Re: Petroleum and Y2K

Eugene Leitl (
Fri, 8 Oct 1999 12:12:16 -0700 (PDT)

Chris Olds writes:
> The question that came up for me as I read this page is this:
> Why does an embedded controller care what day it is?

You didn't do much embedded programming, did you?

> If these controllers are so deeply integrated into the 24/7/365 operations
> of systems that cannot be shut down without enormous expense, why should
> they care what the date is? There is a huge difference between "cannot be

They shouldn't, but some of them do. Sometimes, things are just
operated beyond specs, see Patriot counter wraparound.

> readily replaced or reprogrammed" and "will probably fail". In fact, I
> would think that the former would make the latter less likely. The fact
> that a toaster controller has not been evaluated for Y2K compliance does not
> imply an inability to heat baked goods on 2000-01-01.

I don't know about the toaster, but some coffee machines might
fail. Or certain aluminum plants.

Of course the technical dangers are negligeable (I won't fly, and I'll
switch off my machine before midnight due to possible brownouts),
disruptions will be likely only slightly more than 9/9/99 (but will
certainly receive press coverage), but the human part of the equation
isn't. Luckily, my financial assets are pretty much zero, so I don't

y2k could be a good trigger for the Internet bubble bursting
(daytraders panicking, people withdrawing, etc.).