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Technology

Apocalypse Not 497

The big Y2K news was that there wasn't any. What happened? Was this a catastrophe averted or invented? After several years of sustained computing industry, media and political hype, could anybody could have imagined that there would be no serious Y2K problems at all in the developed and non-developed worlds? That no city in the world turned dark, no bank shut down, no phones were cut off, no planes fell from the sky, no dearth of food or water cropped up anywhere? In fact, as of Monday no human being was known to have died or been injured - or truthfully, even significantly inconvenienced - as the result of any computer-related problem at the end of the century.

"Why did we fall for this hype?" e-mailed one member of a Year 2000 online discussion group. "I feel cheated, betrayed, misused, abused, deceived and everything else!"

It's a good question, and it was being asked all over the Internet, and in much of the world. Were we duped or saved?

There were minor equipment failures at a handful of hospitals and nuclear plants. Financial industry employees around the world completed their second day of testing and said they encountered few, if any problems, and anticipate little trouble when U.S. markets opened today.

This after an incalculable drumbeat of alarm, hysteria and wild speculation. For sure, genuine problems had surfaced, and hats off to the planners, programmers and engineers who spent the past few years fixing them. But the reality was wildly divergent from the hysteria that preceded it. If anything, the Y2K obsession suggested just how central technology has become to much of the world, and just how little even the so-called experts really know about it or how it works.

By this morning, it was no longer clear whether Y2K was a miracle or a disgrace.

Friday afternoon, a wave of e-mail and reporters in Australia and New Zealand signalled the fizzling of one of the biggest stories in the history of technology. By Friday night, bored and bewildered TV reporters were broadcasting live from someplace called the Y2K International Co-Operation Center, but they had no news to report, and by midnight, some federal workers could be seen dozing at their terminals. The FAA Control Center in Virginia had giant screens showing thousands of airborne blips moving peacefully to their planned destinations. There were some heart-monitors down in Swedish hospitals, a U.S. Army cash register malfunctioning in Okinawa, and slot machines in Delaware out for a few hours. A spy satellite went on the fritz for awhile.

Otherwise, in an act of spectacular defiance, even heroism, tens of millions of people all over the earth gathered in urban centers to celebrate the new century. They did not stockpile food and water, as they were advised to by many newspapers, TV stations, government agencies, and local Red Cross chapters. They did not hoard cash. Much more than their pundits or elected leaders, they put their faith in technology.

They celebrated the new century with a defiant global outpouring of optimism and faith. As was the case 100 years ago, technology was a central theme of the century change, from the Millenial Dome in England to the techno-themed ferris wheels rotating along the Champs Elysee in Paris. A curious exception to the global celebration was the United States, content to watch it's ball drop in Times Square, a crowded and exuberant but comparatively visionless and primitive national celebration.

The big news may be that people don't really have to rely on bureaucrats and journalists anymore -- a reason, maybe, why they were so calm and happy. More than 6 million people logged onto New Zealand websites to learn for themselves early Friday that the Y2K had arrived without harm or injury. This good news was followed on the Net from East to West all day long.

"Was the threat of technology failure overstated?," asked the New York Times on Sunday, "or did spending hundreds of billions of dollars to fix things avert a catastrophe?"

Most engineers and programmers seemed to agree that there were, in fact, real problems associated with Y2K bugs, and that real trouble had been averted by the billions spent globally to upgrade and de-bug.

But it also seems obvious that Y2K problems were wildly exaggerated, online and off.

Modern media are almost continuously irrational when it comes to covering technology. The Internet has given the off-line world a rolling nervous breakdown, from which it has yet to recover. For much of the past year, TV stations, networks and newsmagazines sounded a steady stream of alarms about Y2K - the very term became a household world.

Last week Wired News, irked by all the greatest -hits lists emerging about the 20th century, offered a refreshing look at a "century of spectacular failure" from the Titanic to World Wars I and II, the Challenger launch and Chernobyl. They called their report "A Century of Spectacular Failure," citing one techno-disaster after another.

It was a healthy antidote to all the heavy breathing. This past century, we were assured by journalists and politicians, was also going to end unhappily, in a nightmare of collapsing programs, off-line banks and utility and transportation programs.

Countless individual humans pulled us back from that supposed abyss. There were no spectacular failures. They got the 21st century off to a great start.

But the biggest Y2K question looms even larger this morning than it did on Friday. Was the Y2K scare real? Was it a catastrophe averted or invented? Jump on in:

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Apocalypse Not

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  • by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @06:04AM (#1410947) Homepage Journal
    The only thing Y2K did was cost me a night of sleep, as I had to work (as I'm sure many of you did).

    Yes, some things would have failed had people not prepared. No, I don't think the world would have ended, or even close to it. 'Better safe than sorry' is what I'm hearing from those who advocated those huge Y2K budgets today.

