The world currently faces one of the great challenges of the Information Age. As we head toward a new millennium, many computer systems, as well as the computer chips embedded in everything from personal computers to household appliances and sophisticated manufacturing equipment, are set to shift backwards in time. The problem is that many older computer systems and microprocessors, as computer chips are known, use only the last two digits of a year to keep track of the date. So, when the year 2000 arrives, those chips may recognize 00 as the year 1900, not 2000. The resulting malfunctions could cause serious disruptions of power grids, water treatment plants, financial networks, telecommunications systems, and air traffic control systems worldwide. In an increasingly wired world with a global economy, computer networks are only as strong as their weakest link. While each nation is likely to experience its own particular system problems, in a very real sense we are all in this together. Year 2000-related disruptions are likely to begin before the new millennium as outmoded systems attempt to calculate or schedule future events. Precisely what will happen is difficult to predict at this point. There are a number of Internet Web sites in the United States where some experts that one would not normally think of as alarmists have predicted widespread system failures that will result in power outages, traffic problems, economic recession, and possibly, in some regions, food shortages. While the author tends to be more optimistic than these doomsayers, he is concerned particularly about countries where inactivity and lack of awareness could lead to fulfillment of some worst-case scenarios. The point is that by taking action now we can minimize the disruptions and, hopefully, effect a seamless transition to the year 2000.
Cyberthreat: Protecting U.S. Information Networks: U.S.Foreign Policy Agenda: An Electronic Journal of the U.S.Department of State, v.3, no.4, p. 16-17