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The Long Shadow of Y2K

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the please-reboot-your-iron-lung dept.

IT 257

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.' ""

cancel ×

257 comments

Linux sucks (0)

Reikk (534266) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613548)

Fucking horrible remnant of shitty 1970s technology

Re:Linux sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30613554)

Second post!, and that's a lot of seconds.

Offended (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30613698)

From the article:

"Every programmer and their grandmother was concerned about the possible coming Y2K disaster."

As a 49 yo grandmother, feminist, and C programmer of 20+ years, I find that offensive, agist, and racist.

Reikk sucks (-1, Troll)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30614056)

Fucking horrible remnant of shitty 1900's fetus.

Just wait for the 2010 bug (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30613550)

There are still some bugs which will come up in 2010 in some financial systems. Wait and see in february march for surprises

Re:Just wait for the 2010 bug (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613586)

And why exactly would be that?

The reason for Y2K bugs is pretty ridiculous tho, someone had to see it coming. It's not even like the amount of available IPv4 addresses, it would had required some imagination back then to understand there would be so many internet connected machines today. But years you just saw coming.

Re:Just wait for the 2010 bug (1)

nate_in_ME (1281156) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613616)

The reason for Y2K bugs is pretty ridiculous tho, someone had to see it coming. It's not even like the amount of available IPv4 addresses, it would had required some imagination back then to understand there would be so many internet connected machines today. But years you just saw coming.

If I remember correctly, the systems that many were concerned about were those systems that had been in place for 10,15,20 years or more that, when they were designed, were not expected to still be in use when Y2K became an issue. Personally, even looking at the computer advances that have taken place since Y2K, I could understand someone thinking a program that they wrote in, say, 1985, would no longer be in use in 2000.

Re:Just wait for the 2010 bug (2, Interesting)

Velox_SwiftFox (57902) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613908)

Basically it was management decisions to not spend the money on the computer storage.

Sometimes really stupid ones. I know a programmer who was disciplined because management decided that, statistically, the "skip a leap year if the year is divisible by 100" correction for date change was important enough to include but not the "unless the year is also divisible by 400" rule. Therefore he was somehow "wasting storage" by removing the first correction to fix things until the year 2100, even though the program got smaller.

There were quite a few systems with BIOS/CMOS clocks, OSes, etc that were going to screw up one way or the other without being replaced or upgraded. Said screwups, with rare exceptions, might seem disasters to managers who treat any unexpected problem as one, but not by the general population; still fixing them in advance was probably cheaper than after the fact.

The Y2K problem is only one expression of the common problem of a data value occurring greater in magnitude than what that given data type can store or represent. This still can occur and presents as much of a problem for critical computer systems. I've found a bug that would have suddenly adjusted the suspension of police cruisers or other models of a vehicle very poorly if they exceeded 128.5 MPH before it ended up in a production vehicle. That did not stop me from wincing back in 1999 at radio commercials from a used car dealer trying to scare people into buying his "Y2K-verified" products, lest they perhaps be left stranded if their car suddenly died on New Years day.

Re:Just wait for the 2010 bug (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613620)

Wasn't there a bug in lots of Twitter applications a while ago, where they used a 32 bit number to store a 64 bit sequential message ID? And many of those apps had been created when the message count exceeded a billion already.

Re:Just wait for the 2010 bug (1)

Josh04 (1596071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613684)

Hah, this bug tripped me up when I was working on twitter integration. Fortunately my powers of mathematical intuition can spot powers of two at +-2147483648 metres.

Re:Just wait for the 2010 bug (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613788)

Why go as far as twitter? Slashdot fell over a year or so ago because message ids were stored in a 24-bit integer, which overflowed. Who ever imagined when Slashdot was created that it would come close to 17 million posts? 2^16 probably seemed like a lot, so wasting another byte per post probably seemed enough to give some headroom. A decade later, it turned out not to be.

