end of the world, the
computer Armageddon types are likely to wake up a bit sheepish on the morning of Jan. 1,
2000.


A couple of recent developments show that—whether despite the scare or because of
it—government agencies and other large institutions are making progress.


The National Finance Center’s declaration that it is ready to take on the year
2000 [GCN, July 13, Page 1] roughly coincided with tests
on Wall Street to see if computers running the stock exchanges could handle post-2000
dates.


There will still be glitches, no doubt.


But getting big transaction systems to the point of testing the applications on time
machines is no small feat.


Meanwhile, Congress, or at least some members, appear to be getting bored with the 2000
issue. The evidence? Lawmakers are playing politics with $4 billion earmarked for agency
fixes.


Conservative House Republicans want the so-called emergency funds offset by spending
cuts. As a bonus, observers speculate, a few failed government computers might embarrass
Vice President and Techie-in-Chief Al Gore as he embarks on his presumed presidential
campaign.


The date code problem is real. It is the hype that’s starting to sound unreal and
shopworn, hype that in recent months has taken on fantastic proportions. One widely quoted
consultant is predicting that date code problems will spur an economic recession or
meltdown. So-called experts go on television to warn against taking airplane trips on that
fateful New Year’s Eve.


As GCN columnist Bob Deller and others have pointed out, the plans and repairs
organizations have begun will define the government’s response because time has run
out for starting from scratch.


Agencies are in the home stretch of getting the job done, and so the pressure to reach
the finish line must continue. It’s time to cut the hyperbole and support the unsung
heroes down in the trenches doing their work.


Thomas R. Temin
Editor
editor@gcn.com

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