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The Long Shadow of Y2K 257

Posted by timothy
from the please-reboot-your-iron-lung dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "It seems like it was only yesterday when the entire world was abuzz about the looming catastrophe of Y2K that had us both panicked and prepared. Ten Years ago there were doomsday predictions that planes would fall from the sky and electric grids would go black, forced into obsolescence by the inability of computers to recognize the precise moment that 1999 rolled over to 2000 and for many it was a time to feel anxious about getting money out of bank accounts and fuel out of gas pumps. "Nobody really understood what impact it was going to have, when that clock rolled over and those digits went to zero. There was a lot of speculation they would reset back to 1900," says IT professional. Jake DeWoskin. The Y2K bug may have been IT's moment in the sun, but it also cast a long shadow in its wake as the years and months leading up to it were a hard slog for virtually everyone in IT, from project managers to programmers."
"'People were scared for their jobs and their reputations," says CIO Dick Hudson, Staffers feared that if they were fired for failing to remedy Y2K problems, the stigma would prevent them from ever getting a job in IT again. "Then there was the fear that someone like Computerworld would report it, and it would be on the front page," Hudson adds. Although IT executives across the globe were confident that they had the problem licked, a nagging fear followed them right up until New Year's Eve. While most people were out celebrating the turn of the century, IT executives and their staffs were either monitoring events in the office or standing by at home. Afterwards came the recriminations and backlash as an estimated $100 billion was spent nationwide for problems that turned out to be minimal. Others says the nonevent was evidence the Y2K effort was done right. "It was a no-win situation," says Paul Ingevaldson. "People said, 'You IT guys made this big deal about Y2K, and it was no big deal. You oversold this. You cried wolf.' ""
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The Long Shadow of Y2K

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  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Friday January 01, 2010 @09:02AM (#30613560)
    Not the tech. issues, but the pundits rattling on about things they knew nothing about. Painting doomsday scenarios that were lapped up by the gullible - or those who enjoy nothing more than making a crisis out of a molehill.

    We see exactly the same reaction today about all the issues that face us (whether personal, local, national or world-wide). The considered, thoughtful and measured responses that would (given a chance) produce equitable solutions with a minimum of fuss get washed away by the ignorant but vocal commentators in the media. These people don't care about the problem, or finding a solution. All they want is the cameras pointing in their direction.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @09:29AM (#30613682)

      The reporters that had no idea still irritate me to this day when they mention Y2K. I've seen again and again supposedly enlightened reporters whimsically refer to Y2K as a big "myth". It was a serious problem and the reason nothing bad happened was down to the fact people did so much effort in preventing it. The hype (although blown our of proportion) was due to the truth that there was a genuine problem and it required a large amount of man power to fix it (and a large segment of companies waited until the last minute to fix it). And yet reporters go on spouting arrogantly how Y2K was a giant scam, or boogie man spread by IT.

      Basically there are fools who only see money down a drain, because people have a tendency to ignore disasters unless they actually happen. Planes dropping out of the sky might of been an exaggeration by rumour mongers, (I'm not sure, anyone care to correct me?), but serious global problems aren't such a dumb idea as a result of a few major systems crashing.

      • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Friday January 01, 2010 @10:32AM (#30613956)

        The reporters that had no idea still irritate me to this day when they mention Y2K.

        Michael Chrichton (yes, that Michael Chrichton) wrote an excellent essay on Speculation... http://www.crichton-official.com/speech-whyspeculate.html [crichton-official.com]
        One of my favorite parts
        Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I call it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

        Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.

        In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

        That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I'd point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all.

        But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn't. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

        • So assume that the quality of coverage is the same on all subjects. I have been doing that for years.

          If you want expertise read what an expert has written - for example, if you want to follow economic news, read a few economists blogs.

      • by DoninIN (115418) <don.middendorf@gmail.com> on Friday January 01, 2010 @10:41AM (#30613990) Homepage
        There was a substantial, real problem. That was fixed at great time and expense, a whole of "stuff" turned out to be obsolete and much of it became marginally less useful or truly obsolete. (Various small electronic really had two digit dates, somewhere on earth this made them less useful,when people really had a bunch of 1899 documents to keep separate from their 1999 docs, courthouses maybe?)