If you were writing software in the '70s, every byte mattered. A lot of mainframes around then used 6-bit bytes with binary coded decimals, so you'd be using 12 bits for a two digit date or 24 for a four digit one. Software was much cheaper than hardware, so saving 50% of the storage requirement and requiring the software to be rewritten in 30 years would have been a huge saving overall, especially on machines where 1KB took up an entire rack and cost thousands of dollars. And, because the software worked, people kept using it.

Architectures like IBM's OS/360 and Burroughs Large Systems have maintained backwards ABI compatibility since the '70s, so there was no reason to touch the code. The space saving went from saving them the need to spend $10K on an extra memory module to saving them a tiny fraction of a percent of the machine's total capacity, but no one cared, because the code still worked. Then 1999 rolled around and people found that their system would break next year. The old code was lost, or written by people who had long since died or retired, so in a lot of cases needed completely rewriting. Fortunately, programming languages have advanced a lot since those days (unless you had a Lisp machine or a Xerox Alto back then, in which case they've bone backwards to a painful degree) and so it didn't take much programmer time to rewrite them, although migrating the data and testing took a lot of effort.

Re:Just wait for the 2010 bug (1)

OutOfMyTree (810249) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613960)

If you were writing software in the '70s, the speed of change was such that most programs were being totally rewritten within 2 years. We were finding better ways of doing things (both hardware and software) all the time. I guess management hoped that some stuff would not need renewing in less than five years. The eventual news of programs which had stayed in use for _20 years_ was a real surprise. The original programmers had no way of knowing that some of their stuff would live until the year 2000.

Re:Just wait for the 2010 bug (1)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613848)

People saw it coming all right. Look it up.

The problem was that for a long time the people in control did not care. Senior manglement often works on 2 year contracts. Why would some suit wearer care about something 10 years away?

There was never any real argument that it was a real problem, The reason it cost so much to fix is that it was left so late and then we had a load of consultants sticking their expensive noses in.

Re:Just wait for the 2010 bug (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30614006)

Some programmers don't even see leap years coming - for instance the incredibly stupid Zune bug.
As for Y2K bugs, I saw one last year in macromedia's flexlm licence manager. For some very stupid reason the new release was using two digits for the year and decided that perpetual licences expired on 1 Jan 2000. It is extremely annoying when a licence software failure of such extreme stupidity prevents you from running the actual software you have paid for on a few machines for about a week - such crap as flexlm is only there to punish the honest.

Wait for the Y10k bug (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613782)

There are still some bugs which will come up in 2010 in some financial systems

Why would that be? It's not as if 2010 required an extra digit. A bug in 2010 would only happen if someone started writing years with one digit in 2000.

I'm a procrastinator by nature, there's no way I'm starting to prepare now when I still have 7990 years left to do it.

Re:Wait for the Y10k bug (2, Informative)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613876)

Actually I just fixed a 2010 bug, where someone did exactly as you suggested. They created a system back in 2000 or 2001 where the last digit of the year was used as a key. Someone realized there might be a problem back in early November...

Re:Wait for the Y10k bug (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30614018)

It's not so critical an issue, but the Microsoft Xbox live site had a major problem with dates last night. It shows when players were awarded various game "achievements" and they were all being displayed with the wrong month in the hours approaching 2010.

This kind of hype was exactly the problem (5, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:This kind of hype was exactly the problem (0, Redundant)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613622)

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.

Dittos!

Re:This kind of hype was exactly the problem (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:This kind of hype was exactly the problem (4, Interesting)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:This kind of hype was exactly the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30614034)

I am not going to read any of that until Y3K when the dead man's copyright finally expires

Re:This kind of hype was exactly the problem (4, Interesting)

DoninIN (115418) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613990)

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:This kind of hype was exactly the problem (2, Informative)

treebeard77 (68658) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613992)

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 to admit to management that a single Y2K bug was missed. I should imagine this was not uncommon in most industries.

The commentators were mostly assholes with no real understanding, but it wasn't really hype. It would have been a disaster. We just fixed ( most of ) it.

It was a largely a myth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30614076)

There was real panic and an attempt to pay their way out of the perceived threat, but despite the fact that some systems were prone to the problem, most were not. For those that were, many could be upgraded simply. I don't recall any real extra workload.

