Y2K Preparation Silliness
The supposed "MIT advisory" to turn off computers a "full day before" Y2K reported in the Boston Globe has inspired some email I'd like to share.

It seems the actual advisory was for desktop PCs that wouldn't be used during vacation anyway. Web servers and most everything else will continue to run. The reporter was a bit over zealous (surprise!) in reporting that "...officials are urging that every one of MIT's estimated 20,000 computers and servers that can be shut down be turned off no later than Dec. 30". (His main message that MIT takes Y2K seriously is correct.)

I spoke to Jeffrey Schiller,  Network Manager of MIT, who explained to me how the discussion of what to do first appeared in MIT's Tech Talk and then was picked up by the Boston Globe. He also writes:

What we are doing is recommending that people who have desktop computers that would not be doing anything (aka Windows and Mac boxes in their idle loops), might want to consider just turning them off.

Our financial folks are shutting down our general ledger system, but then again it wouldn't be doing anything at that time anyway.

All Athena services will be operational as will our Web based services, i.e., everything people will want.

Bob Frankston, reacting to the Globe article, writes:

In light of the MIT warning, I'm planning to hold my breath from Dec 31st through Jan 2. I plan to shut off power to the house and the water supply and disable all thermostats and will not eat any food in case they expire spontaneously. I plan to put the pets in deep freeze and will thaw them after that date. I will replace all two digit numbers with 20xx just be safe. This includes setting my thermostats to 2070 +/- a few degrees. My 60hz power will go to 2060hz.
I'll also kill myself just in case...

David Reed wrote:

...discussions with a friend of mine who is somewhat knowledgeable about the phone system suggest the following sequence is likely...

12:00 midnight + 1 sec.: millions of curious people pick up their phones to see if the dialtone is there.

12:00 m. + 1.5 sec.: millions of people don't get dialtone (if more than 10% go off hook in any Central Office, they don't get dialtone for a long time...).

Thinking that the phone system is crashed by Y2K problems, millions panic.  First thing some do is pull out their cell phones and try to make a call.

The cell network can't handle lots of calls placed simultaneously, and it acts flakey or dead.

Now confirmed in their belief that the technological world is ending, millions hop into their cars (many drunk) and drive out to see what is going on.

Huge traffic jams result, many accidents, and angry people.

These problems are reported on TV, incorrectly, leading many more to pick up their telephones out of curiosity, and to head out on the roads...

Notice that no computer failures cause this problem, yet the problem is directly traceable to the Y2K nutcases.

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