        Then there was a second myth. County employee. "My PC is obsolete, Y2K I need a new one, some of the software isn't complaint, or not certified" These facts weren't necessarily lies, or even inaccurate, in the case of the vast majority of the PCs and replacement electronics I sold the stuff people were replacing was obsolete as hell whether Y2K was a real problem for it or not. Don't forget a lot of still deployed DOS programs and some windows 3.1 stuff was in fact not complaint as well. How much this would have been a real problem for anyone is debatable. So this one wasn't quite a myth, but a vast amount of repairs and upgrades and replacements got assigned to the "Y2K upgrade" when that wasn't really the cause.
        Then there was a third GIANT myth somehow, a hundred million times people heard someone say that product X doesn't work after Y2K, and took that at face value. I got into a bit of an argument with a customer, I kept patiently explaining to him that his FAX machine would roll over to show 00 dates, and that the only problem this might cause him was that he might not be able to tell which faxes had arrived in the year 2000 and which had arrived in the year 1900, he was thoroughly convinced it was stop working when the numbers got to 00. In a less than professional moment I told him it didn't have any sort of anti-time travel device. Then I got him to try setting it to 00 and see if would in fact work. (Duh)

        See that's the thing, elevators would plunge to the ground, planes would crash machines were going to STOP all these "embedded" systems and hidden devices, the machines we use constantly but don't see. Is our Air Compressor Y2K Complaint? We can't run the plant without air! No matter how many times you explained to people that devices like this were not in fact "certified" or "complaint" if there was in fact any date sensitive function in that equipment it would go on happily believing it was 1900, it was as if they all thought the clock had been set at the current date when these things were built and no one knew what was going to happen when it hit 00, or they had anti-time travel circuits that would shut them down if they found themselves in the years before they were invented.

        Your copier, your FAX machine, your air compressor, I liked to point out the really paranoid at the time that their generator wasn't Y2K complaint. A lot of this stuff wasn't date sensitive at all of course, even in the odd case where it happened to know what date it was, the consequences of this thing being "broken" were pretty non-existent. However if you added up the list price of all the embedded equipment that was non-complaint or certified it was a pretty staggering number. This was the number that got snowballed around and was used to scare people who weren't just abjectly stupid into getting worried, then it snowballed from there.
        For the record when we came back from the break I had a customer who had an old PC with non-Y2K compliant BIOS and they used it for some forgotten but important application and was somehow date sensitive to them anyway. So I had to write them a batch file to set the date when they started the computer. The day was saved $25 was spent, cabinet parts could still be picked out according to the handy DOS software.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by treebeard77 (68658) *
        I agree completely. I did the Y2K change testing and many of the changes for accounting/trading software for a large multinational bank. I ran parallel old software/new software comparison testing using production data on a dedicated Y2K system. I can say, unequivocally, that failure to do the changes would have been a disaster.

        And guess what, not everything was caught. We had some failures after 2000 rolled in. We missed "some stuff". They were ALL attributed to other causes. No one could afford t
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kjella (173770)

        The hype (although blown our of proportion) was due to the truth that there was a genuine problem and it required a large amount of man power to fix it (and a large segment of companies waited until the last minute to fix it). And yet reporters go on spouting arrogantly how Y2K was a giant scam, or boogie man spread by IT.

        But the point is that it was blown way out of proportion, not just the critical stuff but all the nice-to-haves were fixed and I'm sure many took the opportunity to shoehorn big upgrades in under guise of the y2k bug. It'd be like discovering that 90% of the SOX-compliance processes you do isn't actually mandated by law but just by control freak bean counters under the guise of SOX, then naturally people feel scammed or scared by a boogie man. Of course companies needed to fix what they needed to have, but

      • by theguyfromsaturn (802938) on Friday January 01, 2010 @11:18AM (#30614162)
        Yes. It's very similar to the problems faced by health services on occasions like the H1N1 vaccination program. If the vaccination efforts are successful, and no alarming wave of deaths hits the world, then "obviously it was oversold and all those vaccination programs are money down the drain". If they turn out not to have covered all the bases and something terrible happens, then obviously "they failed to take proper measure to protect the population". Even a major success in public health can only be perceived as a failure for the lack of consequences (unless they tackle and endemic disease that has taken its toll for generations, but many of those cases have been tackled already). They are permanently stuck in a no-win situation.
      • by russotto (537200)

        Planes dropping out of the sky might of been an exaggeration by rumour mongers, (I'm not sure, anyone care to correct me?), but serious global problems aren't such a dumb idea as a result of a few major systems crashing.