    The really funny thing is, IT spending is expected to rise AGAIN this year, after all of the (some wasted) dollars spent on the 'Y2K Bug' (it wasn't a bug, it was a feature!).

    I just want to catch up on my sleep now...
  • by Gorgonzola ( 24839 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @06:04AM (#1410948) Homepage
    Actually, it is a bit early to celebrate the Y2K worldwide computer crash as a non event. Wait until the end of the month when invoices are due to be paid etc. Especially in the field of small and medium enterprises there might be a few nasty surprises lurking in their Foxpro databases dating from the early 90's. If enough of them have their bookkeeping systems going on their knees some funny chain reactions might go on. Or may not, after all. Basically, we don't know yet.
  • I'm just glad we have another century of using '00' through '99' for the year. I mean, that was such a good idea back in the 60's, why don't we just carry it over into the 2000's. All we have to do is change "19" to "20" and *poof*, instant fix.

    (lol: sarcasm; satire)

  • Just like Fox Mulder conspiracy theorists need something to believe and Y2k was it.
    Y2k was just an unrealized, untested house of cards anyway. I personally know of one person who quit thier stable job and moved out int the rural countryside because they thought that the apocalypse. They bought a residence and stockpiled on all sorts of things including a generator and lots of what? *looks at audience* guns. Quite sterotypical and quite literally the truth.
  • Gee, I bet there are some really bitter survivalists out there somewhere in there bomb shelters with a years worth of canned baked beans. I love america!
  • I don't think it's hard to say that some company invented this whole Y2K fear as a cheap shot at getting exposure. Sure, there was a problem from the original coders but it was blown way out of proportion - and that's not hard to see.

    I don't think we could expect anything else though, companies are in the business to gain a large audience by a shock factor, and basically doing what they do to make money.
    _____________________________________
  • Actually, the world did come to a screaching halt as the clocks struck midnight at the end of 1999. The shock was so great that everyone was instantly sent into a deep hypnotic state of shock in which we have hallucinated that everything is find, with only a few minor glitches on periphial systems.

    Any day now, we will begin to wake up to find that our world is in ruins, and that hardly anything is working. We have no electricity, no water, no food, no computers, and no Internet connection.


    Mike Eckardt [geocities.com] meckardt@spam.yahoo.com
  • Y2K is a result of early computers being designed to only record dates as two digits for the year. Now that most of the machines are set up using four digit year fields, Y2K is not too serious of a problem. But what happens when we roll over to 5 digit years? Will our computers be able to handle the new dates, or will everyone suddenly think that we are back at year 0? This is a serious problem, and we better start thinking about it. There are only 8000 years remaining until Y10K!

    Mike Eckardt [geocities.com] meckardt@spam.yahoo.com
  • by CrudPuppy ( 33870 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @06:12AM (#1410963) Homepage
    I have been working on this problem in one of the largest financial institutions in the nation, and let me tell you that you're kidding yourself if you think y2k was a hoax. yes, the media and some individuals over-rated the event by even talking about the world ending, but this was indeed a very serious problem.

    i have seen what happened during the early tests, when systems with production environments were launched ahead into 2000.... most just quit working, quite simply.

    I really wish there was some way to show these people who are calling the event a hoax the parallel universe on 1/3/2000 that did not invest the money in fixing this problem! I'm sure they'd change their tune.

    the credibility of this is that it is coming from a techie who is immersed in the systems, and not from some media idiot, or some manager-type who wants to look good...

  • by gnarphlager ( 62988 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @06:13AM (#1410965) Homepage
    Since the media seems to be hopping on the "stupid geeks, working us up over nothing" bandwagon, despite the fact that they were the ones spilling hype themselves, it only seems natural what will follow next. The next major forseen disaster will go unacknowledged. We'll jump and cry and scramble to get things in working order, but the media will dismiss it as "crying wolf" again, and only the employers with the most vision and foresight will think to fund any emergency efforts.

    That's the problem with things being fixed and going well; there doesn't appear to be a problem at all. If Hitler was killed before he rose to power, no one would realize the crisis averted, because millions of people might not have died. Ours is a culture that thrives on villians, not heros. Horror movies get hundreds of sequels, but hero-central films are lucky to get a few. So rather than praising the computer community for taking care of a potentially dangerous issue, we're going to be seen as freaks who overreact.

