Y2K Visionary Predicts Small Businesses Will Learn Hard Way

NEEDHAM, Mass. — As the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office could no
doubt attest, the very best of ideas sometimes go down in a blaze
of obscurity. The Y2K Service Corps may be such a candidate.

The brainchild of David Eddy, a former programmer credited with
coining the term ‘Y2K,’ the Service Corps would have sent teams of
technicians knocking on the doors of small- and medium-sized
businesses to assess and provide technical help for their
Y2K-related needs.

In Eddy’s vision, the corps would employ inner-city youth,
retirees and college students, mirroring the Works Progress
Administration of the 1930s by providing important work to
unemployed citizens. These trained technicians would provide
essential information to small businesses that cannot afford to pay
independent contractors to assess their Y2K exposure, recommend a
course of action, fix the problems and monitor their progress.

The hitch in Eddy’s plan was financing. He had hoped to
underwrite the corps with contributions from utilities and large
product and service corporations, who he felt had a natural
interest in the sustainability of their small-business customers.
No deal.

‘The idea didn’t go anywhere. It just died,’ said Eddy, who now
markets software maintenance products.

While the potential computer-related problems that small and
medium-sized businesses face come Jan. 1, 2000, has been recognized
by both government and industry associations, most small businesses
simply have not paid attention to the millennium bug, Eddy

President Clinton signed a bill earlier this year that extended
loan guarantees to businesses interested in upgrading their
systems, but according to the Small Business Administration, just
61 Y2K Action Loans totaling $4.5 million have been made.

‘They are accustomed to living from paycheck to paycheck,’ said
Eddy of small-business owners, and they are hesitant to fix
something that isn’t obviously broken.

He thinks attitudes may shift dramatically early in 2000,
however, when small-business owners try to run accounting programs
to meet payroll and find they don’t work. ‘I think this will catch
a lot of people up and down the food chain really flat-footed,’
Eddy said. ‘I hope I’m wrong, but I do not see us being prepared
for this.’

Contacts: David Eddy, David Eddy and Associates, Needham,
Mass., 781-455-0949. Mike Stamler, press officer, Small Business
Association, Washington, D.C., 202-205-6740; web site:


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