Be prepared

Posted on March 27, 1999

Hard hat. Check.

Two years' worth of provisions, including 80 cans of Spam and 72 cans of beans. Check.

Can opener. Definite check.

Before preparing for the upcoming Y2K crisis, make a short checklist of necessary items. Because the problems could last until the Y3K crisis, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Is anyone really buying into this? Is a modern computer, which was invented sometime in the mid '50s, really going to believe it went back in time? Even without a flux capacitor or Michael J. Fox's Delorean?

Some computers recognize two digits, not four. It makes sense. Early programmers weren't concerned with the year 2000. Rather, they were trying to create a systematic way to arrange the world's top table tennis players. Instead, they developed a monster.

The first computers were 76 times bigger than Vermont. It literally took the machine minutes to add numbers due to its processing capabilities. Binary and boolean figures led technology pioneers to realize crunching numbers was easier than working a hula hoop.

Speed was a problem, though. With today's advances, the downfall is that sometimes computers move too fast. People are so amazed with their swiftness that they often congratulate the hardware by taking it to the movies.

There are other times when the computer doesn't spit out the right information.It's hard to punish a computer when it reads you owe $14,890 for overdue books. But no one is forced to abide by its rules.

There is a simple solution to the worries. Trash your hardware and learn the ways of the abacus. It's rather simple to master. Move a few beads forward and backward. Then shake the abacus as you would an Etch-a-Sketch. The number will magically appear in your mind. It also makes for a great hot plate.

The biggest worry is that computers are actually getting smarter than humans. First, IBM programs a machine to beat the world's best chess player. Next, you'll see a CPU become a lottery pick in some professional sports draft. Mine just signed an extended deal with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Most networked computers have decided to begin the Y2K process Dec. 21. They want to keep humans on their toes and avoid the Christmas rush. The new front digits may cause minor problems, like a simple program will have to be debugged or "Saved by the Bell" will be shown daily eight times instead of seven. But realistically, things should not be terrible.

By the time it's close to 2000, most computers will read the dates correctly anyway. Most companies are currently testing computers for Y2K bugs. There will be a few glitches, but nothing serious enough to bury yourself in a time capsule.

Some computers with problems will probably need to be fed by punch cards. Keep that Spam and can opener handy just in case.