    Almost makes you wish the power HAD gone out ;-)
  • by dermond ( 33903 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @06:13AM (#1410966)
    while i agree that a lot of the y2k problem thing was a bit overhyped by
    clueless media. (i guess more in u.s. then here in europe) but i think it
    would be wrong to ridicule people who made careful but sane perpetrations
    just in case... (all i did was buy one extra six pack of beer - just in
    case). (and it is not clear yet weather or not the logistic software at the
    supermarket or the brewery does not have any problems. i suspect there will
    be more glitches with application software then with system programs).

    well the point is: it is wrong to ridicule the people who made
    preparations as much as it is wrong to ridicule people who use safety belts
    in the car or wear a helmet on their bicycle. most of the time you will not
    need the safety belt. you can drives somewhere and nothing bad will happen if
    you do not wear it. you can drive tomorrow and you can probably drive 10
    years without any problem. but someday you might have a bad car crash and
    the safety belt will safe your life.

    the y2k preparations are the same: we all knew (at least the techies amoung us) that major problems where
    not all to likely but no one was able to estimate if the odds for some major
    problem is 0.1% or 1% or 0.01% or 10% in any case i would say that the
    chances where at least higher then those of you having a car crash tomorrow.
    still we use safety belts.

    plus: we have no way to find out what would have happened if people did not
    check their systems throughout.. there was one power plant in vienna that is
    said that it would have failed if it would not have been checked... (and
    what could have happened when it would have failed: the guy in the power
    plant calls anther guy to bring up some spare plant and this guy is not
    prepared for that and makes an error and then there are 2 plants that are
    not there and suddenly a power outage that causes problems elsewhere and this
    causes problems elsewhere.. the nature of y2k is that it can be like domino
    stones: if small problems occur at systems that are not critical nothing
    much happens. if a few small problems occurred at some critical points then
    all our infrastructure might have fallen down like domino stones in a raw..

    so really: i don't think it is fair to ridicule the people who made
    preparations..

    gretings from vienna, austria.

    mond.


  • by Snjit ( 18259 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @06:14AM (#1410970) Homepage
    As someone who has been working on Y2K in the financial industry for the last 3 years I can honestly say that there were alot of problems out there. I don't know how many person hours were spent in our company alone to fix, test, refix and retest all the possible scenarios to ensure our customers suffered no loss of service or assets.

    The fact that there were no problems atests to the amount of work and sheer sweat that technical teams around the world put into averting any disasters in all the industries, be it financial, utility, or government just to name a few. For the media (who in my opinion are responsible for the doomsday hype in the first place, not the geeks fixing it) to jump on the "Was it just a scam to grab more tax dollars?" bandwagon is just sheer hypocrisy. Good news doesn't sell papers. Conspiracy theories and money scams certainly do.

    I personally think we should all give ourselves a pat on the back and then forget about Y2K. Move on to bigger and better things in the coming future.

    Just a thought.
  • Just pick up a book and try to read it. Or better yet try to meet new friends or anything else that you don't usually do. This will cause the potential for some process stopping biofeedback.
  • Now that it turns out there was no disaster, my local newspaper (St Paul Pioneer Press) is wondering if all those billions of dollars needed to be spent in preparation.

    There was no disaster BECAUSE those billions were spent, idjits.

    ---
    120
    chars is barely sufficient
  • I think what bothered some of us was the initial response to our warnings about the problem. Government seemed to respond with a collective shrug at first, the corporate boneheads couldn't grasp it either. We knew that it was a big mess to clean up and that there wasn't time to waste.

    I think that if it weren't for the Gary Norths stirring up Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt, things might not have been fixed as soon as they were.

  • by DonWallace ( 119294 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @06:18AM (#1410979)
    Well, the US did not instantly turn into Somalia last night; New World Order "storm troopers" did not foment riots on Time's Square; and Mad Max type survivalists are not yet careening down my street here in the sticks, pillaging houses at random and taking all the fertile women.

    OK, so everything's "cool" for now. My opinions ....

    - Have been reading commentary in various online papers stating in effect, was Y2K remediation money wasted? My take - "bulls***"! - NO, the fact that everything went smoothly around the world was testament to timely preparation. But this type of second guessing is so similar to corporate life in IT! If there's no crisis when someone does their job well, everyone around them clucks that they 1) wasted their time and someone else's money by "being too careful" and 2) the care taken was unnecessary. Anyone who states that Y2K remediation was unnecessary is either a complete idiot, uninformed, or an ambulance chasing lawyer. I think, JUST THIS ONCE, a united effort to fix a pervasive major problem was successful.

    - What of the vast Y2K survivalist preparation cottage industry? Expect MAJOR bargains in freeze dried food in the coming year. Likewise for slightly used generators (as with most excessive Y2K preparation, a generator purchased in anticipation of Y2K power outage is idiocy, like you're going to keep a 200 gal. tank of gasoline in your basement? Yup!)