        No planes would have literally dropped out of the sky; the actual aircraft control electronics weren't (hopefully still aren't) date dependent. However I'm not sure if any navigation or ATC systems would have failed had no one addressed the Y2K issue, and that could have been messy. Certai

      • by bonze (1578437) on Friday January 01, 2010 @11:59AM (#30614384)

        I'm reminded of Nassim Taleb's alternative-universe story about unsung (or worse, derided) heroes in The Black Swan: A congressperson pushes through legislation mandating reinforced aircraft cockpit doors in 1998: as a consequence, 9/11 never happens, because would-be hijackers know they're not going to be able to break down the cockpit door.

        The congressperson loses the next election because, hell, hundreds of millions of dollars were thrown away on a non-existent problem!

    • The difference is that back then all that hype meant was that a few old school nerds with cobol knowledge got rich quick. Today that hype means a loss of liberty by all.

      Personally, I'd prefer the former. Not only because it could make me rich...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mdwh2 (535323)

      Indeed - but unfortunately the hype these days has swung completely the other way, with Y2K viewed as a collosal non-event, and it's the programmers and Government - not the media who overhyped it the first place - who are portrayed as being stupid and worrying over nothing.

      The point, AIUI, is that there were some genuine issues that needed fixing. And if nothing happened - well that's because they fixed the problems! But far from being praised, it's now widely assumed that Y2K was entirely a hoax, and that

      • Hopefully what will happen with the 2038 problem is those of us that caused it will make enough money off it to live happily in retirement.

    • Part of that hype was deliberate FUD from elements of the USA permanent government.

      In the Veterans Administration and presumably a number of other agencies, during the 3 years from 1997 to 2000 there was a major drive to get every computer "Y2K Compliant". And the tests for compliance were made strict enough to ensure that entire operations had to have brand new CPUs (and associated interfaces and so on) across the board. Y2K was quickly seen as an excuse for emergency authority to spend much more on new

      • Oh, dear. I participated in some of this. It was often _much_ cheaper to invest, up front, in newer hardware and software that would last for 3-5 years with a single massive upgrade now, than to find and fix this component here, find and fix that component there, and roll out one system changed at a time. As one of the engineers dealing with the pain from users and management, the new hardware was partly an efficient use of capital funds, and partly blatant bribes to get people to turn _loose_ of their old

        • I bought into this line of reasoning at the time, as well. It was only years later that I realized the books were cooked in a rather subtle way.

          The comparison of costs between using operating funds to correct Y2K deficiencies in existing systems and expending capital on new systems was an apples and oranges comparison. It was a fiction. More specifically, it ignored the costs of configuration, installation, and retraining staff associated with the new equipment, which was directly comparable with the oper

    • That idiot CIO's quote makes me livid. I worked in IT in '99 (I mean worked, not blathered or "managed") and as such spent a good couple months on Y2K issues. I was given the task of surveying a large portion of my company's software. I did this. In '99, I knew *exactly* what would happen if not updated down to the line number of broken code. I duly created my report, which listed every damn issue in the software. Most were stupid cosmetic crap like reports that would say "19100". There were two majo

  • Benefits of Y2K???? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by smitty777 (1612557) on Friday January 01, 2010 @09:09AM (#30613592) Journal

