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decades of fun

Y2K Clarified

They do a good job here explaining the real story behind the Y2K bug: It wasn’t any kind of scam, it was actually one of our finest computing moments. We identified a possible disaster and avoided it with thousands of hours of coordinated hard work.

If the year 1900 comes after 1999 we will have problems. That’s over 36,000 days ago.

I worked on the Y2K bug for almost 3 years, combing through code and running test cases on all kinds of data systems. It wasn’t until about 4 months prior that we started to feel confident that we had updated enough to avoid an actual disaster in our systems.

It does frustrate me when I hear people nowadays refer to it as a scam or a hoax, or mass hysteria for no reason.

I worked on avoiding the Y2K bug for a long time, earning years worth of wages preparing for it. Yet in December 1999 I pulled out $100 and bought enough canned stew and vegetables to last my family about a month.

In February 2000 I loaded up my trunk and donated all of that food to the local shelter. I needed none of it since no major systems went down on 1/1/00.

Finally by October 1998 the US Government forced companies to disclose their Y2K code reviews and preparation

But believe me – the Y2K bug was real and it was in a lot of systems. We were closer than you might believe to losing major infrastructure control – the power grid, power plants, municipal water systems, security systems, communication systems, military systems, etc..

Any system that believes it just went back 36,135 days in 1 second is liable to crash, especially if it is monitoring time. Many systems that figure out elapsed times would treat a negative number as 0 and then divide by it, causing divide by zero crashes.

The issue was real, but IT people and programmers took years to prepare for, and ultimately, avoid it. The Y2K bug’s lack of fallout in the real world was the ultimate success.