    - Likewise, the dead trees publishing industry has wasted major quantities of wood-pulp on apocalyptic publications which will be destined for "Half Price Books" or your favorite remaindered book reseller. My question: are these books simply trash or could a decent library of Y2K related publications be considered collectible in 10-20 years? I am thinking the latter because most Y2K books, etc will go straight to the trash, as a burr in the side of anyone who paid good money for em. Finding mint copies of these books in 2015 might be as rare as a mint #1 edition of "Mad Magazine" is today.

    - Back to Y2K preparation bargains - how about survivalist lots in the sticks? I wonder how many people went into hock and headed for the hills? Wonder what the foreclosures could be like for lots and houses in remote areas purchased with heavy mortgages and small down payments with little thought to paying them off? This might be an *excellent* time to look at rural acreage.

    Now, the BIG issues - IT and the general economy... Even though the general economy is not just IT, I think that the general economy *has* been heavily influenced by the 'holding one's breath' aspect of Y2K anticipation, IE, IT and the general economy have probably been synchronized somewhat in terms of anticipation and dread.

    The economy, and particularly the stock market, may well *take off like a rocket* at least for the first month of this year. Optimism and relief over no major Y2K problems will drive it. I suspect that, regardless of the current nutty high P/E ratios and valuations, a lot of investors have actually sidelined themselves in cash looking to see what will happen. THEN we may have a MAJOR blowoff.

    Some economists have stated that we may get a recession out of Y2K due to delayed effects upon smaller companies. We may have big surprises in store, but I am guessing not - that problems will crop up gradually, be recognized gradually as most operational problems have been diagnosed day to day, and fixed as they happen. So no big deal.

    Again, what I am personally expecting - I am no psychic nor do I play one on infomercials :-) - a BIG, and risky short term run-up in most stock indexes due to Y2K relief and euphoria, followed by a major blowoff (bear market). This economic distortion is probably the current single biggest risk. I think this contention is valid because expectation and 'irrational exuberance' and not technical nor value indicators have governed our markets for several years. I know how I felt when my partner and I were toasting New Year's last night as we watched every time zone go by with no problems, no terrorism --- massively relieved! I was expecting MUCH worse at least in terms of terror from the 'fatwah' crowd, and nothing. Multiply that attitude across the entire economy and you will have a MAJOR 'pop'.
  • The reason we had so few problems was that an unprecedented amount of effort was put forward to proactively fix the problem before it could become catastrophic. Clearly underdeveloped nations are less computerized and were therefor less vulnerable, but in the developed world this had the potential to really be unpleasant.

    The irony is that, were it not for those dire warnings early on that got us all off of our asses and fixing our code for the new century, we probably would not be sitting so happy today. Some of the people enduring the greatest mockery (no, not the idiots sitting in their bunkers) are in many cases the most unsung hero's of 1999. We used a few ounces of prevention in '99 and cured a whole lot of poundage of difficulties for 2000, and it shows with how smoothly the new year actually went.

    As it was, when I went to get my usual $200 for the weekend from the ATM, the bank limited me to $60, obviously fearing a run on their cash reserves. Irritating, but not a real issue (I'll get more out today to last the rest of the week). I'm sure there will be other minor irritants as the new year drags on, but the major issues appear to have been identified, addressed, and successfully resolved.

    Just because we managed to hit the breaks in time to avoid going over the cliff doesn't mean the cliff wasn't there.
  • Surely you get paid the standard overtime mandated by federal law or else some people are breaking it.
  • I didn't stock up. I figure, I've got a gun, and my neighbors have got food, water, and no guns. Why stock up?
  • by Ranger Rick ( 197 ) <slashdot@raccoon ... m minus math_god> on Monday January 03, 2000 @06:21AM (#1410990) Homepage
    > The really funny thing is, IT spending is
    > expected to rise AGAIN this year, after all of
    > the (some wasted) dollars spent on the 'Y2K
    > Bug' (it wasn't a bug, it was a feature!).

    Of course it is. All of the companies that spent their time on Y2K now have to go back and do a year's worth of implementing new stuff that they had to put off.

    Where I work, we have had a moratorium since 4Q, so we weren't allowed to make any changes to the network that would affect anything. In the meantime, projects have been piling up. We've got *tons* of new work to do.

    Y2K == job security, at least for another year or two. :)
  • No Y2K problems? Think again. This one looks rather serious to me: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/2000-0 1/02/135l-010200-idx.html
  • by Anonymous Coward
    My Ohio Savings bank account says that it's year 100. Every time I attempt an online transaction it says - Date too far in the future. Believe me, when you can't get money from your bank it's a crises.
  • OK. Here is my take on this whole Y2K mumbo jumbo.

    I'm a student in a Technical High School where I am studying computers, so naturally I try to keep up on the news surrounding computers. I sucked down every document, every broadcast, and every rumor that was floating around and tried to make my own assumptions about what was going to happen.