    In the couple of years leading up to Y2K, I saw my company pour millions into updating any outdated infrastructure. Since were all techies, I'm betting that we all have similar stories. All the negativity aside, is it also possible that we moved ourselves ahead with this non-existent catastrophe? I mean shoot, I know I at least got a new laptop out of the deal ;^)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by natd (723818)
      That's how I saw it. I 'remediated' in 1997 but by 1999 our parent company sent in a 3rd party (Unisys) with 4 full time 'consultants' and endless ability to use other ad-hoc staff. The result of their 9 months of these backpackers...sorry, consultants surfing porn and checking the premier leage tables was.....no remediation required but a 7 figure bill. However, I did get to replace all my 486 PCs and put in new Proliants on what was then the new NetWare 5. I know these servers are are still running that
    • by DoninIN (115418)
      This had some good effects, but the misleading and moronic labeling of a lot of these systems as Y2K upgrades. When in fact the forklift was falling apart to begin with.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770)

      It did for sure spur people in to updates that really should have been done a long time ago. At the time I was working for a newspaper as a webmaster and the classified ads system there ran on technology so ancient it was amazing. Old computer running on some network connection I'd never see (cables as thick as your thumb, big square connectors). The thing was a disaster waiting to happen, there was no support from IBM (who'd made it back in the day) any more and we'd been warned that if this breaks, you ar

      • by mortonda (5175)

        (cables as thick as your thumb, big square connectors). The thing was a disaster waiting to happen, there was no support from IBM (who'd made it back in the day)

        Sounds like Token Ring. Really good, until ethernet eclipsed it..

  • Oversold? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RichardJenkins (1362463) on Friday January 01, 2010 @09:18AM (#30613632)

    A great many computer systems used two digit dates, and would treat '00' as a date in the past. Changing this fundamental fact would take an awful lot of work; not changing it would mean that all these computer systems break on Jan 1st 2000.

    Allot of work was done, and most all important computer systems didn't suffer from any serious problems.

    What is being oversold?

    I suppose there were 'cowboy' consultants exploiting the problem by offering to come in and look at your recently acquired IT infrastructure, charging huge amounts for a simple thumbs up. That doesn't undermine the severity of the problem though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sockatume (732728)

      Not all two-digit computer systems "break" because of that limitation, mind you. It only becomes an issue for systems which do comparisons between dates on different sides of the discontinuity. Admittedly that's most of the computing tasks that use dates, but it's not universal. And "break" has many different senses: the media often portrayed it as everything Y2K noncompliant keeling over and dying or entering some worst-case-scenario failure mode, when in many cases the errors were benign. That's what was

    • Of course there were these kinds of consultant. And while they didn't undermine the severity of the problem, they certainly undermined the credibility and seriousness of our profession. So should I ever get a hold of one of these snakeoil peddlers, I'll give them a consultation that they usually see a proctologist for...

    • Part of the overselling was this idea that the systems would just blow the fuck up when the date rolled over. That was not necessarily the case. In particular I think it was oversold for critical system, like computers that control power plants and the like. I never saw any evidence that these things would go nuts, lock up, set the plant to do something dangerous. Looked more like they'd roll over and nothing much would change since the date was used in terms of "On this date do X," kind of stuff, not a com

    • Re:Oversold? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ephemeriis (315124) on Friday January 01, 2010 @11:34AM (#30614240)

      A great many computer systems used two digit dates, and would treat '00' as a date in the past. Changing this fundamental fact would take an awful lot of work; not changing it would mean that all these computer systems break on Jan 1st 2000.

      Allot of work was done, and most all important computer systems didn't suffer from any serious problems.

      What is being oversold?

      I suppose there were 'cowboy' consultants exploiting the problem by offering to come in and look at your recently acquired IT infrastructure, charging huge amounts for a simple thumbs up. That doesn't undermine the severity of the problem though.

      The problem wasn't with the IT folks... Not even the 'cowboy' consultants who tried to scare up some income. The problem was with the media coverage.

      There were reports on how all your money would vanish overnight, trains would derail, nuclear power plants would melt down, missiles would launch themselves, planes would fall out of the air... The same kind of silliness and paranoia we're now seeing in relation to the 2012 thing... Except it was being reported as real, impending, and IT's fault.

      If you talk to someone who was working in IT during the whole Y2k thing, they'll probably tell you stories about long hours and stress and frustration.

      If you talk to someone who was working in management during the whole Y2k thing, they'll probably tell you similar stories about long hours and stress and frustration.