That experience seems to have been common to many who worked in IT at the time. It was certainly true where I worked and on the sites where our consultants provided support.

I feel sorry for you if you were one of the few whose experience was different.

Re:This kind of hype was exactly the problem (1)

ascari (1400977) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613722)

Hmm. I think the widely accepted metaphor actually is to make a "mountain" out of a molehill. Not sure what you make a "crisis" out of metaphorically.(Perhaps something along the lines of "making a crisis out of a slashdot comment"? Open to other suggestions though, since this clearly is a problem begging for a solution.)

Re:This kind of hype was exactly the problem (1)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613750)

In the UK, an Insurance company says that it won't make "a drama out of a crisis".
How's that?

Re:This kind of hype was exactly the problem (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613742)

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...

Anonymous (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30613562)

Y2k was overblown by many in IT but especially by the media. It was non-event then and still is.

Street lights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30613570)

Notice how people take things seriously only if something bad does happen.
Example: street lights.
  If a street needs lights because its too dark, then people will only allocate enough resources to put in the street lights if there is an accident proved to be caused by darkness.

Same with Y2K. People spent money when there was a valid issue shown. With any system it was abused, but that is human nature. Therefore the money was well spent because the wolf was killed with a minigun and rocket launchers, instead of just a slingshot.

Re:Street lights (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613802)

They put street lights into the park across the road from me and cut down a load of trees around the edge so that street lights from the road shine in because people complained that they were frightened of being attacked in the dark. The end result is that you now have pools of light along the path. If you stand there, it completely destroys your night vision and someone standing five meters from the path is completely invisible to you, while you are under a spotlight from their perspective. Apparently this makes you more safe.

Re:Street lights (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613896)

What this really solved was a problem for people who were:

a.) had a fear of the dark or dark places

or

b) had poor night vision to begin with.

Fine, have it your way. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30613574)

Would you rather spend $x so those "computer nerds" keep your computers running, or pay them $30x after everything (literally, in some cases) crashes?

What about epoch + 2G? (1)

GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613584)

The point is that, when it's going to be 1970 + 2 billion seconds, a lot of computer will fail because of storing dates in an unsigned int (if I'm not mistaking, PHP has issues with it that I could spot, for example), but the vast majority wont understand it. My guess is that we will get into huge trouble because of that. Maybe THAT will be the moment when planes will start falling, because nobody prepared for that.

Re:What about epoch + 2G? (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613596)

I don't see how planes would be falling tho, most likely the integer just swaps around back to zero, but it's not like planes have some code like if (date() 1980) crash();

Re:What about epoch + 2G? (1)

Asmor (775910) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613630)

I don't see how planes would be falling tho, most likely the integer just swaps around back to zero, but it's not like planes have some code like if (date() 1980) crash();

Ha ha. Yeah. That... that would be crazy. Yeah. No one would ever do that.

Now on a totally unrelated note, I have to go make a few calls...

Re:What about epoch + 2G? (1)

OutOfMyTree (810249) | more than 4 years ago | (#30614012)

You do know the story of the F16 guidance system? Allegedly, as originally designed, crossing the equator would lead to the plane doing an instant flip and carrying on upside down. http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/3.44.html [ncl.ac.uk]

Re:What about epoch + 2G? (3, Informative)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613748)

See this:

http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/02/25/2038217 [slashdot.org]

When F22 fighter planes have stupid bugs that cause problems on crossing the international date line, I can't really have that much confidence that planes won't be falling out of sky on 2038 ;).

Re:What about epoch + 2G? (1)

quantumphaze (1245466) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613794)

The problems occur when some code does something dependant on the current date being greater or lower than a fixed date. An example I read was code to automatically delete old files (eg: old logs) that when the integer wrapped around would delete new records instead of the actual old ones. Bugs could occur in a plane's software but they are very strict with software engineering in life/death situations like that and would have already fixed it around the time 2038 was given serious thought, so we hope.
But apparent problems can already occur today for systems that involve data for future dates (eg: mortgage loans. "My home will be paid off my 1912! wtf?")