    The scary revelation that I came to was, this is all a bunch of hype. If you really listened to the reports about what was supposedly going to happen, you would have realized that a lot of what they were saying was total fiction. The message that was being conveyed was that any device with a microchip in it could be affected and stop working in the year 2000.

    That's right. They were implying that any device, whether it was date dependent or not, as long as it had a microchip, could possibly screw up. They went on to suggest that heart monitors and things like that could stop functioning if they were not updated. Pardon me, but when was the last time that a heart monitor was dependent on the date? Sure, it displays the time and date up in the corner, but what does that date really affect?

    The answer is, nothing. Absolutely nothing. And that's just what happened. Nothing. Everyone ran around panicing and trying to update things so that they were Y2K compliant when many of these devices would have worked fine.

    As a computer technician it was clear to me the benefit of getting people worried about Y2K. The money. Anything that causes fear can be exploited to get money. Just look at how much money was spent on this whole deal. The amount is astonishing. And where did all this money go? Right into the pockets of the very people who got people all upset in the first place. The people who warned us of the impending danger of Y2K were more than happy to help us get over our trouble, that is, as long as the price is right.

    Looking back, although it may have cost you a lot of money, you have to admit, it was a pretty good plan. Odds are that most of the people involved in the whole situation were just as fooled as everyone else, but they still were able to benefit. What everyone else blames on laziness on the part of some programmers many years ago, I chalk up to planning for job security in the future.

    -----
  • As I have been saying to everyone I could the past year, the "y2k bug" was mainly a myth in that there would be terrible disaster and everything we know and love would come to an end - but there is an up side, such as certain Dal Dreamforge ircd's reporting this :-
    [S+Z] deranged.blabber.net Monday January 3 19100 -- 18: 28 +02:00
    And rumours that Auckland airport's y2k compliant system was reporting the year 100 (unconfirmed) - Or the swiss time website also having a defective year indication..
    I'm sure there's many more - keep an eye out ;)
  • They had an episode where some kid decided to shoot up a group of people in some assembly because of some crappy medieval prediction.

    To tell you the truth eliminating computers would just make things greatly more simple in terms of dealing with problemw. Most of the survivalists are out in the western part of the US right? Big ol' bunch of hippies are there too right? Well tat would make for a nice little thing called martial law that the government can enact and just bring in the army "for the children".
    There is nothing stopping people from operating on a method of using pencil and paper; and businesses will not argue ever with a fist full of American green backs for anything.
  • So the media et al blew Y2K out of proportion? Of course they did, it was inevitable.

    What was Y2K? An engineering problem. The only thing unique about Y2K as a engineering problem was the fact that you couldn't move the due date. In every other instance I can think of, you could to someone higher in authority and say "Hey look, we're not going to make it, can we push the end date out 1 month?" (or 1 year, 1 season, etc.). In this case there was no one to appeal to.

    The combination of unslippable deadline and a lay person's lack of understand of how technology works combined to create undue worry over what was just another engineering problem.

    And it wasn't a *hard* problem either. Not technically. Finding a fix for Y2K-imperiled code tended to be easy; scheduding and managing the upgrade of live systems with no disruption of service was in many cases hard. Coming up with the resources was hard for some companies. But the fixes themselves tended to be pretty obvious.

    What really cracks me up is that developers routinely solve much harder problems with no such fanfare. Getting Windows to run at all with all that legacy software, now that took some brainpower (however misdirected). Compilers, major apps like MS/Star Office, and researchy-type apps typically face *hundreds* of more technically challenging hurdles during development.

    The legacy of this will be that management/lay people will think there was nothing to Y2K and that IT folks just overstated the case. Not true. Furthermore they will extend this to trivialized daily jobs of software folks.

    The core of this is the growing gap between the have's and have-not's in terms of technical understanding. Are we approaching the medical and legal professions for perceived disassociation from "average" citizens?
  • "While everyone is buying food and water to prepare for the end of civilization, I'm buying guns and ammo to take the food and water away from those who didn't quite grasp what the end of civilization meant" -Scott Adams of Dilbert fame

    Finkployd

  • Well, there was at least one significant failure as reported by the Washing ton Post [washingtonpost.com]. Naturally the Pentagon didn't advertise the fact, and the Post didn't exactly put it on the front page, but it was there.

    From my front-row perspective, we put waaay too much time and money into fixing the Y2K problem. But it was a problem. If we had done nothing, things would not be so bright and cheery as they are.

    Neutron

  • This little ol law says that if any bank goes under the ogvernment (yes that "eeeeeevvvvvil" uncle same) will insure my bank account up to 100,000 dollars.
    This prevented Y2k from actually getting any thin dime of my money.
  • I think y2k went off more or less as the majority of computer-savvy people expected, minor glitches and a few worrisome issues.

