Things that go crash in the night of 31 December 1999

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The Independent Online
TODAY I'm going to devote the whole of this space to your questions about the Millennium Bug and that means turning the column over to our resident expert, Dr Erasmus Pinkerton, Professor of Applied Guesswork at Milton Keynes University. All yours, Doc!

Do you know why Tony Blair has suddenly become so excited about the Millennium Bug?

Dr Pinkerton writes: Yes. Because he is suffering from the Millennium Bug Bug.

What is the Millennium Bug Bug?

Dr Pinkerton writes: It is the state of excitement contracted by those who have just discovered that there will be a computer crisis at the end of the century.

But surely we've known about this for years and years?

Dr Pinkerton writes: Oh yes, we have. But the politicians have only just noticed.

And what are the politicians going to do about it?

Dr Pinkerton writes: They are going to do what they always do. They are going to throw a lot of money at it and say that the situation is well in hand.

As far as I can make out, the Millennium Bug refers to the inability of computers to recognise that the next year after 1999 is 2000. They think it is going to be 1900. How will this affect us?

Dr Pinkerton writes: Quite nicely, really. If 1900 does come after 1999, we will go back to the long hot summers of the Edwardian era, dresses will get much longer, the ukulele will come back into fashion, people will go out boating on the Thames and cannabis will be legal again. Women will lose the vote, I'm afraid, but you can't have everything.

I see... but if we don't want to go back to 1900, what can we do?

Dr Pinkerton writes: Well, you can insure against it...

Will insurance companies really take the risk of insuring against the Millennium Bug?

Dr Pinkerton writes: Sure. For one thing, any policy guarding against the Millennium Bug will not be payable until the year 2000. If the Millennium Bug does strike everyone down, the insurance companies will merely say, "Well, it's only AD1900 - we would be very glad to shell out, but we don't have to pay you for another 100 years yet!"

Not even an insurance company would have that cheek...

Dr Pinkerton writes: Do you want to bet? And of course, if they do have to pay out, they will plead inability due to all their computers having crashed.

So you really think it's all going to happen as predicted?

Dr Pinkerton writes: Well, yes, but not quite as predicted. What nobody has quite realised yet is that Millennium Night threatens to be the most active in the history of the world. Non-stop parties, jetting around, travelling to exotic places - all the things that need air traffic control, ticketing, electricity, TV channels going full blast - in fact all the things that are going to go crash on the night of 31 December 1999.

So you foresee a complete collapse of the system, with everyone stranded away from home in a foreign hotel?

Dr Pinkerton writes: No, as a matter of fact, I don't. I foresee quite the opposite. I foresee a new Millennium Panic, a sort of fear of the end of the world, in which all but the bravest will cancel their travel plans to go to New Zealand or wherever, for fear of being trapped there for the rest of their lives and will stay within walking distance of where they live.

So the Millennium Bug will cause a Millennium Panic which will cause a Millennium Stay at Home Stampede.

Dr Pinkerton writes: That's it. Sell airline shares - buy takeaway pizza shares!

But won't all the microwaves in our homes also collapse with the Millennium Bug?

Dr Pinkerton writes: I am no expert on microwave cookers but I find it hard to believe that they have the year and century coded into their circuits, so they will avoid the Millennium Bug.

Do you want to avoid the Millennium Bug? Send now for Dr Erasmus Pinkerton's booklet "How to Transfer your Database on to your Microwave Cooker".

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