The Y2k Problem and You

It's December 31, 1999 and you are partying getting your grove on. As you pause to watch the clock countdown to the year 2000 you can feel the adrenaline rush as the clock strikes 12:00 and the lights and music go off. You wait patiently for the electricity to turn back but it doesn't and the party is cancelled.

You then walk to your late model 1990's car and get in it, but when you put the key in the ignition to start it, it won't start. You go to pull out your cellular phone to call for a tow, but your phone doesn't have a dial tone. You then go to a pay phone and try to use it, but the pay phone also doesn't have a tone.

You are in a state of anger and disillusionment, and you don't know what to do. As you are hitting the pay phone to get it to work, you start to see a plane fall from out of the sky. This may seem like a doom day scenario, but this can be a common situation as a t of the year 2000 problem, which is also known as the millenium bug or the Y2K problem. The Y2k problem will effect all forms of the government-from Social security checks, to military defense systems, to air traffic controllers. IBM according to the Electronic Telegram stated that "a series of 40 Crucial air traffic computers controlling flights to and across America will not work beyond December 1999."

Y2K will not discriminate as it will also affect the private sector- from bank accounts, cars, assembly lines, lights and electrical systems. According to J.P. Morgan Securities, "Your local bank may stop crediting your account with the proper interest or may retire your outstanding obligations prematurely."

This problem that has arisen is nothing new and in fact, it has been a problem that has been known for time. In the 1960's when many of the computer systems were put in that run the electricity, phone lines, and almost every electrical source available today, data processing professionals sought ways to cheaply store data.

They used COBOL or Common Business Oriented Language, to write the applications that entered the date fields in six digit fields. For example 07/22/98, which accounts for the month, date and year. This type of 6-digit field is used in every field that has to store data. The data processing professionals (computer programmers) in trying to save money didn't program the additional two digits after to include 2000.

So while you are standing out in the cold after your car failed to start after that New Years eve party, the computer that powers your car will either not start or think it is January 1, 1900, instead of January 1, 2000. Or if you happen to go to the bank to withdraw some money and let's say you have $10,000.00 in your account, the money may disappear, and your account may not exist. Of if you are 50 years old in 1999, after 2000 hits, your electronic birth records might disappear or they may read -50, indicating your age, as the date rolls back to 1900. True pandemonium can kick in when computer systems fail to work, or work improperly. From airplane disasters in the sky, to food shortages, to a world wide financial crisis, to a depression and economic down fall that would make the great depression look like a picnic.

There are only two ways to fix the problem, which is not just in America, but is worldwide. Either bring in new computer systems, in all fields which can run into the trillions in America, or fix and program each line of computer code in the existing systems, which is currently taking place. This dooms day scenario is real, but there is a tremendous opportunity for those who are ready to take advantage of the situation. Due to the fact that reprogramming the lines of code Y2K will cost between $200 billion (a conservative estimate) and in upwards of $500 billion or more in the United States alone, the need for programmers to fix the problem will be enormous.

COBOL is a computer language that was used to program many of the systems that are running, and there are currently over 300,000 unfilled computer-programming jobs. With the rush to fix the millenium bug, billions of lines of code will have to be programmed so computer systems across the board will be able to operate.

In the book "Empower the people" by Tony Brown, he states that "five out of six businesses and government agencies are still not millennium compliant." Brown writes that it will cost about $1 to fix each line of code, (Just in America, there are billions of lines of code) and "the explosion in demand for computer programmers who can solve the Y2k problem will be unprecedented."

There have been estimates that there will need to be at least another 500,000, computer programmers needed to fix the problem, not including the 300,000 unfilled jobs. Many of these computer programmers can work as independent contractors and can go from business to business fixing the problem. This is what I call the next gold rush and as many African Americans as possible should be learn COBOL, which isn't that difficult, so they will be able to share in the wealth that will be spent trying to fix the Y2k or the millenium bug.

For information on the Y2k problem and training to get in on the gold rush to, or e-mail the Bay View's computer guru Maurice Campbell at

written by
Lee Hubbard

For interview requests, questions or comments call Lee Hubbard at (415)671-0449 or e-mail him at

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