Tag Archives: Edward Yourdon

Time Bomb 2000, Edward Yourdon and Jennifer Yourdon

Prentice Hall Ptr, 1998, 416 pages, C$27.95 tpb, ISBN 0-13-095284-2

This review will look silly in two years.

But that’s okay, given that the book I’m reviewing is going to look even sillier in two years.

Personally, I love the idea of the Y2K bug. It appeals to several archetypes that I find just irresistible: The failure of improperly managed technology; the trans-generational ticking-bomb suspense of it all; the signal that computers really ruled the late twentieth century… Plus, the timing just couldn’t be better. Just as we had half-convinced ourselves that we were rational creatures that didn’t really fear an arbitrary year-symbol increment, here comes this wonderful doomsday problem, sprung up from half-buried secrets and whose consequences could be as terrifying as anything we could imagine…

If it wasn’t a science-fiction story (and it was, cf: Arthur C. Clarke’s The Ghost of the Grand Banks, 1989 —my first exposure to the Y2K problem), well, gosh-darn it, it should have! It’s just too good for it!

Of course, the mercantile instinct has awaked in the shadow of this impending catastrophe. Since they’re saying our money might become worthless, some people are quite ready to take it away from us right now!

How many “miracle solutions” newscasts will we have to endure before the madness ends? Well, Time Bomb 2000 will at least tell you what’s in store, given that there’s no such thing as a magical Y2K silver bullet.

Time Bomb 2000 looks at the Y2K problem on twelve sectors from three perspective. For Jobs, Utilities, Transportation, Banking/Finance, Food, PCs, Information, Health/Medicine, Government, Embedded Systems, Education and Telephone/Mail, the Yourdons (father/daughter) estimate the chances of day-long, month-long and year-long disruptions. Their conclusions, as might be expected, aren’t very optimistic.

Their conclusion is both rational and chilling: Nobody knows what’s going to happen. Given this premise, the Yourdons gently suggest that it might be better to be over-prepared than caught without necessities. The authors remain quite confident despite everything. They don’t predict the fall of civilization as we know it, but they’re not ready to call it a non-event at this point. Seems reasonable to me. If anything, being over-prepared for the Y2K might be a good idea in case of extraordinary snowstorms, etc…

(Readers who think that I’m being too gullible on the subject of disaster preparation should know that during January 1998, the whole Eastern Ontario/Central Quebec area was paralysed by an ice storm of extraordinary proportions. Though my hometown was spared from any ill effects beyond a twenty-four blackout, it did hammer home the usefulness of a wood stove, a good set of preparation, candles and a positive attitude in the face of these event. Other areas went without electricity for almost three weeks. When people ask me about Y2K, I usually answer by telling them to prepare for another ice storm.)

Consider Time Bomb 2000 mental insurance; even though you might not follow each suggestion or take each threat seriously, at least you will have the choice to make up your mind. As for me, I must say that the book forced me to take in consideration a few factors. Given that I’m planning a major lifestyle change (buying a house is a major lifestyle change) the potential Y2K systemic failures described in Time Bomb 2000 led to establish a timeline that takes in consideration at least the possibility of Bad Stuff happening… just in case.