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February 15, 1999


Dilip D'Souza is Y2K compliant! Are you? What follows 1999? If you said 2000, you goofed. The trick answer is 2K. Now hear this: I'm Y2K compliant.

Indeed. Come January 1, believe me, I certainly am not going to dissolve into some gargantuan paperweight. I certainly will not be turning into a half-witted pumpkin that cannot handle two little zeros, oh no!

Email this column to a friend. Oh yes, I may be drunk out of my mind that morning, stuck with a hangover the size of a Tata truck - but I will definitely be Y2K compliant.

In fact, as I said a few lines earlier, I already am that way: Y2K compliant, and proud to be so! Garv se kaho and all that.

I urge you to find out if you are. Because I'm convinced those three little letters (I know, I know, one's a digit) are soon going to form the latest symbol of high status, the finest pedigree you can attach to your name, better even than a mobile number or an email address.

I can see it now, that new visiting card I've ordered. It's going to read:

Dilip D'Souza,

Of course, that stands for 'Y2K compliant' and 'matric appeared but failed'.

My stellar credentials, didn't you know? You see we, in the computer business, have a startling ability to turn the mundane into the extremely hi-tech, prestigious and futuristic.

I mean, suppose I tapped you on the shoulder and told you: "Hey, I know what year comes after 1999: 2000!" What would you do?

My guess is you would edge quickly away, ensuring at least a few large items of furniture separated us. You'd think I was some kind of loony, and you'd be right.

But what if I tapped you on the shoulder and said instead "Hey, I'm Y2K compliant!" What then? Admit it now, you'd look at me with newfound respect. Ask me for my autograph, offer to take me out to dinner, n'est ce pas? (That's French for "even though I'm nuts").

And yet, here's the bald truth. Saying "I'm Y2K compliant!" is precisely the same as saying "I know what year comes after 1999: 2000!" Only, it sounds much better. See what I mean about the mundane and the hi-tech? I'd be a loony in any case, but just the use of those magic words lets me pretend to be the Second Coming of Sabeer Bhatia and get away with it. (Don't know yet which magic words? Clearly, YOUR Y2K compliance is a tad suspect, pal!)

I suppose I don't need to tell you computer savvy chaps and chappettes the genesis of the famous Y2K bug, but here's a short explanation anyway.

Something like 30 (0.03K) years (Y) ago, many computer programmers worked in a language called COBOL (which stands for Code to make yOu BellOw with Laughter).

Because most of them were men, they suffered from a mammary shortage. They had only two (2) in which to store their dates. So whenever they wrote software in those days, they gave their dates two bites of mammary.

I know you're laughing and laughing that this could possibly have been the case then - which explains why COBOL was called COBOL - but believe me, it was.

Nobody knew at the time that in a mere 0.03K or so Ys, the mammary shortage would be a thing of the past and people could give their dates four bites of mammary.

Now today, we have millions of computers running all manner of hilarious pieces of software written by blokes whose vision ran no further than the mammary they had at hand.

Can't blame them, either. Anyway, to these pieces of software, the year 2000 looks like this: "00". (Kind of like all that mammary, if you think about it). So as the year 2000 rolls around, as it is likely to do after the year 1999, these smart machines will assume we have regressed to the beginning of time: before Sachin Tendulkar and MTV. If you can imagine.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem. Of course, it sounds pretty stupid, not to mention low-tech, to call it something like "the problem in which computers equate 2000 to zero and putrefy into blubbering lumps of plastic and silicon." A snappier, tech-ier, name was essential. That's why someone dreamed up "Y2K". Has that nice 21st Century ring to it, n'est ce pas?

I can walk down the streets tossing Y2K out every now and then, and that's all I need to have the world worship the ground I walk on.

In fact, I tried it this morning. The people I passed were very worshipful indeed.

They've even devised a new rite, a Y2K rite: they threw tomatoes at me. A little messy perhaps, but I felt honoured and superior with each veggie that landed.

All sorts of people are in search of the same worship, I find. From an ST bus in Pune some days ago, I spied a huge hoarding that said 'Y2K leads to chaos'. So to avoid such chaos, it advised that homebuyers buy their homes from Y2K compliant P S Deshpande Home Developers.

N'est ce pas.

Then there's Hyundai Motors, busy plastering the newspapers with full-page ads for its new Santro. Trying to persuade us that it is a better car than the Zen or the Indica. The ads get almost poetic about the virtues of the Santro. First of those virtues listed? The car's wondrous engine, with its 'Y2K ready technology'. The engine, yes.

N'est ce pas, once more.

You see Y2K compliance is everywhere. As 1999 steams along, I fully expect to find many more declarations of such compliance. After all, Kellogg's corn flakes are Y2K compliant. The track where I do my evening jog is Y2K compliant. Atal Behari Vajpayee is Y2K compliant. India's flag is Y2K compliant. Tomatoes, worshipful or otherwise, are Y2K compliant.

In fact, with all the advances in technology these days even mammary is Y2K compliant.

Still, if I were you, I would keep some handy. Better make that two (2).

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