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  The Navigator: Year After Next ...
By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 8, 1998




    y2k
Is the sky falling? Is the end at hand? Will the Year 2000 Problem lead to total wrack and ruin – collapsed democracies, bankrupt corporations, lost fortunes, humbled heroes, fallen arches and the heartbreak of psoriasis?

The Year 2000 Problem is brought to us by the same folks who developed some of the first mainframe computers. In those days, programmers tried to save memory space by abbreviating things whenever possible. (And they're still doing it. This, for example, is popularly known as the Y2K Problem.) As a result, years were written with two numbers – 86, 87, 88. Eventually, somebody realized that the first day of the Year 2000 will appear as 00 and many, many, many computers – in banks, airports, hospitals, government offices – will assume that the date is Jan. 1, 1900. All hell will then break loose.

Computer programmers the world over are scrambling to remedy the situation. For them, the Y2K Problem means sleepless nights and huge consulting fees. But what does Y2K mean for the rest of us?

Where better to turn for answers, and attitude, than the Internet?

Maybe your first stop should be the Millennium Meltdown Clock, to get a sense of just how much time is left before the chaos KOs us. You can calculate the remaining time down to the very minute.

To grasp the gravity of the problem, you can peek over the shoulder of the Federal Reserve Board. That august body has dedicated part of its Web site to the Y2K bug."Time is critical," sayeth the Fed's overview page. "The year 2000 cannot be deferred ... "

Not even, apparently, by Alan Greenspan.

Many companies have posted self-serving pages about how they are dealing with the Y2K dragon. These sites are deadly serious, buttressed by flow charts and assurances that every executive will be held responsible for any disruption of service to the customers. An eye-glazing example is BellSouth's compliance page.

Other firms are taking advantage of the hysteria. A Florida company called Y2K Supplies has posted an online catalogue of survivalist stuff, including freeze-dried food, water filters, medical kits and Army surplus backpacks.

But some people are finding some fun in the furor. Westergaard Year 2000, an oversight site that keeps tabs on how the government is approaching the problem, also provides a few light moments. Here's a Y2K joke, for example: Why is getting an elephant pregnant like fixing the Y2K problem? Both require tremendous resources, are logistically very difficult, and you won't know for a couple of years if you got the job done.

And, from the same site, a song, sung to the tune of "Let It Snow": O the weather reports are frightful / But the pay is so delightful / I'm packing up and on my way / Y2K, Y2K, Y2K.

Linton Weeks can be reached at weeksl@washpost.com

mouse CLICK: barbie borg   Next week, Star Trek Voyager's techno-goddess "Seven of Nine" returns to your living room. But why wait? Barbie Borg is even more ridiculously endowed. Made from space-age polymer plastics, her Borg implants are the envy of the Federation. Her only shortcoming is her wimpy battle cry. "Assimilation is hard" just doesn't cut it for an aggressive hive species. Convertible Borg Cube ship sold separately. Dan Pacheco

Surfing
Perturbations, pleasures and predicaments on the I-way

Don't Shoot the Piano Player
"In the beginning God created jazz." So writes D.D. McCloidsman on his "Dispensational Jazzology" site, backing up the claim with wry scholarship on the "Principles Present in Dispensational Theology and Jazz Music and Relevant to Both." From the Creation (in New Orleans) to the Gospel of St. John (Coltrane) to Paul's Epistle (to the Marsalians), McCloidsman offers comfort and understanding to music lovers, while taking care not to offend. For instance, this is his Sixth Commandment: "Thou shalt not kill a jazz musician while he's playing on the bandstand. The jazz life is tough enough as it is." Amen, brother. — Dave Nuttycombe

You Can Go Back Again
Students and debaters of U.S. foreign policy will revel in the Web site of a historian from Texas A&M University. The U.S. Diplomatic History Resources Index of Nicholas E. Sarantakes, a professor at the branch campus in Commerce, northeast of Dallas, outlines hundreds of links both alphabetically and by subject. The principal page holds bookmarks, generally listed alphabetically starting with archives links and working its way down to the World Trade Organization. Under the History subheading, some of the headings hint at the scope of modern history: A Disraeli and the Suez Canal link sits next to a discussion of the 1945 Atomic Bomb decision; one Web site projects stereoscopic pictures of the Philippine-American War, while the previous link reviews the PBS television history of the war in Vietnam.

The index also includes sub-pages devoted to books, centers of study and funding sources for research. The alphabetical listing and the categorical organization help make up for the lack of a search engine that could hack through the nearly 500 Web pages. Sarantakes states that the site is developing and he plans to add more sites. — Robert Thomason


Found something intriguing, improbable, insane or especially useful on the Net? Write it up and send it to Joel Garreau or Robert Thomason.
   
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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