Y2K - Crisis or Hoax?

April 1, 2009

After nine years, I'm still not done hearing about the year 2000 "computer" issue being a hoax.

First, the Y2K problem was not a computer problem, it was a software problem.

Second, encoding the year in two digits was almost universal at one time. It was not until 1987 that I started doing all my work with four-digit years. This means that a huge mass of software and associated databases existed that potentially faced an issue at midnight on December 31, 1999.

To believe that none of this software would become a problem on Y2K-day was patently silly. I was on contract to a Fortune 500 company at the time, watched that Y2K process unfold, and even participated in my area of responsibility that included applications I was supervising. My client methodically tracked down every app in the huge organization and took appropriate action on an app-by-app basis. The IT professionals in the business were exactly that - professionals. The result? Nary a blip on the Y2K radar in the months following.

So why did people think it was a hoax? When power companies did not go off the grid and toilets still flushed, the mass media reported that the Y2K hype was "overblown." Rather than recognizing the years of work invested to prevent the problem, those in media were miffed that they did not have 200-point headline material or video of cities crumbling.

If you get through Conficker without a blip, think about that.

Tags: Computing, Y2K