Y2K Bug Anniversary

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20 years ago today the world gave a sigh of relief that the dreaded Y2K bug had been successfully thwarted as the calendars rolled into the year 2000.

The bug itself was more of an incompatibility than a bug. It arose from the practice of using 2 numbers to represent a year in date formats in computer programs which meant that computers wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between 2000 and 1900. So any process relying on a date had the potential to go awry from 2000 onward which had the potential to disrupt many automated processes from banking to medical through to our power supply.

Much of the hysteria surrounding the Y2K bug was generated by speculation from media outlets because we simply didn’t really know what would happen if the bug wasn’t fixed. Incredibly, the fear of world computing systems, such as banking, failing was enough to ignite a global unified response and IT resources around the world swung into action. Thousands of hours and millions of dollars were spent as software developers trolled through every line of code changing software to use a 4 digit year in their date formats in businesses around the globe.

Annoyingly all that hard work has led to the bug being looked back upon as a joke because of how successfully the bug was stopped and how much hysteria the media had built up about the impending IT Apocolypse. 

As we look back on it now there’s a very sad irony that when the worlds banking systems were threatened humanity rallied together to fix it, but when the worlds environmental systems are not only threatened but actually dying in front of our eyes, humanity just shrugs it’s shoulders and turns away.