Sceptics of the IT industry

The new millennium is upon us (according to some) and the society which existed before the big event is still standing. Despite the fears of bunker-bound extremists, aliens did not invade and subjugate the planet, no apocalypse took place and almost all computer and telephony systems made it through the Year 2000 rollover intact.

All of the above points, and in particular the last, should be cause for great celebration. Instead though, many people seem bitter – even disappointed – that the millennium has passed us by with barely a hiccup. Some in the media are even raising the possibility that Y2K was an overblown myth and organizations were hoodwinked into spending millions of dollars on unnecessary IT-related changes. Such claims are ludicrous. The reason so little happened during the date rollover is that much effort and money was poured into IT operations to fix any possible deficiencies.

Those same people attacking the Y2K industry for wasting billions of dollars could just as easily transfer their misguided logic to the airline industry. Their thinking would go something like this:

Airline passengers are paying far too much in fares. Inflation on the fares is caused by airlines being forced to take unnecessary safety precautions. Untold millions could be saved if the airline industry would only discount the ‘safety myth’, stop paying for unnecessary safety features and lower prices.

Unlike Y2K though, the fallacy of such logic would be quickly exposed as planes plummeted to the ground.

What do the sceptics require for Y2k to be proved a legitimate threat to our communications infrastructure? Do they want a widespread phone outage, a power outage and urban rioting? Perhaps the best solution would be to take the Y2K critics to an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, build a non-Y2K compliant nuclear plant and leave them there to observe for themselves what happens. If they survive, maybe then they can be justified in mocking the rest of society for buying into a myth.

The bottom line is there’s no way to know whether too much money was spent on Y2K fixes. If there had been significant failures, it would have been simple to calculate the costs of any resulting damage. The costs certainly would have exceeded the price associated with fixing any code or hardware. They would have included lost business, any resulting physical damage and possibly loss of life.

As for Y2K being a myth, various minor glitches have already occurred to prove that things would have been far worse if no fixes had been undertaken. And more could occur in the coming months as credit card bills begin coming out and pay cheques get processed.

Instead of bemoaning the money spent on Y2K, society should be celebrating the fact everything and everyone made it through the millennium relatively unscathed. Thanks to the experts who helped fix the Y2K bug, you can even e-mail your neighbours in the bunker next door to tell them the world’s still going. After all, you probably don’t want to get too close to them just yet. They may mistake you for an alien, a member of the FBI, a member of CSIS, or all of the above.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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