Go Backgo to mainpage

Millennium bug - Y2K

The History of Computing Foundation, 2001

A short narrative on why nothing (much) happened

Serious Millennium bugs were not reported after the transition to the new third millennium. A few satellites went off line for some hours, some minor disturbances in services or utilities, some checks or pension policy calculations were not quite correct and some date related displays were a hundred years off (see below). But in the whole the major disasters as foretold by some (news) pundits stayed out.

At one of the first working days in 2000 you saw this:

Not in the least thanks to enormous extra efforts put into detecting possible millennium bugs. Primarily in the utilities industry, insurance and banking institutions. Naturally there were found many date related errors by special trained millennium test persons which were corrected on their direction by programmers. But not all governments and companies went into overdrive to find date related bugs. Most companies issued a guarantee for replacement when software proved to be erroneous. Others just waited and dealt with it when errors showed up.

Especially this was the case in countries were the advanced integration of computers in society was much lower compared to industrialized countries. Risks, governments reasoned, were assumed to be the problem of the financial and merchant industries itself. Another simple reason for governments in these countries was that resources were just not available to start a full fledged probing program for millennium bugs. Even when (western) software companies offered their services, or offered free advice or methodologies, nothing was actively done. However it is not said that nothing was done at all. In some countries spin-off companies of local universities were able to cover the most urgent needs, making use of work students or trained other people within organizations to have some level of testing. All very low profile and at low costs, but that seemed adequately enough.

When looking back there were some other factors that played a positive role:

  • most legacy systems were replaced due to the normal update cycle before the year 2000, were the millennium bug was treated as a routine check in the new systems;
  • most software had been checked for the Euro related issues and as routine one took the millennium bug into consideration as well;
  • programmers got strict instructions to pay attention to date related algorithms before issuing a new version of their software prior to the year 2000;
  • most software manufacturers released new versions, were the millennium bug was treated as a routine check, long before the millennium came into effect;
  • almost all computer related magazines published (routine) millennium checks for software that helped users detect problems long before the year 2000

When all was over rumors started and some critical sounds were heard. Some of the most voiced were that of politicians. However they and other public figures tended to forget that the smooth transition was the result of some thousands of persons whom worked very hard and making long days precisely not to have programs and computer chips go awry or crash. Most people were unaware of the huge amounts of money and time spent by private corporations and some public organizations. And not knowing the background entirely some politicians still said that it was all a hoax and the money wasted, even some papers carried articles with the same wordings. But these critical sounds died out fast.

However all things considered mankind sighed with relieve when the clock chimed 12 and reports came in, it appeared errors were very few.




Go Backgo to mainpage Last Updated on September 10, 2002 For suggestions  please mail the editors 


Footnotes & References