Y2K: The Disaster That Never Happened

3 years ago

20 years ago, whilst the whole world was preparing for the new millennium; thousands of computer technicians’ worldwide had been working to reprogram every computer to read 4 digit dates (e.g. 1999) instead of two digit dates (e.g. 99). This week we look back at the Y2K problem and remember the disaster that never happened.

Y2K Issue Explained

In essence, the Y2K Problem was a computer error that would’ve caused problems dealing with dates beyond 31/12/1999. When computer programs were first being written in the 60s and 70s computer memory was extremely expensive (around $64 million USD for 1 Megabyte).

With limited memory to work with, programmers shortened year dates from e.g. 1975 to just 75. As the year 2000 approached, computer programmers realised that the computers may not interpret ‘00’ as 2000, but as 1900.

What Happened? Was Y2K Over Hyped?

By this point the world and many industries had already become heavily reliant on computers. Computer technicians all over the world began a long and tedious task of making every computer ‘Y2K compliant’

There was a lot of media sensationalism at the time which created widespread fear and panic; whilst there were no major issues following midnight 31/12/1999, Y2K was still a huge disaster that was averted thanks to the many people who worked long days and nights updating and replacingcomputer systems across the world.

“I worked at Telstra & Citibank Australia in the leadup to Y2K, I can’t believe how much work we did during 1998-1999 so the world didn’t cave in”

Adrian Weir, Director of Milnsbridge IT talks about his experience working to fix the Y2K bug.

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