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CPSR Newsletter - 17, 1-humor
CPSR Newsletter

Winter 1999
Vol. 17, No. 1


Marsha Woodbury
Y2K: The Broad View

CPSR-Y2K Working Group Web Pages

Arthur C. Clarke
The Century Syndrome, from The Ghost from the Grand Banks

Anthony Ralston
Y2K and Social Responsibility

Peter Neumann
A Perspective on Y2K

Gary Chapman
Now For Another Daunting Y2K Task: Educating America's Masses

Lenny Siegel
OOPs 2000: The Y2K Bug and the Threat of Catastrophic Chemical Releases

Norman Kurland
How Y2K Will Impact the New York Times

Y2K and Nuclear Weapons

  • Letters Seeking Help on Nuclear Weapons Issues from
    Michael Kraig
    Alan Phillips

  • Four Prominent Scientists on Nuclear Weapons Concerns:
    Khursch Ahmed
    David Parnas
    Barbara Simons
    Terry Winograd

  • Gary Chapman
    A Moral Project for the 21st Century: Stop Creating Better Weapons


    Y2K Humor from the Internet and Beyond

    Cartoon (may crash older browsers)

    CPSR News:

    Aki Namioka
    A Letter from CPSR's President

    Netiva Caftori
    Chapter News

    Return to the Index.

    from the Internet and Beyond

      Dear Boss:

      I hope I haven't misunderstood your instructions because, to be honest, none of this Y to K problem makes any sense to me. At any rate I have finished the conversion of all the months on all the company calendars for next year (year 2000). The calendars have been returned from the printer and are ready to be distributed with the following new months:


      Top  "Happenings" on January 1, 2000

    • IRS demands 100 years of interest from stunned taxpayers.
    • "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" gets stuck in infinite loop.
    • At the stroke of midnight, Windows 99 turns back into DOS 1.0, the Pentium V turns back into an 8088 and the Handsome User is left  holding a beautiful glass mouse.
    • Internet Movie Database now lists 1901: A Space Odyssey.
    • Software engineers point out that since computers think it's almost 1900, we technically have to "party like it's 1899," which, frankly, doesn't seem like much fun.
    • Microsoft declares the year 1900 to be the new standard of the "Gatesian" calendar.

    Special Announcement on Y2K

    Bill Gates, Chairman and CEO of Microsoft Corporation, announced today that the latest version of their Windows operating system, Windows 2000, would be delayed until the second quarter of 1901.

    No reason was given.

    1999: The Year in Headlines


    From an article by Christopher Buckley in the New Yorker, January 11, 1999, p. 40

    January 1, 00

    Dear Valued Employee:
    Re: Vacation Pay

    Our records indicate that you have not used any vacation time over the past 100 year(s). As I'm sure you are aware, employees are granted 4 weeks of paid leave per year or pay in lieu of time off. One additional week is granted for every 5 years of service. Please either take 9,400 days off work, or notify our office and your next pay cheque will reflect payment of $8,277,442.22, which will include all pay and interest for the past 1,200 months.


    Automated Payroll Processing


    From the New Yorker, a cartoon showing someone on hands and knees with a magnifying glass examining the fine print on the bottom of the front of the PC, reading aloud the message "Best if used before 1/1/2000."

    Mexico Prepares for Year 200 Problem

    The Y1K Crisis

    Canterbury, England, A.D. 999

    An atmosphere close to panic prevails today throughout Europe as the millennial year 1000 approaches, bringing with it the so-called Y1K Bug, a menace which, until recently, hardly anyone had ever heard of. Prophets of doom are warning that the entire fabric of Western civilization, based as it now is upon monastic computations, could collapse, and that there is simply not enough time left to fix the problem. Just how did this disaster-in-the-making ever arise?

    Why did no one anticipate that a change from a three- to a four-digit year would throw into total disarray all liturgical chants and all metrical verse in which any date is mentioned? Every formulaic hymn, prayer, ceremony, and incantation dealing with dated events will have to be rewritten to accommodate three extra syllables.

    All tabular chronologies with three-space year columns, maintained for generations by scribes using carefully hand-ruled lines on vellum sheets, will now have to be converted to four-space columns, at enormous cost. In the meantime, the validity of every official event, from baptisms to burials, from confirmations to coronations, may be called into question.

    "We should have seen it coming," says Brother Cedric of St. Michael Abbey, here in Canterbury. "What worries me most is that thousand contains the word thou, which occurs in nearly all our prayers, and of course always refers to God. Using it now in the name of the year will seem almost blasphemous, and is bound to cause terrible confusion. Of course, we could always use Latin, but that might be even worse-the Latin word for thousand is mille which is the same as the Latin for mile. We won't know whether we are talking about time or distance!"

    Stonemasons are already reported threatening to demand a proportional pay increase for having to carve an extra numeral in all dates on tombstones, cornerstones, and monuments. Together with the inevitable ripple effects, this alone could plunge the hitherto-stable medieval economy into chaos.

     A conference of clerics has been called at Winchester to discuss the entire issue, but doomsayers are convinced that the matter is now one of personal survival. Many families, in expectation of the worst, are stocking up on holy water and indulgences.

    A Roman Letter

    Dear Cassius,

    Are you still working on the Y zero K problem? This change from BC to AD is giving us a lot of headaches, and we haven't much time left. I don't know how people will cope with working the wrong way around. Having been working happily downward forever, now we have to start thinking upwards. You would think that someone would have thought of it earlier and not left it to us to sort it all out at the last minute.