    There are telephone systems out in France and Italy, there were nuclear reactor alarm systems that failed in Japan, plus the things Jon mentions above.

    Most of all there's lots and lots of computers that are only revealing their y2k bug as they get rebooted, since by far the most prevelant y2k bug is in the BIOS. Usually (not always) you can reboot again and hand set the date, just hope you didn't dump bad data into your database meanwhile. Anyway.

    As far as I can see, the media created a huge hype that y2k was going to utterly destroy civilization. Now the media is saying that nothing happened. Neither is true, and Jon - despite his opening reverse-hype lines, admits it. There were problems. The world did not end. Anybody who is both technically savvy and remotely close to sane understood this. The only news here is an interest story in the peculiarly warped outlook of the media.

    --Parity
  • by isdnip ( 49656 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @06:39AM (#1411035)
    As I summarize it, computers generally view time in one of three ways:

    1) Real-time. Computers run machines without human intervention.
    2) Interactive. People sit in front of computers and see them operate. (PCs, etc.)
    3) Batch. Computers do work without human intervention, but just pound out paper monthly or so.

    Many/most real-time systems don't give a hoot what year it is; they work in seconds or milliseconds. So the nut cases were worried about failures of real-time systems (electric, water, etc.) but those rarely cared much about date. Maybe some paleo-PCs will have reboot problems. Most of these were remediated; this is where the hype and reality were way out of sync.

    Interactive systems can have visible clock errors. But humans can work around them. Few Y2K bugs showed up. Big surprise, not.

    Batch systems are most likely to use old COBOL code with spotty source decks. Those are the ones that had the most Y2K problems, and those problems won't all turn up for a while. Mostly they're miscaluclated interest, payments, etc. They're not apocalyptic and can be fixed after the fact when somebody sees a billing error. This stuff did cost a fortune to fix and it had to be done, but it's not the stuff of bad TV movies.
  • by RimRod ( 57834 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @06:41AM (#1411040)
    1) Hillary Clinton no longer laughingly claims to be from New York.

    2) Mysterious Windows Popup: "We're sorry for leeching your all money and time over the past decade; all personnel at Redmond, Washington will now jump off the nearest cliff after wiring the compound with C-4."

    3) CNN mysteriously switches spots with the Spice Channel.

    4) F'n Energizer Bunny dies.

    5) Arquette Compound explodes.

    6) France's showers become operational.

    7) Massive glitch leads to MTV only being able to play music that people over the age of 12 can enjoy.

    8) Living La Vida Loca and the Macarena simultaneously erased from human history, along with the Nixon Administration and New Kids on the Block.
  • Yeah, I have been thinking about this quite a bit now..
    When are we going to make a Y2.038K complient distro of linux? I would say the time is now.. Besides, how hard can it be to define all time structures as "long long"?
    Might as well get this out of the way as soon as possible..
  • Sorry, but my step-dad works in a rainbow foods store as a manager and the aisles were, infact, barren of the non-perishables. Bottled water vanished, hamburger helper and noodles were nowhere to be found, and there was plenty of icecream on sale.

    Further, I spoke with somebody at a gas station who had run out of the high-octane fuel. Prices here went up *alittle* as a result, but not much.

    No, people panic'd over this. They did so at the last minute, and now they're going to sheepishly be drinking all that bottled water they stored up and all that hamburger helper they bought. And, for the next 3 months, nobody will be buying any toilet paper.

    Let's face it, people panic'd. They saw the hype, they acted. Now, will the media report their own failure and bias, or quickly "invent" another national story and by next week we will have "forgotten" about y2k?

  • I think the Y2K scare was a "self-preventing prophecy"

    We have a few hundred people running our accounting software in the ag industry. If our softare had not been fixed for Y2K, it would have had at least the following impact:

    * All G/L account balances would have started over at zero on 1/1/00.
    * Even if G/L account balances were correct, several financial reports would produce errorneous results.
    * Users would have been unable to print reports with a starting date in 99 and and ending date in 00.
    * Payables invoices would not be aged and paid correctly if the due date falls in 2000.
    * Receivable invoices would not be aged correctly.

    It would have been hard on us to take all the support calls, and get everyone updated, all within a short time frame.

    But remarkably, the crops still would have kept growing, and would get harvested.

    Something in my gut tells me that these small and medium size businesses that are employing a "fix on failure" strategy still have a decent capacity to muddle though things like Y2K. It's amazing how many of our customers don't even operate with an accurate bank balance in their software anyway!

    I'm still hoping to pick up some business from people whose software went kaput...
  • Businesses in the United States spent an esimated $600 million on Y2K preperations. Not sure how much the government ended up spending, but probably close to half of that.

    That is an absolute field day for the consultants!

