Tic for toc

Tic for toc

Having ensured his own computer understands next year is not 1900, Matthew JC. Powell laughs at those who haven't . . .

Amost interesting phase of the Y2K "countdown to meltdown" has begun recently, with governments and major national corporations accusing other governments and national corporations of being the laggards that would bring the rest of the world down with them through a lack of preparedness for the coming of the millennium. This sort of thing has been going on for a while as background static, of course, but over the past few weeks it's become a dull roar, as at least one new story appears each and every day.

Personally, I think the only people who will truly be unprepared for the coming of the millennium are those who cling to the belief that it doesn't start until 2001. But then, maybe I'm just baiting you.

Of course, after a lead-in like that, it would be unjournalistic of me not to elaborate further. The following is a sampling of the stories I read on a single day last week:

"US Sees Y2K disruption potential in Latin America" means that travellers to Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Colombia and Costa Rica have little or nothing to fear from Y2K, but loyal Americans should steer clear of Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, where little Y2K work has been carried out. Bolivia, it should be stressed, is not one of the world's more computer-dependent countries.

Even the US State Department admits that the majority of the problems there will be from failures of automatic teller machines, most of which are owned by American banks and credit card companies.

The report fails to stress the dangers faced by visitors to Latin America who are unable to speak any Latin.

"Y2K could hurt Russia, ex-Soviet States" means that the US hasn't yet decided to let up on the old enemy, and is warning its people not to presume they'll be able to make a phone call once they get to Russia, Ukraine, Belarus or Latvia next year. The article does point out that none of these countries has a computerised telephone system, but the US has issued the warning anyway. Can't be too safe.

"Italy may suffer Y2K problems" means that only one of the G7 nations - that is, the really really wealthy ones - has fallen behind in its fix-up work. The same story says that some of the "tiny, remote islands" off the coast of Greece could also face problems, but didn't elaborate. This is unfortunate, as a "tiny, remote island" sounds like just the place to be when the electronic apocalypse comes. That's the kind of place Bill Gates will be heading to with his family, and my guess is he knows something about this stuff.

"Italy says making up time to fix Y2K" means a fellow by the name of Ermanno Granelli reckons the US survey is out of date and Italians won't have anything like the problems they'll have in the Netherlands. Those Dutch better get their fingers out.

"US Y2K work 97 per cent done" means the US Government has spent $US8.34 billion and hasn't finished the job yet. Of 24 Government departments, nine have not yet completed their Y2K work. They are: Agriculture, Commerce (be afraid), Defense (be very afraid), Energy, Health and Human Services (who needs them anyway), Justice (they should talk to Microsoft - oh yeah, right), Treasury and Transportation (airplanes, people!), as well as the Agency for International Development. None of these departments, one presumes, is responsible for producing reports tallying up how the rest of the world is doing. Those in glass houses, and what not.

The Defense Department has rushed to its own, erm, defense, issuing a statement that "the Pentagon is making sure that all mission-critical systems that are expected to be used if the armed forces are involved in a major theatre of war are tested in at least two exercises". I'm frankly unsure whether or not I find that comforting.

Finally, "American cuts some flights for millennium eve" means that, even though American Airlines has spent a bushel of money preparing for Y2K, potential travellers don't trust the friendly skies when a glitch could lead to rapid plummeting. Some 20 per cent of flights for New Year's Eve have already been cancelled.

Hardly surprising really - according to the State Department's report, there's nowhere to go.

Matthew JC. Powell is the editor of ARN's sister publication PC Buyer. E-mail him at matthew_powell@

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