A New Year’s Day To Remember

The start of a new year inevitably makes me think of a memorable occasion about a dozen years ago. If you’ve done the math, then you know I’m referring to Y2K — January 1st, 2000 — when the world was nervously awaiting the arrival of the dreaded Millennium Bug. I was right in the middle of the whole thing — in fact, it was my job to be one of those worrying about it.

It hasn’t been that long ago so everyone remembers how it was in the late 1990s when it began to dawn on people that we were headed for trouble. It seemed that programmers and designers had either not planned ahead or had made some incorrect assumptions, and the approaching problem could affect zillions of computers and just about anything else with internal chips.

The world seemed divided into two camps — those who shrugged it off and those who thought a major catastrophe was going to occur. Organizations like the huge international company I worked for had to take it seriously, and as a result spent millions of dollars in the years leading up to the event, just to head off problems. Their efforts included designating two people at each of their facilities — one from the factory side and one from the staff/management side — as Y2K gurus. That was me, although I didn’t feel like much of an expert even after extensive training seminars.

In the year or so leading up to the deadline we did our thing, which included checking and rechecking every item in our facility — computers, machinery with controllers, power systems, and a lot of other stuff — then either certifying each as OK or arranging upgrades when needed. Of course the whole process included tons of documentation and red tape out the kazoo.

It was the oddest New Year’s Eve I’d ever experienced, sitting in our facility and monitoring various types of equipment while midnight approached, and it was almost anticlimactic when it all continued to operate normally. That’s pretty much how it went everywhere (although there were some isolated problems) and that lack of major trouble caused many to later criticize the whole effort. I’d prefer to think that we just did a good job preparing for it.

Dire Straits – “The Bug”

4 thoughts on “A New Year’s Day To Remember

  1. I never really got into the “Y2K” panic but admittedly I probably did sleep with one eye open on that New Year’s eve night. You know – just in case it truly was going to be the end of the world.

    On the other hand I had a sister who carried around a 10-page checklist of things to do for months, all the while preaching to the family that they better prepare because she was only storing enough food, water and medical supplies for her own family. Of course she was the same sister that told us all that if we ever went to a Harry Potter movie we would all go to hell. I won’t be able to confirm that prediction until after I die.


  2. Speaking of bugs, my computer’s been down for a week or so and I haven’t logged on for a while (I bet you were happy being spared my comments).
    I’d like to thank you for setting the record straight about the Y2K bug. It really irritates me when people spout off saying that nothing happened. Like you, I was a programmer and I contracted for a couple of companies in the lead up to 2000. In both, every single program was checked and fixed if need be (there were very few of those, we wrote properly most of the time). There would have been many thousands of programs in all. So, when people say, “Oh nothing happened.” I say, “Of course nothing happened because many people worked really hard to ensure that.”
    So, thanks again.


  3. Thanks, Peter. I do have to set the record straight about one thing, though. I’ve never had any kind of formal education as a programmer, and I would never claim the title. I was (and am) a self-taught computer junkie who was chosen to be part of our facility’s Y2K team, and I did receive training for that, but the corporate IT dept had a process in place that we just followed. (I might add that this was in addition to my normal duties as a customer service manager, and that it did not come with an increased paycheck.) 🙂


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