    So in one year you have close to a trillion dollars spent on a one-time problem... unbelievable!

    Thank god this happened at a time when the economy was absolutely booming... if we were experiencing a recession at the moment, the results could have kept us from pulling out for a few years longer.
  • by richj ( 85270 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @06:46AM (#1411054)
    I work for a very large (7 billion/yr) manufacturing company, and against the advice of those of us in the IT department, we were scammed by a consulting company telling tales of widespread system outages, downtime, and lost business if we didn't hire them to fix our machines.

    What they did was send a few non technical people around to PCs, and had a floppy which just changed the date format in Win9x from mm/dd/yy to mm/dd/yyyy.

    They charged $50 per machine checked for this "service", and took two months to do something a well written memo could have had our users do for free.

    In the meantime, they managed to unplug a Cisco 7500 looking for the floppy drive, turned the key off on a production HP K470 machine, had their floppys in three Ultra 10 Workstations before calling IT and asking how to reboot, and other small, but costly disasters.

    Basically due to the hype, our management gave them full run of our datacenter, and they caused more harm than a reasonable Y2K crash.

    As the icing on the cake, even though that all of our machines were "certified" Y2K compliant by this small scam outfit, they insisted that everything be turned off for the rollover, causing even more downtime.

    It just boggles the mind that executives could be scammed like this, I'm finding a new job...
  • 2037, for those of you who are non-Unix folks, is when the Unix counter for time overflows on

    32-bit machines. Unix machines measure time in seconds elapsed since 1970, using a 32-bit
    counter, meaning they can only go to 4 billion seconds or so. 2037 is when 4 billion seconds will
    have passed, and an awful lot of today's machines are going to be VERY confused at that
    rollover. 64-bit machines shouldn't be affected for 4 billion times longer than that -- in other
    words, by using 64 bits to track seconds with, a machine could outlive our Sun without getting
    confused about the date. Just shooting from the hip, I think 64 bits' worth of seconds ought to be
    about 240 billion years. That's quite awhile. :)



    Actually, it's a 32-bit signed variable (to allow for dates before 1970), which has a range of approximately plus or minus 2 billion. The rollover will occur on 19 Jan 2038 (not 2037). This will likely cause immense problems, as most people will have no clue why this will be a problem (Y2K is much easier to understand for the unwashed masses).

  • If I were hallucinating due to the end of the world, I think I'd hallucinate something other than Monday morning at work.

    Phllllllpppt! - Bill the Cat
  • by seebs ( 15766 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @06:48AM (#1411060) Homepage
    Is a bunch of mild inconveniences.

    If you took everything, from thousands of people without power (last August, NY), to 5% of the British credit card swipers rejecting cards (Dec 27-31), to the 911 system in LA mis-prioritizing calls for about 10 minutes, and all the other little things that will go wrong within the next year or three, and even the ones that failed years ago (first credit cards expiring in '00), and you had *ALL* of this on one day, it would have been the global catastrophe we talk about.

    Catastrophes are fast. If they aren't fast, we deal with them as they're happening, instead of trying to react to aftermath. Imagine how dangerous a mudslide would be if it were just one ton of mud per day for a long time. It would be a *joke*.

    Same thing.
  • Don't kid yourself. The thing is that even though your bank didn't go under, and the government didn't have to bail you out, you spent a lot more than a dime on Y2K. Even if you didn't buy any products directly related to Y2K, you subsidize (sp?) it with just about every purchase you make. Every company that had to spend money upgrading and checking their systems passes that cost on to the customer.

    -FGP
  • Realtime Y2K was fine. And that should have been expected, since most realtime systems aren't very date-dependant. Furthermore, many are layered with fall-through defaults.

    But the real worry about Y2K has always been those legacy COBOL batch processing systems. There may still be some erronious statements sent out in the mail over the next months that will take wrangling with customer service to straighten out. Nothing life threatening, but a pain nonetheless, and perhaps aggravated by "we didn't have any Y2K problems."

    -- Robert
  • by Jburkholder ( 28127 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @06:54AM (#1411076)
    >I really wish there was some way to show these people who are calling the event a hoax the parallel universe on 1/3/2000 that did not invest the money in fixing this problem! I'm sure they'd change their tune.

    Kinda like a Frank Capra "Wonderful Life" kind of thing. "Peter DeJager was never born, and so the pleas from IT managers for budget money to fix a 1999 rollover problem fell on deaf ears".

    Really though, from what I've experienced here at my company, we would have never got the top brass' attention to start doing something about this 4 years ago if there weren't lots of dire predictions in the media about Y2K disasters. Had we not done anything, our 30,000+ employess would be looking at service order screens that were unable to take new orders, or pretty much do anything productive at all. We'd have the phone lines jammed with customers that we couldn't take care of. It was real. The world would not have ended, but we would probably have gone out of business.

