America's Community Bankers and the 2,000 progressive banks we represent are fully engaged in addressing the Year 2000 issues ("Zap! How the Year 2000 bug will hurt the economy," Cover Story, Mar. 2). The programs consumers care about most--transaction processing, ATM systems, and account statements--will be tested, revised, and in operation by yearend 1998 and throughout 1999.
The ACB's recent survey of its own membership reflects that the vast majority of community institutions are devoting substantial resources to resolving Y2K issues. All banks must be prepared for the next century. That's why our industry took the unusual step of urging Congress to grant the Office of Thrift Supervision expanded authority for Y2K issues. It's not often that a business seeks more supervision, but we believe that prudent preventive measures, including additional supervision, will ensure that community banks and their customers will not be bitten by the year 2000 bug.
Paul A. Schosberg
America's Community Bankers
I am a software professional who has been aware of this problem for almost 10 years. It is fascinating to watch how the conventional wisdom is slowly changing. Each article I read is becoming less optimistic, more realistic.
I deal with software systems used by corporations. Thus I was horrified to learn that there are so many problems in so-called embedded systems--those control systems in which software is loaded into computer chips at the time of their manufacture. Embedded systems are at the heart of most modern industrial control systems, including those of the nation's power grid. The most frightening part of the article was the quote from Charlie Siebenthal, who said it will be six months before the power industry knows the extent of the problem.
This means that electrical utilities will have less than 18 months to fix the problems they find--which is cutting it way too close. I keep having nightmares about what it will be like in Boston, Chicago, or Minneapolis during January in 2000 if there is no power. People may die because of this glitch and our industries' inadequate response to it.
West Chester, Pa.
After reading "Zap!," I am convinced that Europe should postpone the euro for at least two years, if just on the basis of the Y2K problem. There is substantial doubt surrounding the euro anyway: The Y2K problem is more important for Europe to deal with first. All countries are far too interdependent on European computer systems to risk lack of readiness for Jan. 1, 2000.
Furthermore, the world's financial-service companies will also have to allocate programmer resources to deal with the euro, taking away from their own Y2K issues. Y2K could indeed wind up being the factor that tips the balance on European Monetary Union.
The Y2K problem is much more serious than even the alarmists are aware. In 1972, the hospital I worked for mistakenly sent out more than 10,000 medical bills threatening immediate legal action if not paid. I was the accounts-receivable supervisor at the time and found the error was caused by a computer program that thought the date was 01/01/1900.
Two sitting Supreme Court Justices, one retired Justice, Attorney General John Mitchell's maid, Bobby Kennedy's daughter, members of Congress, and numerous other dignitaries were threatened with civil suits. Patients couldn't use the phones because of the crush of irate incoming calls. The phone company threatened to sue the hospital and claimed the phone system in one quadrant of the District of Columbia was severely affected.
This mistake will happen 1,000 times over around the world in the year 2000 and will probably bring "modern life" to a grinding halt for a few weeks. Continue to sound the alarm, particularly in your editions in other countries.
Andreas School of Business
Miami Shores, Fla.