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Y2K: Was It Really 20 Years Ago?

Image used under a Collective Commons License from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AS400.jpg

Y2K: was it really 20 years ago? Y2K, the reason that millions of people thought the world was going to come to an end at midnight on New Years Eve.

Working in IT now, as I did back then, the great lengths we had to go to in order to make computer software that was written in the 70’s and 80’s (or older) treat 21st century dates correctly is still astounding. The whole millenium thing was so hyped up all over the world, but especially in the USA where I was working at the time.

I guess management of every company was scared to death that come 1st January their plants and warehouses would grind to a standstill, electricity would fail and they would quickly go out of business. The end of the world as we know it! An apocalypse!

It was as if we didn’t succeed in analysing every bit of computer software and editing thousands of lines of code in hundreds of programs, testing them thoroughly to ensure they were working, we might wake up to find it was Armageddon not the dawn of a new millenium.

But despite the fears of management and government all over the world, the worst case scenario thankfully never happened and although millions of hours of programming effort in many thousands of companies had in some ways been wasted, it did at least enlighten us to the fact that you do need to prepare for the future. So many systems were written in the 1970’s and 1980’s and even before and thought to have been long obsolete before the turn of the century, but in reality some of those systems are still running now, even 20 years on from Y2K.

In memory of all those struggles experienced by thousands of Analysts and Programmers around the world, here is a memo from 1999 that brings it all flooding back. Y2K was more than all the grief that we endured, trying to change thousands of lines of code in hundreds of programs and then trusting the changes worked. It was also a time of jokes about the “what if” scenarios. Enjoy…


Our staff has completed the 18 months of work on time and on budget.

We have gone through every line of code in every program in every system.

We have analyzed all the databases, all the data files, including backups and historic archives, and modified all data to reflect the change as requested by management.

We are proud to report that we have completed the “Y to K” date change mission, and have now implemented all changes to all programs and all data to reflect your new standards:

Januark, Februark, March, April, Mak, June, Julk, August, September, October, November, December

as well as:

Sundak, Mondak, Tuesdak, Wednesdak, Thursdak, Fridak, Saturdak

I trust that this is satisfactory, because to be honest, none of this “Y to K” problem has made any sense to me.

But I understand it is a global problem, and our team is glad to help in any way possible.

And what does the year 2000 have to do with it?

Speaking of which, what do you think we ought to do next year when the two digit year rolls over from 99 to 00?

We will await your direction.


Image used under a Collective Commons License from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AS400.jpg

The good old IBM AS400 mini-computer. This is a model I worked on back inthe Y2K days. It’s now known as the iSeries, the computing power, storage capacity and functionality is vastly superior to what it was 20 years ago and yet that big old box has been replaced by a single server blade, a fraction of the size. How times have changed.

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