The current planned "fix" is to just use an unsigned integer for time_t which could break binary compatibility. Many systems may not get fixed in time with many embedded systems running for years with no way to update them.
Another is to use a 64 bit integer which would see out the death of our star and have heaps of bits to spare.

I think the 2038 problem will be much more of a pain than 2000 because of the greater use of more complex computers. 2000 problems were in the applications themselves (many being user facing code that did stupid things like 19100) and not going down to the core of the OS itself.

Bugs are like the Spanish Inquisition (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613822)

it's not like planes have some code like if (date() 1980) crash();

I suppose you meant to write "if (date() < 1980) crash();"

Slashdot has code that makes the "less than" sign disappear magically. And this illustrates something about software bugs, no one expects them.

Re:What about epoch + 2G? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30614084)

"but it's not like planes have some code like if (date() 1980) crash();"

Obviously an oversight on someone's part.

Re:What about epoch + 2G? (4, Informative)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613604)

Re:What about epoch + 2G? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30613686)

Fuc 0ff pl0x

Re:What about epoch + 2G? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30613678)

You're talking about the year 2038 problem [wikipedia.org] . Still got 28 years time to switch over to 64-bit time. Planes being planes, I think they will use 64-bit CPUs with 64-bit OSs with 64-bit time.

Sky dairy (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613972)

Planes are *ludicrous* expensive. They get milked out to the max before they are replaced. I imagine there will be a lot of last minute expensive and complex avionics swaps near to 2038, just like a lot of code and so on got fixed real close to Y2K and not before, it had to wait to hit near panic mode first before the suits took it seriously.

Business, like government, tends to be stupidly reactive just as much as pro active, pretty much a good mixed bag there. Witness hurricane Katrina and adequate level levee building. Everyone knew the problem existed, yet they "couldn't afford" to fix it in advance of failure. So then it cost a lot of lives and ten times the cost.

Re:What about epoch + 2G? (0)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613704)

Nobody cares about websites failing, apart from those website owners perhaps. Websites don't run power stations, guide planes etc. If crooks have trouble selling their stolen tat on eBay for a few hours then that's something I can live with.

Re:What about epoch + 2G? (1)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613772)

Websites control a lot. Intranet/extranet/internet - what's the difference?

Re:What about epoch + 2G? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613752)

But that's another 28 years plus a few days. That's a lot of time, we will worry about that later...

Why'd you think it will be different? Wait 'til at least 2037 with your doomsday hype, nobody will care any moment earlier.

Re:What about epoch + 2G? (0)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613828)

I'd be surprised if PHP has problems with the epoch, because it doesn't expose the precision of integers to the user. They can store time intervals in a 64-bit value without problems. A lot of other code is similarly protected, for example the OpenStep specification uses a double for time intervals and allows multiple epochs (absolute times are time intervals plus an epoch date). Apple's implementation defaults to using the release date of OS X 10.0 as the epoch, but a double has a 52 bit mantissa and so will last more than 140 years before the precision drops to less than a microsecond. Most 64-bit UNIX systems use a 64-bit integer for time_t (on Darwin, for example, it's a typedef for a long, so it's 32 bits on 32-bit platforms and 64 bits on 64-bit platforms), so only code that isn't recompiled in the next 28 years (or which explicitly casts a time_t to an int or int32_t) will have a problem.

Unlike Y2K, the problem is understood decades in advance and planned for. No one thought in the '70s or '80s that people would still be using their code after so long.

I believe you are mistaken... (1)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613994)

...it is a signed int....it does support dates prior to 1970. Funny thing is you said, 1970 + 2 billion. It would be 1970 + 4 billion if it were unsigned.

Benefits of Y2K???? (4, Interesting)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613592)

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:Benefits of Y2K???? (3, Interesting)

natd (723818) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613680)

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 business unit to this day so in the long run at least the unnecessary upgrades paid off. I was just insulted at the time that my work and findings 18 months prior weren't accepted as good enough.

