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Back in 1999, what were your thoughts about the Y2K bug?

I knew it would be nothing, but I remember a lot of people stocking up on years supply of food and water and stuff like that. Fun times.

3 years ago by weekendhobo with 7 comments

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  • Triseult

    I was fresh out of college in 1999, and I landed my first job as an IT monkey working on a Y2K readiness project for a major IT company. Said IT company's client was an airline company, so you can bet the company was super fucking serious about Y2K readiness.

    My job was basically to assess every piece of software on the network for Y2K readiness and recommend an upgrade in case readiness could not be confirmed. We were looking into software like image viewers or word processors. Now, in retrospect, we all understand that no plane was ever gonna crash if your image-viewing software couldn't handle the rollover... But at the time, there was a distinct sense of "It's probably alright, but there's no way we're taking any chance." It was a case of chaos theory thinking... What if that faulty software was the butterfly's wing that would trigger a hurricane?

    Nowadays the popular position is to say that consultants filled the heads of IT companies with stupid silliness until we all got worked up into a frenzy, but I'm not so sure. There had never been anything like the Y2K bug before in the history of IT, so we couldn't know that thing would turn out alright. The nagging little possibility of a catastrophic failure cascade was too horrifying to allow. We had to do it just in case.

    When December 31, 1999 came around, I had moved on to another company that was involved in network security for banks. Everyone in the company was notified we were on call for when midnight came around. In the final hours of December 31st, I was serious apprehensive. Surely something would go wrong somewhere... The countdown happened, and then nothing.

    Frankly, I expected something somewhere to go wrong. Just a glitch, nothing catastrophic, but there should have been something. Except there wasn't. It was almost a disappointment, in a way. But it doesn't invalidate the idea that they could have gone wrong, and that possibility was intolerable.

  • spaceghoti

    Working in IT and seeing first hand how many resources were being poured into the problem, I had no worries about doomsday scenarios. All of the critical systems were fixed first, and after that it was just a matter of cleaning up the rest of the spaghetti code. I still ended up sitting in the server room watching the clock tick over to appease my boss' paranoia even though I knew it was a waste of my time. I'd already tested it myself and validated that the patching was solid.

  • spectregris

    I was 8 so I didn't understand what exactly what was going down. I remember my dad had two cases of Dinity Moore beef stew and a couple jugs of Gatorade for when it all happened though. Not sure how that was going to work.

  • chuckqfinn

    lol. i haven't thought about this in awhile. i was in my late 20's. i had two little kids. i don't mind admitting, with all the hype, it was a little scary. the company i worked for at the time started hiring programmers the year before to go through all the code. i'm a pretty rational guy, but i remember not really knowing what to think. so much so i did buy some extra gallons of water and canned goods. believe me, it wouldn't have lasted more than an extra day or two if anything really did happen. i wasn't that forward thinking.

    weirdly enough, the closer it got, the less it seemed to be that important. whether companies got it together or people realizing it wasn't a big of a problem as it was being made out to be.

  • marenmor

    I was vividly picturing a combo of Matrix-bits and Scrooge money bin fountain gone awry. At the counter of your totally regular grocery store.

  • Bastou (edited 3 years ago)

    I considered writing a book called "How to Survive in a World in Black and White" to rack up on easy money from easily scared people, but I was too lazy and probably too honest to do it.

    Edit : also, I was just finishing high school and about to start my computer science degree in university, so there's that.

  • septimine

    I was in college and read about it, it seemed overblown. It was more like a stupid joke than anything.