      If you talk to some random person on the street about Y2k they're likely to mention how the world was supposed to end and it was all kinds of hyped up and nothing ever happened. They never saw anyone putting in long hours. They never saw the effort that went into making sure that nothing happened. All they saw were the crazy news stories and docu-dramas about the impending disaster.

      The problem is that now, because nothing tragic happened, the IT industry in general has lost credibility with the general public. So when someone suggests that we're running out of IP addresses... Or that GPS may start failing soon... Or that there's some nasty bug on the way and you really ought to update your computer... The general public just rolls their eyes and ignores the warning.

      And, of course, it doesn't help that the media continues to report on things they don't understand...

      Remember the DST change a little while back? Our local news programs were reporting that you better run Windows Update and patch your computer or you'd lose data. They literally said you'd lose data. Because your computer didn't know that it should automatically change the time by an hour...

      And then there was all the paranoia about Conficker. I believe I even saw reports about Conficker on CNN. We had clients who were afraid to turn on their computers, even after we'd assured them a dozen times that they weren't infected.

    • Also the media reporting was hyped. Yes bad things would have happened. Banking records may have been affected. Computers might stop working. But planes falling out of the sky, probably not. But this would not have been a good story: "Major inconveniences due to Y2K". Instead this is a much juicer story: "Disaster awaits due to Y2K"
  • by Andy_R (114137) on Friday January 01, 2010 @09:30AM (#30613690) Homepage Journal

    I think 38 years should be long enough for us to sort things out before Y2K.

  • Earl decides to make up for #24, "Stole a red 'Take-a-number' machine" from a local Bargain Bag. He brings along Donny Jones and Joy and Darnell to help cross the item off. However, Randy runs into the store and takes the ticket machine from him, not wanting to part with it. Earl remembers back to why Randy did not want to part with it; in Christmas 1999 Earl stole presents from a house while Joy, Donny and Randy distracted the family with carols. They go back to the Crab Shack, where Darnell explains Y2K t

    • by mortonda (5175)

      As the timer hit midnight, all the lights in the house went out. They all thought that the Y2K myth was happening, but in fact it just happened because Donny's sister had not paid her electric bill, and her electricity ran out on January 1, 2000.

      Which is just dumb, because they don't kill the power at midnight - around here they send a technician around and you can pay him on the spot or else he pulls the meter off the wall. He's not making rounds on new years day!

  • I was there... (Score:5, Informative)

    by CaptainOfSpray (1229754) on Friday January 01, 2010 @09:38AM (#30613732)
    It was real, but hyped. None of us seriously expected 747s to invert on crossing the International Date Line, as some more fevered commentators speculated, nor did we expect nuclear power stations to destabilize.

    However, we knew that all our systems had to interact correctly for the business to deliver correctly. I was working as a contractor for a major airline, and we knew that lots of our most fundamental systems had been written in the 60's and 70's. They HAD to be checked, and HAD to be tested through the full extent of the workflow.

    Moreover, it was always journalist bullshit that it was all going to happen at the stroke of midnight. There were plenty of opportunities for problems to occur at other times. A major food and clothing retailer started rejecting shipments of canned food in September 1999 because the dates on the cans said the Sell-By date was 100 years ago. This really happened.

    And yet stuff DID happen at the stroke of midnight - and that news got suppressed because it was embarrassing, and anyway most of the incidents were minor - we had successfully fixed everything major.
    • by Xiaran (836924)
      There was a guy in Australia that was saying all catalytic converters would stop working at the stroke of midnight(Oddly no "journalist" ever asked him why a catalytic converter would be interested in what the date was). By an amazingly fortuitous coincident he had just published a book explaining how to survive such disasters. 2K was a great time to be a scam artist.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mce (509)
      Indeed, things happened sooner than Jan 1, 2000 and they also happened at the stroke of midnight. I encountered my first unexpected Y2K bug (I'd already fixed several ones that we knew of in our own systems) a few minutes after midnight in Jan 1, 1999. More in particular, SCCS on HP-UX was unable to check in a file after midnight on that day because for some reason that I never understood it calculated a date one year into the future while doing so. Fortunately, HP already had done their homework as well an
    • by Cassini2 (956052)

      It was real, but hyped. None of us seriously expected 747s to invert on crossing the International Date Line, as some more fevered commentators speculated, nor did we expect nuclear power stations to destabilize.

