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Book details of 'Time Bomb 2000!: What the Year 2000 Computer Crisis Means to You!'

Cover of Time Bomb 2000!: What the Year 2000 Computer Crisis Means to You!
TitleTime Bomb 2000!: What the Year 2000 Computer Crisis Means to You!
Author(s)Edward Yourdon, Jennifer Yourdon
PublishedDecember 1997
PublisherPrentice Hall PTR
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The Virtual Bookcase Reviews of 'Time Bomb 2000!: What the Year 2000 Computer Crisis Means to You!':

Reviewer wrote:
Writings on the year 2000 (Y2K) problem, or the "millennium bug" as some would have it, have been limited to highly technical analyses of specific problems and their solutions. Very little attention has been paid to how the Y2K problem will affect the lives of average people and everyday systems, even though many prognosticators believe this is where the problem will have the largest impact. In Time Bomb 2000: What the Year 2000 Computer Crisis Means to You, Edward and Jennifer Yourdon do just that by presenting a collection of scenarios ranging from the best we can hope for to the worst cases. Each chapter investigates a different area of computing and the possible effects of this disaster on each. From home PCs to world financial networks, the Yourdons explore a variety of "domino effects" that January 1, 2000, could trigger and the necessary time, effort, and cost to fix the aftermath. The impacts on real life could be anywhere between annoying and catastrophic, and the authors examine each extreme. Each chapter contains "fallback advice," describing the amount of time required to repair these systems. (The authors liken Y2K to a hurricane--it only lasts a day, but requires a year of cleanup.) Although the Yourdons insist that their overall view is optimistic, it's hard not to feel doomed when reading some of the worst-case scenarios brought on by the year 2000 problem. While Time Bomb 2000 is meant to be an alert, it's not time to start stockpiling canned goods yet, and we can probably still party like it's 1999 right on schedule. However, we should remain extremely mindful of what may await us the next morning.
Reviewer Rob Slade wrote:
It doesn't take long to figure out which Saturday morning is being referred to in the Preface. And one of the common failures suggested by pundits after December 31, 1999, is that of phone service. As the outage extends to a decade, however, one begins to wonder how realistic this book is going to be. For one thing, loss of dial tone is much less likely than billing errors, and the most likely errors would be failure to bill for those calls taking place as midnight (switch time) strikes. However, the introduction goes on to point out that the subtitle is much more appropriate to this book: it is addressed to the non-technical audience, rather than those charged with fixing the problem. A bit of overstatement can therefore be forgiven. It is odd, though, that so many of the examples used refer to large infrastructures: what *could* the normal citizen do if faced with a region wide water outage? Chapter one introduces the concepts of risk management and planning, and stresses the relative time elements to plan for. However, one of the central statements is that we simply do not know what is going to happen, and that makes planning rather difficult. There are some general suggestions (for example, that most disruptions will be of days, rather than weeks, duration), but even these are questionable. One specific recommendation, for instance, is that stockpiling a month's supply of food in a city apartment might be difficult, so maybe you should go visit friends in the country for a month. I'm not sure what assumption this is based on, but if food distribution is interrupted, it might be more likely that emergency food provision would be concentrated in population centres. The consequences to employment are reviewed in chapter two, which ultimately suggests only one course of action: have a nest egg on hand. The scenario is alarming, but also possibly unduly optimistic, since it repeatedly suggests planning for a year out of work. Using the book's own figures, and fairly simple arithmetic, the average time out of work would appear to be four years. The discussion of utility disruption, in chapter three, is vague and offers little in the way of practical suggestions. Interconnected failures are not emphasized (gas furnaces fail as soon as electrical thermostats shut down) and food stockpiling is probably not realistic (how many foods require no refrigeration for storage and no heating for preparation?) Given the heavy business emphasis in other areas, it is odd to note that the concern for transportation is limited to personal travel in chapter four. While a sudden transition to telecommuting would have a major effect on business (and be impossible for some), the failure of shipping is much more serious. Chapter five's assessment of the banking industry could be responsible for a run on the banks, itself. (The advice to keep hardcopy of all transactions in the months preceding and following December 31, 1999 is very good.) The problems of the advice regarding food in chapter six have already been addressed, since the material basically repeats, in more detail, what has already been said elsewhere. Home computer problems are really only looked at in terms of business use of PCs in chapter seven. I am rather interested to note that the Internet does not get a mention either in regard to personal computers or in relation to news and information in chapter eight. The overview of medical care, in chapter nine, is solid, careful, and useful. While I agree that government is one of the largest, and most tardy, potential victims of Y2K, chapter ten is shortsighted in seeing it only as a provider of cheques. As with much of the rest of the book, the information in this section is US-centric, although similar concepts apply elsewhere. Chapter eleven reviews embedded computers, but only broadens the scope of what could happen in other areas. This material should probably have been included earlier in the general discussion of the problem. Education, as all too often, seems to be a bit of an afterthought, but some important points are made in the relatively short chapter twelve. Chapter thirteen notes that communication is an obvious target, and so most likely to be adequately addressed by the deadline. That is good, since the book gives no realistic advice for fallback positions. (A cell phone will be just as dead as a land line if all the switches are down, and is much more likely to have problems in the handset.) Despite the many shortcomings of the book, I do feel that it should be read and considered by a good many people. The books and articles currently extent concentrate on the problem and necessary solutions from a systems and technical perspective. There is a need for some consideration about personal actions that can be taken to ameliorate potential problems. Hopefully this discussion can have some rationality behind it: producing a run on the banks or dry soup mix in December '99 will help nobody. copyright Robert M. Slade, 1998
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