Year 2000 Opens Doors in Apocalypse Business

Article excerpt

TYLER, Texas -- Those looking for information on the year 2000 computer bug via the Internet could do worse than check out what's at www.garynorth.com

The innocuously titled site carries perhaps the most comprehensive list of links to articles, government reports and testimony on the programming flaw that afflicts electronic devices.

There's a catch to using this resource, however. The vast stores of information on the software bug come with commentary by Gary North, whose dark vision of the approaching millennium rivals the Apocalypse. It isn't hard to find software specialists who consider North an extremist, including William Ulrich, who visits two or three companies a month to consult on their year 2000 de-bugging projects. "Gary North's pamphlets," said Ulrich, "are not that different from the doomsday literature that guys on the corner wearing cardboard billboards are handing out." North, an author of dozens of books on Christian doctrine and economics, calls the year 2000 computer bug "a disaster greater than anything the world has experienced since the bubonic plague of the mid-14th century." In an e-mail interview, North didn't mince words. "I'm Dr. Doom," he said. "I see inevitable failure." He declined to be interviewed by telephone. North, who lives in Tyler, 90 miles east of Dallas, forecasts a run on bank deposits before the turn of the century, an industrial collapse and a worldwide stock market crash. All this, because many computer systems look at only the last two digits in a year, and could mistake the year 2000 for 1900, if not fixed in time. Personal computers made as recently as last year will be affected. There is something to worry about. Many people will encounter "massive inconvenience" in 2000, Ulrich said. Some software repair projects won't be completed in time, and some problems won't be anticipated. Still, he stresses, "It's not a `big boom.'" Scaring the heck out of people has been North's stock in trade for more than a decade. Many of his books written since the early 1980s envisage catastrophe. In 1996 North published The Coming Mutual Fund Meltdown, which carried a picture of a mushroom cloud on the cover. It was his 33rd treatise on markets and economics, most of which have "government- bashing, survivalist themes," wrote Tom Petruno in the Chicago Sun- Times. …