      The interesting thing is that the international date line really does cause severe code problems. For instance, a squadron of F-22 Raptors [dailytech.com] was taken out [defenseindustrydaily.com] by the date line. [f-22raptor.com]

      The 747 has the significant advantage of being a relatively old plane, thus most of its systems were date immune. Also, a 747

    • by mosel-saar-ruwer (732341) on Friday January 01, 2010 @01:27PM (#30614904)

      None of us seriously expected 747s to invert on crossing the International Date Line, as some more fevered commentators speculated, nor did we expect nuclear power stations to destabilize.

      Software Bug Halts F-22 Flight
      Posted by kdawson on Sunday February 25 2007, @06:35PM
      it.slashdot.org [slashdot.org]

      On Feb. 11, twelve Raptors flying from Hawaii to Japan were forced to turn back when a software glitch crashed all of the F-22s' on-board computers as they crossed the international date line. The delay in arrival in Japan was previously reported, with rumors of problems with the software. CNN television, however, this morning reported that every fighter completely lost all navigation and communications when they crossed the international date line. They reportedly had to turn around and follow their tankers by visual contact back to Hawaii...

      .
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by apoc.famine (621563)

      It doesn't take Y2K [f-22raptor.com] to screw planes up at the International Date Line.

  • by pecosdave (536896) * on Friday January 01, 2010 @09:54AM (#30613808) Homepage Journal

    People wanted to fear it.

    I was at Wal-Mart getting an oil change (for the record never go there for that) in 1999 while in the waiting area a conversation was struck up between myself and another person waiting on a vehicle. It came out that I worked for an ISP and had done all kinds of other computer/networking work. The person wanted to know my thoughts on Y2K.

    I answered "I think there's going to be a few hiccups and glitches. I don't think they're going to be all that big, we've done a pretty good job of preparing, and many things may fail over to a wrong date, but will continue to work anyways. All in all whatever problems come of it a majority will be fixed in the first couple of days and a few may take longer, but I don't think there will be much impact."

    The person became visibly annoyed at my answer. We stopped talking very quickly after that. I had many other conversations with people along these lines, a couple of them even sited Art Bell and how his show was talking about the doom and gloom to come. I listened to Art Bell. He must have made a fortune selling crank radios, flash lights, and other survival gear in preparations for Y2K, not to mention his business model relies on crazies and they were coming out of the woodwork for this.

    I was working the night shift during the roll over. I wasn't worried about our equipment failing. I went to work armed, I was worried about crazies who might decide our company was going to be the cause of the downfall of civilization.

    The only thing I noticed was the IRC chat room had some sort of a reset, 90% of the people connected dropped off at midnight, that was actually the event that caused me to check the clock. Us other 10% stayed connected, I'm guessing it was one of dial up routers dropping everyone.

    People were practically begging for the doom and gloom scenario. It gave me insight into the human condition, I'll say that for sure.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The only thing I noticed was the IRC chat room had some sort of a reset, 90% of the people connected dropped off at midnight, that was actually the event that caused me to check the clock. Us other 10% stayed connected, I'm guessing it was one of dial up routers dropping everyone.

      FYI, some of us power-cycled non-critical stuff at midnight, as a prank. (Don't you know someone who hit the circuit breaker at their Y2K party at midnight, just to freak everyone out?)

      If more IT professionals would have shared our spirit of comedy, and cut the power at midnight on non-critical systems, we all could have created the illusion that things COULD HAVE been a disaster, but we were prepared - and the remediation efforts were money well spent.

      • by pecosdave (536896) *

        Last year I was advocating the DTV transition should have happened at midnight New Years. I had this vision of 1,000's of people doing the countdown watching the ball in New York on TV, then when they hit 1 STATIC! I would have been so epic.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dasqua (57144)

      The so called Y2Kaboom... the reason it was a non-event was that many people had worked to resolve as much of the problem as they could. We had started in around March 1998 so for us this was old news. By the time our management had started freaking out we had already completed a preliminary audit.

