Thanks to Mike Gurstein, Clinton Jones, and Chris Anderson for their
helpful insights on this issue.
I've a couple of thoughts about how to proceed.
The group of people in Africa (as well as America, but this is
Afrik-IT, not Americ-IT) that concerns me most is the one of
individuals with older 2/3/486s running basic office programs in a
What might prove very helpful for these people is a diskette package
that could be circulated by hand or via the Internet or both
containing a basic set of tips, simple instructions on how to run the
elementary tests that the Cinderella site and others mention, a set
of software patches that are slowly emerging, and the most basic
motherboard BIOS upgrades (for the 486s).
I appreciate the work Chris has done. I'm simply suggesting an
addition to that work, in very simple language, that can be placed on
a free or very low-cost diskette for people who are surely not going
to be able to afford to hire consultants to help them, and who do not
have the access to the Internet nor the basic expertise to do the
The language of the texts should be appropriate for savvy
applications users who are not necessarily familiar with the
hardware itself. My mother is a prime example. She can format a
newsletter with multiple columns, inserted tables and graphical
images, but she needed to be guided carefully through the process of
upgrading her BIOS (via a long-distance telephone call from me)
beginning with an explanation of precisely what a BIOS is and does.
I'd say 95 per cent of computer users in America haven't the foggiest
idea what a BIOS is. Until this Y2K issue arose, who needed to know?
My impression from the experts is that BIOS on the 386s and earlier
is stored in a chip that cannot be upgraded. (Do correct me if I'm
wrong!) Thus a useful addition to the diskette package might
then be a help file on strategies for coping with outdated
BIOSs, what to expect, etc.
In addition, perhaps a help file that compiles information on the
older basic office software applications (e.g. WordPerfect 4.2 for
DOS) and how these will respond in the Y2K, with tips, would be
Of course a large percentage of computer users in Africa will have the
means to cope with this issue, if they choose to do so. But as in
America, there will be a group that is less connected and has fewer
resources, and will thus require a bit of targeted assistance. None
of this is rocket science, and I'm sure that within the next year and
a half a workable solution can be developed.
I hope others will add their ideas and constructive comments on this
issue. Are there volunteers out there willing to take on this
Jeff @ Washington
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1111 North 19th Street Suite 210
Arlington, VA 22209 USA
Tel 1-703-235-5415 Fax 1-703-235-3805