Re:Benefits of Y2K???? (1)

DoninIN (115418) | more than 4 years ago | (#30614022)

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.

FUCKER (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30613618)

Oversold? (3, Insightful)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Oversold? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30613798)

The media wasn't interested in date calculations and ordering. They wanted planes falling from the sky, ATM failure, panic buying etc. It's drama, it sells their TV station / newspaper. Even today I meet educated people that believe Y2K was a pure scam.

Re:Oversold? (2, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613836)

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 being oversold, really: the danger.

Re:Oversold? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613864)

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...

No-win situation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30613650)

"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.' ""

That's how I feel about the global warming issue. If we succeed in stopping the effects of climate change, all the nay-sayers will claim it was a waste of money and less effort will be taken to prevent the problem going into the future. If we don't, we could really screw up the planet.

Re:No-win situation (1, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613708)

That's how I feel about the global warming issue. If we succeed in stopping the effects of climate change, all the nay-sayers will claim it was a waste of money and less effort will be taken to prevent the problem going into the future. If we don't, we could really screw up the planet.

There's one question to ask here. Which of Earth's many past climates is the one that we should hold steady?

Re:No-win situation (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613838)

There's one question to ask here. Which of Earth's many past climates is the one that we should hold steady?

The one in which my beach property stays beach property, becoming neither mountain nor underwater property.

Re:No-win situation (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613884)

The one in which my beach property stays beach property, becoming neither mountain nor underwater property.

Why should you be favored? Let me put it this way, it's possible that we have to make a choice between a significant economic and technological gain and your beachfront property going underwater. I have no problem with putting your property underwater in that case.

Re:No-win situation (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613840)

How about the one in which modern human beings have existed?

Re:No-win situation (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613866)

How about the one in which modern human beings have existed?

While ones? There's glacial and intraglacial climate. The glacial climate is the most common climate for the last few million years and the one that prevailed for most of our existence as modern humans. We know of several intraglacial climates, including one in the past two thousand years that may be warmer than present (the Medieval Warm Period [wikipedia.org] ).

Re:No-win situation (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613958)

Also, how long we should keep Earth at that particular climate? As I indicate in my previous post, even on the scale of centuries, Earth climate naturally changes. For example, would it be a good idea to fix Earth's climate at whatever the climate was in 1850 for the rest of eternity?

Not oversold: success (1)

wappie (1371767) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613688)

The fact that Y2K is looked back upon as being one big joke can be seen as a giant success for all the effort that was put into 'solving' it, "we" managed to avoid disaster.

Re:Not oversold: success (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613852)

It's almost impossible to convey the difference between the state of IT in 1999 versus today. Most computers had 32 MB of RAM and ran Windows 95/98, an OS that would crash if you looked at it wrong. You were lucky to find reliable dial-up, let alone broadband. Many commercial software providers didn't even offer technical support, especially not Microsoft. There was no such thing as auto-update, Windows didn't come with a firewall, and VNC was not in widespread use. If something didn't work, you called someone. If they couldn't help you fix it over the phone, they got in their car and drove over.

Computers were new to many people. They were everywhere. They were very valuable and important. And they didn't work well. Unstable, failure-prone networks and software were the norm, on home computers especially but even at the vast majority of (small) businesses. This was most people's frame of reference. The possibility of a programmer screwing up and it leading to global catastrophe was not something you thought of as outside the realm of possibilities. The combination of novelty and ignorance was frightening.

At one of the companies I later worked for, the story was that they had purchased a backup generator for the servers at corporate headquarters in case the power failed, but that on December 31st it was actually at the CEO's vacation cabin instead.

Plenty of time left before Y2K (4, Funny)

Andy_R (114137) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613690)

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

Better data representation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30613728)

Why don't all the operating systems start supporting internal data representations that do not impose any upper or lower limit? Something like a null-terminated string equivalent of numbers and various data types?

Forget about n-bit integers or IEEE floating point numbers. Let's just design a logical format that supports ANY number, no matter how big or how small. It may be computational expensive, but at least we have a choice to not being bound by any arbitrary size limits like 2^32 ever again.