      I had some people predict all sorts of gloom and doom... they bought extra food and waited for the apocalypse. A lot of magazines were filled with doomsday predictions etc.

      For what its worth... if we hadn't fixed

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by LaughingCoder (914424)

      People were practically begging for the doom and gloom scenario.

      You've got that right. Especially when there is money to be made, or power to be grabbed/transfered/co-opted. For a great example of this, see Man-made Global Warming (MGW).

      Over the years I've seen a number of these panics and I have learned to first consider who benefits from the mitigation. If they are the same ones who are screaming the loudest I become very suspicious. As far as MGW goes, the anti-capitalists and anti-Americans are quit

    • Yes... People want some how to be part of history, and be That Guy who survived it. Especially being Pre 9/11 at the time Generation X didn't have anything historically that they say that they lived threw. There was World War 1, World War 2, Vietnam... Generation X had the First Iraq War that was relatively small. We wanted something big to happen so we can tell the next generation how easy they have it.

  • I know the Y2K bug was real for many systems and I believe that catastrophes were provably averted, which it why it is now popularly perceived as a false alarm.

    To convince the naysayers we need a few real examples where the maintainers of some important system knew that their system would fail on Y2K with major real-world consequences without recoding. The articles don't mention any.
  • by assertation (1255714) on Friday January 01, 2010 @10:07AM (#30613846)

    The news must be slow to report on an event that didn't happen 10 years ago.

  • The one thing I found annoying about the Y2K coverage was most "journalists" going on about how the whole issues, was not an issue.

    Did it ever occur to these news "professionals" that many problems were patched, *quietly* before they could break?

    Many of the COBOL computer systems with the Y2K issue belonged to large, established, mainstream organizations.....many of them financial institutions. They probably wouldn't want a story in the new about how they bought a defective system that they are still usi

  • by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Friday January 01, 2010 @10:22AM (#30613916)

    I wonder what happened to those kooks who sold their homes, and bought farms or that stocked up with 2 years worth of spegheti-Os, etc.

    • by pecosdave (536896) *

      They decided it was a good idea to grow tomatoes on their farms to sell to Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee and made their living in a new way?

  • OK, I know a moment in the sun is one in which you are illuminated, the brightest thing in the room. But let's try another meaning; basking in the sun on a tropical beach. For me, IT's moment in the sun is when everything is working and there's nothing to do but dream up what the future may hold.

  • The threat was real. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Trip6 (1184883) on Friday January 01, 2010 @10:32AM (#30613952)

    I was an analyst for Gartner in the years leading up to Y2K. As usual, the real story is nothing like what is reported in the press.

    First of all, the systems failed not because the date itself rolled over to January 1, 2000, but when systems attempted to do a calculation that spanned both centuries and thus did the math wrong. In 1970, 30-year mortgages started having glitches because they calculated into the year 00, and started calculating interest based on 99 years’ worth of time. Called, the “Time Horizon to Failure,” these types of failures increased on a log scale in the 90s as we approached 1/1/2000. Few if any systems based on microcontrollers (say, elevators) care at all about the date, much less that the year is 2 digits.

    The bug was very real. There was literally billions of lines of mainframe code written in the 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s that used two digits for dates. There was actually a 1970 bug, where some systems used only one digit for the date in the 60s. Remember we are talking 80 byte punch cards and memory that was hundreds of dollars per byte. The fixes weren’t hard but there was a LOT of code to slog through, much of which was not documented and in some cases they didn’t even have the source.

    Why weren’t there more visible problems? in the early and mid 90s, all the IT departments alerted their managers to the problem, showed where in the code it needed to be fixed, and what the consequences were. But few managers acted, because nobody believed the “hype” and budgets were needed for more pressing initiatives.

    Enter the Wall Street Journal, who wrote an article, I think it was in late 1996 or 1997, that said to company executives that their Errors and Omissions insurance would not cover them if their company experienced Y2K failures because the bug was widely publicized and the threat was well known. This means that the executives were personally liable (e.g. they could lose their houses) for Y2K failures that happened in their companies.

