The Y2K Bug
The Year 2000 Problem

The Y2K Bug
The Year 2000 Problem

The Year 2000 problem (also known as the Y2K problem, the millennium bug, the Y2K bug, or simply Y2K) was a problem for both digital (computer-related) and non-digital documentation and data storage situations which resulted from the practice of abbreviating a four-digit year to two digits.

In computer programs, the practice of representing the year with two digits becomes problematic with logical error(s) arising upon "rollover" from x99 to x00.

This has caused some date-related processing to operate incorrectly for dates and times on and after January 1st, 2000 and on other critical dates which were billed "event horizons".

Without corrective action, it was suggested that long-working systems would break down when the "...97, 98, 99, 00..." ascending numbering assumption suddenly became invalid.

Companies and organizations worldwide checked, fixed, and upgraded their computer systems.

Whether or not a significant number of computer failures occurred when the clocks rolled over into 2000, remains in dispute. Moreover, there is evidence of at least one date related banking failure due to Y2K, which suggests that the problem may have been more widespread than earlier reported.

Some would argue that the vast sums spent on Y2K preparation to "fix" the problem were largely wasted.

Worldwide $308 billion was estimated to have been spent on Y2K remediation.

There were plenty of other Y2K problems, and that none of the glitches caused "major" incidents is seen by some as vindication of the Y2K preparation.

However, some questioned whether the "relative" absence of computer failures was the result of the preparation undertaken or whether the significance of the problem had been overstated.

Y2K Bug Commercials

Y2K is a numeronym and was the common abbreviation for the year 2000 software problem. The abbreviation combines the letter Y for "year", and k for the SI unit prefix kilo meaning 1000; hence, 2K signifies 2000.

It was also named the Millennium Bug because it was associated with the popular (rather than literal) roll-over of the millennium, despite the fact that the problem could have occurred at the end of any ordinary century.

The Year 2000 problem was the subject of the early book, Computers in Crisis by Jerome and Marilyn Murray (Petrocelli, 1984; reissued by McGraw-Hill under the title The Year 2000 Computing Crisis in 1996).

The first recorded mention of the Year 2000 Problem on a Usenet newsgroup occurred Friday, January 18th, 1985 by Usenet poster Spencer Bolles.

The acronym Y2K has been attributed to David Eddy, a Massachusetts programmer, in an e-mail sent on June 12th, 1995.

He later said, "People were calling it CDC (Century Date Change), FADL (Faulty Date Logic) and other names."

Many computer programs stored years with only two decimal digits; for example, 1980 would be stored as 80. Some such programs could not distinguish between the year 2000 and the year 1900.

Other programs would try to represent the year 2000 as 19100. This could cause a complete failure and cause date comparisons to produce incorrect results. Some embedded systems, making use of similar date logic, were expected to fail and cause utilities and other crucial infrastructure to fail.

Some warnings of what would happen if nothing were done were particularly dire: The Y2K problem is the electronic equivalent of the El Niño and there will be nasty surprises around the globe.

— John Hamre, United States Deputy Secretary of Defense

Special committees were set up by governments to monitor remedial work and contingency planning, particularly by crucial infrastructures such as telecommunications, utilities and the like, to ensure that the most critical services had fixed their own problems and were prepared for problems with others.

While some commentators and experts argued that the coverage of the problem largely amounted to scaremongering, it was only the safe passing of the main "event horizon" itself, January 1st, 2000, that fully quelled public fears.

Some experts who argued that scaremongering was occurring, such as Ross Anderson, Professor of Security Engineering at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, have since claimed that despite sending out hundreds of press releases about research results suggesting that the problem was not likely to be as big a problem as some had suggested, they were largely ignored by the media.

The Year 2000 problem was a problem for both digital (computer-related) and non-digital documentation and data storage situations which resulted from the practice of abbreviating a four-digit year to two digits.

Even before January 1st, 2000 arrived, there were also some worries about September 9th, 1999 (albeit lesser compared to those generated by Y2K).

Because this date could also be written in the numeric format 9/9/99, it could have conflicted with the date value 9999, frequently used to specify an unknown date.

It was thus possible that database programs might act on the records containing unknown dates on that day. Somewhat similar to this is the end-of-file code 9999, used in older programming languages.

While fears arose that some programs might unexpectedly terminate on that date, the bug was more likely to confuse computer operators than machines.

The total cost of the work done in preparation for Y2K is estimated at over 300 billion US dollars. IDC calculated that the U.S. spent an estimated $134 billion preparing for Y2K, and another $13 billion fixing problems in 2000 and 2001.

Worldwide $308 billion was estimated to have been spent on Y2K remediation.

Happy New Year - Y2K

Y2K bug was a clicking time bomb for all major computer applications. The computer and system application companies came out with year 2000 compliant operating systems and system software.

IT companies around the world spent billions of dollars to go through their entire application source code to look for the Y2K bug and fix it. Almost everybody raced around to make themselves Y2K compliant before the fast approaching deadline.

Finally when the big day came, many utilities and other companies switched off their main computers and put the backup computers to work.

When the clock ticked Jan 1st, 2000, no major problems were reported. Almost every bank worked fine, no major power outages were reported, airplanes still flew and the whole world went on with its normal life.