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The Y2K bug is a big joke

Today's breaking news
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Had enough Year 2000 doom and gloom?

If so, how about a guided tour of Y2K's lighter and loonier side?

Year 2000 has been hell on code fixers and IT budgets, but "The Bug" has also been manna from heaven for humorists, be they professional, amateur or blissfully unwitting.

Like the software vendor who assured customers his products are already Y2K-compliant and that "the next release will be even more compliant."

Or the military man in search of Y2K answers who asked, "Well, what did we do last time?"

Or the executive for a securities organization who, when asked if brokerage accounts might get lost in the Y2K shuffle, replied: "Ludicrous. But I'll have paper printouts of my personal finances just in case."

The best place on the World Wide Web for Y2K wisdom of this sort is Duh-2000 (www. duh-2000.com), self-dubbed, "The monthly contest for the stupidest thing said about the Year 2000 problem."

Professionals also have taken cracks at the topic. "Cartoonists hit the mother lode with this one," says Daryl Cagle, president of the National Cartoonists Society. "Giant bugs blend with images of doomsday cultists and visions of the apocalypse."

Cagle's Web site - The Professional Cartoonists Index at www.cagle.com/art - gets about two million page hits per month. While topics range far and wide, there's a healthy dose of Y2K knee-slappers online.

Self-proclaimed Mr. Y2K - a.k.a. software developer Steve Magruder - has assembled a humorous take on survivalist hysteria at his site (www. blueangelgroup.com/mry2k). Included are such passages as: "How to learn to stop worrying and love The Apocalypse" and "Home defense: How to keep what is yours and take what is others."

Any Web search on "Year 2000 humor" turns up dozens of corporate and personal sites with pages devoted to Y2K funny stuff. In the interest of getting you back to work, we've culled some of the best - and worst - material for your reading pleasure.

The mad scramble to obtain written Y2K assurances from suppliers and vendors has many organizations blasting out requests to everyone with whom they've ever done business. Some of these documents, such as the one received by Richard Lipp at List & Clark Construction in Overland Park, Kan., might be considered a tad overzealous.

"We sell sand," Lipp writes. "I dutifully returned the survey, noting that our engineers have assured me that our sand will continue to function as specified on and after Jan. 1, 2000."

Of course, noncompliant sand may not be as nutty as it sounds, when you consider that a gravestone (the ultimate embedded system?) actually can have a two-digit Y2K bug, at least according to Web lore. It seems as though some grave markers come with the "19" pre-engraved, meaning their owners will either have to meet their maker soon or engravers may find themselves as much in demand as COBOL coders.

Speaking of which: One of the most widely circulated jokes tells the tale of a burned-out COBOL programmer who has himself cryogenically frozen in an attempt to escape his crushing Y2K burdens.

He leaves instructions to be defrosted next March, when presumably all the work and worry will be over. One problem: The freezer turns out to have a nasty Y2K bug of its own. He isn't thawed until 2099, at which time his reappearance sparks a reaction worthy of the Second Coming.

"Why," he asks his cheering new-age friends, "does everybody seem so interested in me?"

"Well," comes the reply, "2100 is just around the corner, and it says in your files that you know COBOL."

Here's a mock memo issued by an automated payroll processing system on the first work day of the new millennium:

"Dear Employee: Our records indicate you have not used any vacation time over the past 100 years. As I'm sure you are aware, employees are granted three weeks per year or pay in lieu of time off. One additional week is granted for every five years of service.

"Please either take 9,400 days off work or notify our office and your next paycheck will reflect payment of $8,277,432."

This next one's widely posted, too, including at www. r2i.com. It's an animated cartoon showing a tubby typist - perhaps a trade magazine reporter - banging away at his "I told you so" piece on Jan. 1, 2000.

"As I predicted, the millennium bug hype was greatly overblown . . . I've seen little evidence of this so-called bug."

Rather than spoil the fun for those who haven't seen it, let's just say Mr. Smarty-pants gets his comeuppance.

Some attempts at Year 2000 yuks are downright painful, while others are painfully on the mark:

Question: How do Y2K code fixers greet each other?

Answer: May the 'source' be with you.

Question: What are Y2K consultants going to do after Year 2000?

Answer: Become expert witnesses.

Mixing Year 2000 with Microsoft-bashing should be a slam-dunk formula for humor, though that doesn't mean some of these hybrids don't clang off the rim.

"Microsoft has announced a solution for the Year 2000 problem," JavaSoft President Alan Baratz has been quoted as saying. "It will be released in 2004."

Presumably just before Windows 2000.

There's plenty more out there, but that's enough Y2K frivolity for one issue. We now return you to your regular Network World programming. o

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