Department of De-engineering

Y2K | Humans Still Make the Best Mistakes

by / February 28, 1999
Before computers were invented, people had to make their own errors. Just as it's easier to leave the long division to your pocket calculator, it's tempting to let computer viruses, quirky programs and overtaxed servers do all our fouling up for us. The old-fashioned reader will be happy to know that the best mistakes are still man-made.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in December that Bank One Texas officials ran into problems with a Y2K-readiness test in which they wanted to see whether their computers would generate overdraft statements after 2000. All went well, the bank's system generating more than 2,000 phony statem Random Access | McDonough

ents as programmed.

The problem came when a bank employee, apparently not wired into the whole testing concept, actually mailed 2,013 of the fake overdraft notices to real customers rather than trashing the slips. The human error generated customer chaos, angry phone calls and profuse apologies from red-faced bankers. -- Brian McDonough

Untangled Web |
Y2K for the Obsessive-Compulsive
Really want people to know you're on top of the millennium bug issue? Want to seriously annoy people around you? Point your browser here, where valuable bug-beating information is topped with a counter that tells you how many days, hours, minutes and seconds remain until the most highly anticipated disaster since Kevin Costner's "The Postman."

Net Rumor:

By Edward Mazza | Special to Government Technology

NEW YORK -- As anyone who's had an e-mail account for at least 15 minutes knows, the Net is full of fabrications and falsehoods, mass mailings of innuendo containing everything from jokes and advertisements to pleas for help and calls to arms.

One rumor circulating the Web for at least a year warns African Americans that they are in danger of losing the right to vote.

"In 2007, Congress will decide whether or not Blacks should retain the right to vote," one (herein unedited) version of the ominous missive reads. "I encourage YOU to contact your Congressperson, alderperson, senator -- anyone in government, that you put your vote behind and ask them what are they doing to -- firstly, to get the extension and furthermore, make our right to vote a LAW."

And the calls are coming in. So many have inquired about the matter that the Justice Department put a notice on its Web site debunking the thing, and the Congressional Black Caucus is considering doing to the same.

Like all good myths, this one has a tiny basis in reality. In 2007, certain provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act do indeed expire, according to the Justice Department.

But African Americans are assured the right to vote under the 15th Amendment, which was ratified in 1870, long before the act. The Constitution has no expiration date.

Long after the passage of the amendment, many African Americans, especially in the South, found themselves still unable to vote. So-called literacy tests, poll taxes and grandfather laws were enacted with the specific and insidious aim of keeping blacks disenfranchised.

Enter the Voting Rights Act.

The act gives the federal government, specifically the Justice Department, certain powers in areas where the right to vote was compromised. Under the act, federal attorneys general have the power to register voters, monitor elections and ensure that any local voting regulations do not compromise the rights of voters.

The act was extended in 1970, 1975 and 1982. The 1982 renewal runs out in -- you guessed it -- 2007, sparking the rumor.

"The basic prohibition against discrimination in voting contained in the 15th amendment and in the Voting Rights Act does not expire in 2007 -- it does not expire at all; it is permanent," according to the Justice Department.

Unfortunately, the tendency to spread fiction is similarly durable, and the Internet has made it easier than ever.

See also: Snopes Urban Legend Resource Page

Journalist Edward Mazza writes from New York City.