    I spoke to Caligula the other evening. He was livid that Julius hadn't done something about it when he was devising the calendar. He said he could see why Brutus turned nasty. We called in the consulting astrologers, but they simply said that continuing downward using minus BC won't work. As usual, the consultants charged a fortune for doing nothing useful. As for myself, I just can't see the sand in an hour glass flowing upward. We have heard that there are three wise men in the East who have been working on the problem, but unfortunately they won't arrive until it's all over. Some say the world will cease to exist at the moment of transition. Anyway, we are still continuing to work on this blasted Y zero K problem, and I will send you a parchment if anything further develops.


    Lost in Air

    A man flying in a hot air balloon realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots another man down below. Descending further, he shouts, "Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?"

    The man below answers, "Yes, you're in a hot air balloon, hovering 40 feet above this field."

    "You must be a Y2K consultant," responds the balloonist.

    "I am," replies the man. "How did you know?"

    "Well," says the balloonist, "everything you have told me is technically correct, but it's of no use to anyone."

    The man below says, "You must be an IT/Y2K project manager."

    "I am," replies the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

    "Well," says the man, "you don't know where you are, or where you're going, but you expect me to be able to help. You're in the same position you were before we met, but now it's my fault."

    From This is True for 17 January 1999

    Bank One Texas, testing to make sure their computers are ready for the transition to the year 2000, generated more than 2,000 dummy overdraft notices on real customer accounts. No problem: the computer handled the next-millennium dates just fine. Well, one problem: after the test, efficient employees dropped the notices into the mail, instead of into the trash. "We have apologized profusely" to anxious customers who called the bank after getting the notices, a bank spokesman said. "We've spent millions of dollars to make sure the Y2K problem doesn't exist at Bank One" (Reuters).

    British Parliament's Environment, Transport and Regions Committee has recommended that airlines which have not adequately prepared for the "year 2000" bug should be banned from the country's airports "at or around the millennium." Besides safety issues, they say inadequate systems on those planes might cause delays for the better- prepared airliners. But China has a better idea to help ensure its airliners are ready: the government has ordered the chief executives of all Chinese air transport companies to be in the air on one of their own planes as the calendar changes to January 1, 2000 (Reuters).

    Time Warp

    It seems there was this programmer who was a Cobol expert, and as the year 2000 approached, he found that more and more of his time was taken up by managers and friends asking him to examine code for possible Y2K bugs. Finally, he decided he'd had as much of this as he could take! He arranged to have himself cryogenically frozen, programmed to wake up a few months into the year 2000.

    All went well as he went under. He closed his eyes, knowing that the next time he opened them, many months would have gone by.

    Then he woke up. To him, it seemed as though only an instant had gone by, but he knew that was false. As he looked around, he began to hear people speaking -- "He's waking up!" "He's really alive!" Then he noticed that the ceiling (the only thing he could see) looked different. As he sat up, he felt people helping him.  He looked around, and they were dressed in odd clothes. And the room seemed different from the one in which he had gone to sleep. The person helping him spoke . . .

    "Hi.  You're OK now, but we need to explain what has happened. Somewhat more time has gone by than you expected.  You didn't wake up when you were supposed to -- someone messed up the programming of the sleep capsule. But you're going to like it here in our culture. Mankind has progressed a lot, sickness is almost unknown, things are a lot better than they used to be! And your programming skills will still be in demand. We understand that you are a Cobol expert, and we need such people.You see, it's actually the year 9999, and we're worried about programs that only have 4-digit fields for the year....."

    The Ballad of the Y2K

      (Sing to the tune of "Gilligan's Island")

      Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale
      Of the doom that is our fate.
      That started when programmers used
      Two digits for a date
      Two digits for a date

      RAM memory was smaller then;
      Hard drives were tiny, too.
      "Four digits are extravagant,
      So let's get by with two.
      So let's get by with two."

      "This works through 1999,"
      The programmers did say.
      "Unless we write new code by then
      The data goes away.
      The data goes away."

      But management had not a clue;
      "It works fine now, you bet!
      Rewriting code costs money;
      We won't do it just yet.
      We won't do it just yet."

      Now when 2000 rolls around
      It all goes straight to hell,
      For zero's less than ninety-nine,
      As anyone can tell.
      As anyone can tell.

      The mail won't bring your pension check;
      It won't be sent to you
      When you're no longer sixty-eight
      But minus thirty-two.
      But minus thirty-two.

      The problems we're about to face
      Are frightening, for sure.
      And reading every line of code's
      The only certain cure.
      The only certain cure.

      [ key change, the big finish coming]

      There's not much time, there's too much code,
      And COBOL-coders, few.
      When the century is finished,
      We may be finished, too.

    It's All Becoming Clear Now

    The Y2K glitch could potentially cause computers and all kinds of electrical equipment to malfunction at the turn of the century, bringing everything to a halt. "Know what this means?" Jay Leno quips. "This is the change the Amish have been waiting for. Global domination!"

    The U.S. Department of Defense's Year 2000 Oversight and Contingency Planning Office

    Their home page is

    It uses a JavaScript program to calculate the time until the year 2000. However, the program assumes a two-digit date field, and thus will give incorrect results for dates after 31 December 1999.

    The relevant program line is
    var Yearleft = 99 - CurYear

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