Among the more useful contributions of Scripture to contemporary culture is the concept of the scapegoat. Of course, the first scapegoat was, literally, a goat. From Leviticus 16:21 (Revised Standard Version):

...and Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat, and send him away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness.

The goat, in short, takes the blame, preferably as far away as possible. In recent times, we have put the blame on Mame, or perhaps blamed it on the bossa nova. The newest scapegoat, though, is the ubiquitous "millennium bug", which gets the blame for the discontinuance of the Prodigy Classic service later this year.

In a letter to subscribers, Prodigy Communications Corporation CEO Samer Salameh explained:

Back in 1988, the Prodigy Classic service was launched as the world's first consumer-focused online service, built using proprietary technologies that predate current Internet standards. Due to the limitations of these technologies, we are unable to make them Y2K (Year 2000) compliant. As a result, Prodigy Classic will operate until October 1999. I know that this announcement will be a disappointment to many of you.

The real disappointment, at least to me, comes not with the announcement of the termination of the service — it had been expected for some time — but with the management's willingness to blame everything on Y2k. It is no doubt true that Prodigy's proprietary technologies are not fixable for Y2k; however, Y2k is just the tip of the iceberg. The core of the Prodigy software is ten years old. By the standards of the Net, it's Fred Flintstone stuff. The people who put it together are mostly long gone. The subscriber base has eroded substantially: from a peak well over a million four years ago, only 208,000 remain. It is simply too expensive to maintain this antiquated structure, let alone try to bring it up to current specs, for the sake of less than one-third of the customer base.

The Prodigy Internet service, a conventional ISP, has about 433,000 subscribers, and Prodigy continues to try to persuade users of the Classic service to migrate to the newer service, with generally mixed results. Quite a few Classic users still have old PCs that aren't up to the task of handling present-day client software, and they will be forced into upgrades they didn't want — as it happens, almost exactly the same upgrades they'd have to make because of Y2k. So maybe that's what Mr Salameh was thinking when he decided to make the millennium the scapegoat for Classic's demise. The hand of a man in readiness, indeed.

The Vent

24 January 1999

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 Copyright © 1999 by Charles G. Hill