I always thought it's silly to have to pick between a short or long integer, or to pre-define the size of a database column, only to find out a year later that it's not big enough.

Re:Better data representation (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613870)

Because that would be incredibly slow. Calculations involving time need to be quick and arbitrary precision integers are much slower than primitive integers. A 64-bit integer value will last for half a million years before overflowing if you use it to store microseconds. There's no reason to slow everything down for millennia to avoid some problems in the eventual future.

Re:Better data representation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30614074)

The fundamental question is why we still have to think in terms of bytes at all. We're working towards the quantum computing and clouds computing era where 64-bit integers could simply look small.

For a PC application, yes, there are reasons to use fixed size data structures. But think of the Google clusters, or image processing for space telescopes. I'm sure there is a need for some computations that should never overflow.

My Name Is Earl - Y2K ep. 19 (1)

Rick Richardson (87058) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613730)

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 to them, and says that life will not be able to continue without computers, all of which will break down. They all decided to stock up on supplies, and hide in Donny's sister's basement. 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.

I was there... (4, Informative)

CaptainOfSpray (1229754) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:I was there... (1)

Xiaran (836924) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613768)

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:I was there... (2, Informative)

mce (509) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613880)

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 and they had an update readily available.

Re:I was there... (1)

Cassini2 (956052) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613900)

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 won't fly inverted, or at least I don't know anyone that has tried to fly a 747 inverted. Nuclear power stations are another example of old equipment designed largely without date information in the critical systems.

Nothing to do with integers and such (1)

ascari (1400977) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613754)

According to a friend of mine who is a manager with a large Indian offshore IT company the biggest impact of Y2K was that it gave offshore IT consultancies a big opportunity to gain some street cred and foothold in the US. The rest is history. (Whether this is good, bad, inevitable, indifferent etc. is a separate matter and largely dependent on viewpoint I guess.)

100 billion nationwide!!! (1)

es0vyr4fVY9LD8ub (1471907) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613766)

I had no idea that we, the proud people of Tuvalu, had spent so much to prevent the apocalypse of Y2K.

Different flavor of FUD. (0)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613804)

Y2K was nothing more than a standard Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt(FUD) campaign in a dated wrapper. Sure, some ultra-greedy contracting agencies hyped it up to try and justify $200/hr to drag a FORTRAN programmer out of retirement, but it was all still FUD nonetheless. Trying to paint some weird decade-long gloom and doom over IT because of one particular snapshot in time is a bit false. Our industry isn't exactly dying off out there(cough, newspapers). Perhaps you should look towards those selling domain names(business.com anyone?) for millions, or those "developing" vaporware for anyone willing to sign a check during the whole dot-com era that cast more of a shadow of FUD around IT in general. Sorry, just cutting to the quick here and calling out the true bullshit.

My findings on Y2K hype. (5, Interesting)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613808)

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:My findings on Y2K hype. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30614004)

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.

Re:My findings on Y2K hype. (1)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 4 years ago | (#30614078)

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:My findings on Y2K hype. (3, Informative)

dasqua (57144) | more than 4 years ago | (#30614038)

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 these:
security system - doors wouldn't have been able to be opened/closed using swipe cards
lighting/airconditioning wouldn't have turned on - (Summer in Australia with no AC)
some Microsoft access databases wouldn't have tracked contracts correctly
some Microsoft Excel spreadsheets used in reporting system gave faulty results
some clunky old accounting systems that would have truncated data on input (retired these instead of fixing)
a few telemetry systems wouldn't have turned two sites' pumps on/off

we would have had an "interesting" January 2000.

It was a pure money making scam (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30614042)

A lot of consultants made a lot of money by hyping the problem. As it is, nothing much happened but the hullabaloo driectly fed the IT industry pay bubble, which led to the collapse a year or so later.

Look around at the IT news and you will see plenty other scams.

Pointy Haired people are suckers for expensive consultation advice and are more than happy to spend the company money on it. It saves them having to think for themselves, justifies their budget, and shifts the blame for any subsequent catastrophe.

