Mole has grown quite fond of the millennium problem and really does not know how he will manage without it this time next year.
By then, of course, if the Y2K Cassandras are to be believed, there will be more to worry about than how to fill a weekly column. Every piece of equipment containing a microprocessor will have ceased to work, either because they will fail to understand why they are being required to function in the early 1900s, long before they have been invented, or because the electricity supply will have suffered a catastrophic failure. Computer errors will be somewhat academic if the machines cannot be turned on.
Few commentators have drawn this most obvious of conclusions, presumably because they do not know that the electricity generating boards rely on computers too.
Mole, in common with all but the most reckless or hopelessly stoned of his programmer friends, has already started stocking up on tinned foods, candles and firewood. He has also put Mole Towers on the market and ordered his financial advisors to start quietly selling off shares in Molesoft Corporation. Come the millennium there will be little call for the rubbishy software that has made Mole's fortune; no doubt his squeaky little rival, Mr Gates, has reached the same conclusion. Look out for City wide-boys offering tranches of Microsoft stock at bargain prices over the coming months.
With only 353 scoffing days left, all of us in the software industry will have to make the most of the remaining opportunities for scare-mongering and shameless exploitation of gullible IT managers and other derision-makers.
Companies such as Shaman Corporation of San Francisco (where else?) will have to give up software in favour of jostick manufacture, tie-dying or basket weaving, but for the remainder of the year they can look forward to mining the rich vein of stupidity that is corporate America. According to the amusing press release that recently landed in Mole's mailbox, Enterprise Shaman 3.1 has "features dedicated to analysing and resolving the Y2K bug". Michael J Ciocia, vice president of marketing, sums it up: "Y2K projects have not focused on the desktop computer. IT managers realise that desktops are mission critical." What he appears to be saying is that IT managers, the people running millennium projects, have deliberately ignored the important bits. This serves to confirm the impression formed by all right-thinking folk that IT managers are wilfully irresponsible.
Fortunately, Shaman Corporation has a solution, which boils down to throwing a few sentences of meaningless jargon at the problem. "By combining Shaman's expertise with a cross-platform agent, a highly-scalable enterprise server and the industry's most comprehensive knowledge-base, Shaman delivers the industry's premiere solution dedicated to managing software reliability." (Note that IT is the only industry in which it is necessary to supply reliability as a value-added service.) Order a copy now and guarantee hours of harmless fun for guests at your millennium party.
The really wonderful thing about the Y2K issue is the degree to which it has divided opinion, placing those who believe it to be a catastrophe in the making on one side and those who see it as a load of overblown nonsense on the other. This means that whatever happens we shall have the pleasure of seeing an awful lot of people looking very silly very soon. Only one individual has taken the safe position and occupied the middle ground. In his introduction to the government's Action 2000 pack, Tony Blair manages to strike a masterful note of ambiguity with his statement that "Its (the millennium problem's) impact cannot be underestimated".
Perhaps he meant to say "overestimated" but, as with so many of the great man's utterances, it's hard to be sure.
A reassuringly frank Y2K statement of the kind Mr Blair would almost certainly disapprove of comes from Philip Taylor of SquareSum, maker of a piece of software named Dream. This is what Mr Taylor wrote in response to a query about Y2K compliance from a nervous customer. "We do not understand the fuss about Y2K.
"Dream, like all proper systems designed after about 1980, started with four-digit years and has always had them.
"We are far too busy to waste our time with stupid tests designed to meet the needs of idiots who have produced systems with two-digit years.
"We have no Y2K programme, we have no intention of having one. We object strongly to being lumped together with the idiots who require one."
And before Mole leaves the subject of idiots, he cannot resist sharing a thesis conceived by a man currently working as a doctor in Tasmania.
It runs along the following rather demented lines, but there is a thread of logic. There are many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of schizophrenics who firmly believe that they have had microprocessors implanted in their heads by the KGB or FBI which control their thoughts and actions and are responsible for the voices they hear. What will happen to these poor souls at midnight on 31 December 1999? Will they suddenly get better or will their conditions worsen? It is a fascinating question and one that the medical man hopes to answer. To be the first to document a case of Y2K non-compliance in a delusional system would surely qualify the author for a Nobel prize.
Been hearing voices recently? If so, tell Dr Mole. He can't promise a cure, but he may be able to stop you taking them quite so seriously.
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