    The next day, thousands of companies started Y2K projects, and fixed the issues. So, no serious bugs were reported, and those who labeled it hype had all the evidence they needed to support their theory. But it took a legal threat for managers to act.

  • The 12/99 bug (Score:5, Informative)

    by lucm (889690) on Friday January 01, 2010 @10:44AM (#30614010)

    In 99, a friend of mine was doing a live migration from a mainframe software that was too expensive to fix for Y2K. This was a critical billing system for the business so they had to keep the mainframe working until the migration to the new software was complete. The complex project was scheduled to be over on Dec 15.

    What they did not expect was that the end-of-month calculation routine in the old software used a "clever" trick: add one month, remove one day...

    So on Dec 1st the software went down in flames (and my friend did not get his Y2K bonus).

    They called it the 12/99 bug.

    • What they did not expect was that the end-of-month calculation routine in the old software used a "clever" trick: add one month, remove one day...

      This demonstrates why it is important to document any "clever tricks" used in a software system. Your clever trick might eventually become someone else's holiday bane; especially if the "clever trick" wasn't really necessary in the first place, except to facilitate laziness on the part of the original programmers.

  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Friday January 01, 2010 @11:15AM (#30614148) Journal

    On Y2K day, the website calendar of the US Naval Observatory (our observational time keeping experts; National Bureau of Standards count them, these guys tell us when they start and stop and need readjusting) read JAN 1, 19001.

    See if there's still a screen capture of that around, I know several circulated back then. Then if anyone challenges you, simply show it to them and say "We didn't oversell. We got it right. They didn't."

  • by anorlunda (311253) on Friday January 01, 2010 @11:16AM (#30614152) Homepage

    Ecstasy
    The attack of 9/11/2001 took out the WTC and other buildings near ground zero. This was the heart of the financial district and the IT base of many firms.

    In the hours following the attack, the offsite backup sites for many of those firms seamlessly took over. Nobody noticed that.

    I firmly believe that without Y2K remediations, 911 would have been a big IT disaster too.

    Agony
    At the successful conclusion of Y2K remediation efforts, the upper and middle level managements treated themselves to celebrations at luxury resorts. Meanwhile, many IT grunts who put in all the extra hours got nothing more than pink slips. In most cases, the companies didn't even offer to buy them a beer as thanks for their long hours.

    It was the most ungracious treatment of labor I ever witnessed. Compare it to calling Viet Nam vets baby killers.

    • by Nadaka (224565)

      I feel your pain.

      I graduated in dec 99 to find that there were no job prospects for me in CS at all. I couldn't even get an accounting or low level management position that I was most qualified for because they all assumed that with a fancy computer degree I would find a better job any day. I had to settle for minimum wage manual labor at wal-mart. I went back to school after a while and got a higher degree, entered the CS field and was doing ok for myself. Sept 30 2008, layed off because the stock price to

  • I worked for a telecomms company (one of the biggest) and was involved in Y2K remediation. Most of our software was fixed by 1996 with a few small systems fixed in 1997. Our first Y2K fix was done in 1988! If those systems (and similar from the other big companies) had not been fixed nobody could have made any long distance phone calls after 1/1/2000, but they were fixed. It would have been a big deal but we fixed and double-tested everything and robbed the scare mongering reporters of their disaster headli
  • I worked for a systems reseller/support provider back then. We had 50 to 100 customers out in the field running a particular OS and associated software products.

    Our major vendor was extremely slow at getting updates out. The OS definitely had a problem, as account expiry dates were stored using two digit years, so ever user on every system would get locked out come 2000. They managed to devise a fix to the account security system, but it was well into 1999 before this update appeared. Even then the update w

  • Those articles that mentioned planes and fire and brimstone falling out of the sky should have focused on the positive e.g. guess what, that hardware you bought late this year? The warranty's going to extend itself another 99 years. Heck bring it in even after 12 months, and we'll stick it to The Man.

    (And to the OP the reason the damage was minimal was because we DID have people making sure that there wasn't going to *be any damage.)

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