Re:My findings on Y2K hype. (1, Insightful)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 4 years ago | (#30614044)

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 quite prominant in the cast of doomsayers. Just something I observed. Did anybody else notice that the key "remediation" that came out of Copenhagen was for the "West" to agree to transfer untold billions to the developing nations?

As regards Y2K, the consultant houses were very busy publishing papers predicting doom, unless of course we did the "smart" thing and hired them (at inflated rates due to the severity and time-critical aspect of the problem) to fix it. Now, I'm not saying Y2K was a myth. There were clearly issues that needed to be addressed. I was working as a developer in a fairly large medical device company at the time. We did a thorough code audit and found and fixed a number of problems -- most of which would have merely displayed funny dates to the user. But, if the problem were truly as massive and far-reaching as the shrillsters were claiming, there is *no way* we would have been so successful in cleaning it all up. Not possible. And so the problem, in reality, was significantly less serious than we were led to believe. And much wealth changed hands.

We Found It Helpful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30613826)

I remember the Y2K verification tests that our billing system had to meet. It had official year ranges to use in inferring centuries, and posed questions concerning not just the data that was being processed, but also when the system was run - so it was a 2-way testing regime. I was pretty confident we were already in compliance (aside from the aforementioned year ranges). We had long ago re-engineered the system to use time_t and 4-digit years internally, despite the sources & sinks being stuck with 2-digit years.

We actually did end up discovering a few Y2K bugs as a result of all that, so in our case the exercise was worthwhile. We were in compliance 12 months before Y2K and no billing records were harmed.

Was it worthwhile? Yes.
Did the customer's management ever get the sense it was worthwhile? No.
Why? Because we were loathe to advertise bugs in our code, and the customers never asked. They just wanted to know if we were in compliance.

What I'd be interested to hear... (1)

distantbody (852269) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613832)

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.

Slow news day? (4, Funny)

assertation (1255714) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613846)

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

Maybe the problem was fixed without bragging? (1)

assertation (1255714) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613868)

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 using 30 years later and way past the point when they should have replaced it.

It wasnt hard work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30613878)

Just extremely boring and repetative - Just like most Business system programming and testing.

The Kooks who cashed out of modern society in 1999 (2, Interesting)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:The Kooks who cashed out of modern society in 1 (1)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613996)

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?

Re:The Kooks who cashed out of modern society in 1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30614028)

It was not just kooks. The well known author Edward Yourdon ("Decline and Fall of the American Programmer") actually moved to New Mexico from New York City in anticipation of a major catastrophe. Many major religious leaders (Pat Robertson in particular) are predisposed to end-of-the-world scenarios so they readily accepted the idea that the end was almost upon us. I doubt their numerous followers would call them kooks.

Human beings have learned to cope with our imperfect creations quite well. Any Y2K bugs were just a another drop in an ocean of software problems. Windows (and Linux for that matter) are released with literally thousands of bugs. That doesn't stop millions from using these system quite successfully.

Try another kind of moment in the sun (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613920)

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.

Software Engineering is not IT (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613936)

Y2K was Software Engineering's moment in the Sun, not IT's.

But the machines never stopped (0)

ltkije (635596) | more than 4 years ago | (#30613950)

I remember news stories from fall 1999. People were seriously concerned that gas, electricity and water utilities would fail, planes would crash, cars would stall and Social Security payments would not get made. Some acquaintances didn't like it when I pointed out that from the first time the Social Security Administration began automating, it had to deal with people born in the 19th century and others would not retire until the 21st. Hospitals replaced medical equipment that could not be certified as Y2K-compatible, instead of testing to see whether there would be any problem.

It got so bad that some New York buildings halted their elevators before the fateful midnight, and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation was riding on a commercial flight at midnight on December 31.

Those of us who wrote software for these machines just laughed and repeated the mantra, "Embedded systems programmers don't use COBOL."

The threat was real. (4, Interesting)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (4, Informative)

lucm (889690) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

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