Managing the New Millenium
ANGST TAKES A BACKSEAT TO SYSTEM DATE FRENZY
By Roger Lyons
We have had a few calls from subscribers who were concerned about the year 2000, and it's gratifying to know that we are not the only ones who are concerned. However, our subscribers' concerns are a little different from our own. You see, CompuSire in no way makes use of the pesky system date that is causing all the trouble.
We knew when we first started the CompuSire project that there was a chance we would survive the year 1999, so, even though we encouraged the use of only two digits for the years of birth of horses born between 1901 to 1999, we allowed the entry of four digits. This way, you could enter four digits for all years of birth prior to 1901, thereby distinguishing them from the two-digit dates of the current century. Entering only two digits for contemporary names reduces the risk of erroneous entries that might be off by one or two hundred years, such as would be the case if you inadvertently entered an eight instead of a nine in the hundreds place.
FOALS OF 2000
But you want to know what we will do in the year 2000. The answer is that we will do nothing special. Foals born in the year 2000 will have a four-digit year of birth, just as do foals born in the year 1900. During the year 2000 you can go on entering two-digit years of birth for foals born in what will then be the previous century.
It's really the year 2001 that is of interest. Our update for the year 2001 will include a conversion of 20th-century years of birth from two digits to four digits. As mentioned above, foals born in the year 2000 will already have four digits. When you enter foals of 2001, you will use two digits (01) and continue doing so until the year 2101 since the CompuSire Update of 2001 will have converted all of the 20th-century years of birth to four digits. We expect the year 2001 to be the best year ever for Compusire annual updates, and we are not above benefiting from prevailing millennial anxieties.
CompuSire is not going to contribute to the world-wide recession that we are told could result from the two digits that are missing from dates assigned by operating systems and software applications. But we do have other fears about the new millennium.
During our youth, it was hip to believe that computers were the enemy, and not all of us are entirely disabused of our suspicion. If you're old enough to have done grocery shopping in the typical American supermarket of 25 years ago and still fool around with it, you know well how computerization has diminished that experience. If your experience of grocery shopping is limited to the last ten years or so, well, then, you will assume that the scanners make grocery shopping faster and more efficient. In fact, the scanners make grocery merchandising, marketing, and bookkeeping faster and more efficient. They turn the supermarket checkstand into a procession of problems for us. But, then, we're only "consumers," anyway.
In addition to all the good they can do, computers tend to preoccupy us with worrying over what we would otherwise take for granted, precisely by rendering it problematic. How else can one explain how the question, "What year is it?" could become the object of our deepest anxieties about the new millennium?
It has been speculated that Rome was toppled by the leaden aquaducts that leached contamination into the drinking water of the elite, shorting out the synapses that enable rational behavior. Perhaps something as obvious as a two-digit year could cause worldwide economic collapse. But, whether the Romans were brought down by lead contamination or by the barbarians, the main problem of the Romans was the Romans. There's a clue to the nature of our own problems.
HAVING THE TIME
Satish Sanan certainly has the time. His Information Management Resources, Inc. is doing well enough for him to pay record prices at breeding stock sales. It is reported that 50% of his business is related to software conversion for compliance with year-2000 system dating requirements. You can't fault what he's doing with the money.
But, will the best minds of a generation have time to recognize, much less deal with, the challenges and hazards of the new millennium when they are preoccupied with fixing the digital clock? At certain moments there is nothing more important than the year when a horse was born, but those moments are meant to be fleeting. The human mental apparatus is designed for contemplation, not for calculation. That's what the computer promised to do. We're holding the computer to that promise and will do our part to make short work of this pesky change of date - when the time comes.
All you need to keep in mind for now is that, when entering foals of 2000, use four-digit years of birth, and, of course, don't fail to order the CompuSire 2001 update--unless, by then, it will have become a cyberspace odyssey.
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