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Technology Experts Take Dim View of the Apocalyptic 'Y2K'

Television * Movie's depictions of computer-related disasters could raise needless panic, authorities say.

November 19, 1999|CARL INGRAM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lema, whom Davis appointed to make sure that critical California systems keep functioning, said he is confident that computer operations affecting the lives, safety and health of Californians will pass the test at midnight Jan. 1.

These systems, he said, already are very close to full readiness. "We will reach 100% well before the first of the year. That is the mandate, the target, and we are on track to achieving that goal," Lema said.

Lema, Cox and others at Government Technology said they were stunned by the movie's failure to give more than a passing mention to the billions of dollars--and effort--invested by governments and the private sector in preparedness.

At the urging of California officials, NBC posted the disclaimer, spokeswoman Powell said, to ensure that "viewers don't take the movie for anything except what it is intended to be, which is entertainment."

Anticipating that the show could touch off panic in the public, some industries appealed last week for NBC affiliates to air news programs that would put Y2K issues in a more accurate context. They included the Community Bankers Assn. of New York State and the Edison Electric Institute, which represents private utilities nationwide.

Fearing a Y2K-induced run on banks, Mariel Donath, president of the bankers group, expressed "grave concern" that the movie could trigger "unnecessary and dangerous panic on the part of vulnerable people who are not aware of the facts about Y2K and the banking system." She said experts agreed banks are the safest place for money.

M. William Brier, a vice president of the Edison organization, insisted that the nation's electric grid is "Y2K-ready today" but the television program may "unintentionally reinforce the beliefs of many individuals that a chaotic event is imminent."

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