    What got old was the hysterical screaming in the last 18 months or so when we were already working on it and had a pretty good plan in place to deal with it. Every schmoe came out of the woodwork asking for a briefing on our progress, or a demo of the latest builds so they could go back and tell their bosses (who had only just seen a report on CNN that talked about some Y2K bug) that we were taking care of it. It took on a life of its own. I think we actually spent less time actually fixing code than we did convincing management that we needed to do something in the first place, and then once we got started, that what were were doing was actually going to be done in time and fix everything.
  • I'm just glad we have another century of using '00' through '99' for the year...
    I'm currently working on EDOS [nasa.gov], the ground system for the Earth Observing System [nasa.gov]. (The recently lauched "Terra" is the first satellite in the system.)

    In this system, spacecraft contact session ids are based on spacegraft id, ground station id, date and time. The date part uses - you guessed it - a two digit year. Makes me wanna cry...

  • by rjh3 ( 99390 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @06:55AM (#1411078)
    The "hoax" was the result of combined ignorance, fear, cynicism, and venality.

    Ignorance - The reporters cannot distinguish between an annoying computer failure and a catastrophic computer failure.

    Fear - Most fear computers. They are a genuine job threat to many in the news business and to many people that they know. Most of their friends and colleagues are in the older, dying industries that are threatened by computers.

    Cynicism - They know that they cannot trust the government or corporate spokesmen to tell the truth. So they did not believe the initial warnings. Then once they learned enough to understand that there was a real problem, they did not believe all the reports as the real problems were fixed. Early Y2K tests found genuine problems, this was reported in the technical channels, and the later tests found the problems to be fixed and this was reported in the technical channels. The media did not understand and did not trust the government and corporate reports.

    Venality - The news media, especially the electronic media, sell a product. Emotion sells much more easily than reason. Whether on CNN or slashdot, the emotional response is the easy response and the universal response. The easy Y2K emotion is fear. Fear sells. Fear maintains ratings. Fear is universal. Reason requires lots of boring detail and lacks punch. So the reports all emphasized fear.

    The best example of what really happened is from school. We all know people who don't start studying until the night before finals. They cram and pass. They don't start the term paper until the day before it is due. They pull an all-nighter and pass. This may even be the most efficient use of their resources (given their priorities). And a lot of people from the top to the bottom of corporations and government have not changed. They let Y2K slide until the last minute, then they crammed, pulled all-nighters, and passed.
  • Personally I think that Y2K was an averted tradgedy, although like many I reserve judgment until at least the end of March (end 1Q 2000) for all reports and financial information to be run. Then we'll know for sure the extent of the damage. I do think certain companies will be looking red in the face about their predicted "damage estimates".

    However mostly I'm just glad it's over. Finally IT departments can again devote thier IT budgets to truly interesting projects, not these dumb patch and fix projects. I've been personally affected by this phenomenon - having spent 2 months out of work in 1999.
  • Does anyone have any clue about WHY there could be problems on Feb. 29th?
    The rule for leap years is actually a bit complex:

    If the year is divisable by four, it's a leap year - UNLESS it's divisable by 100, in which case it's not - UNLESS it's divisable by 400, in which case it is. (Does any programming language have an UNLESS clause?) So 1900 wasn't, and 2000 is.

    If someone just coded "Every 4th year is leap", it'll work fine this year. (Break in 2100, though.) If someone got the rule right, it'll work fine. (Duh.) There may have been a significant number of systems that got the first two but not the third clause above; but I can't imagine that many got through Y2K testing.

    I'm happy to report that "cal" on my trusty old Red Hat box reports Feb 2000 as 29 days and Feb 2100 as 28, as it should.

  • by bhurt ( 1081 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @07:08AM (#1411104) Homepage
    But the real problems were with the wetware. The reason this thirty-year-old code is still being used is a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. Enough noise needed to be made for the money (and programmer time) to be spent fixing the problem.

    Unfortunately, the level of noise needed to make the CEOs and CIOs put the bug on their priority lists were enough to trigger the doomsayers and (even worse) those who figured they could make money on the problem. Technical necessity brought the problem to light, greed blew it out of proportion. Consider for the moment the fact that there is now a stock index for companies based around Y2K.

    In a strange sort of way, I do kind of wish some planes fell from the sky, and some people died. Already a Y2K-backlash is begining. Obviously, since the bug was fixed in time, it was all a hoax from the begining. The next time there is a fundamental problem in our technological infrastructure, the response is more likely to be "Y2K was a hoax- this new problem is as well. In addition to not panicing about it, I'm also not going to fix it." Cold as it may sound, some deaths this time around might have saved more lives next time around. Unless, of course, you beleive that there are no more fundamental bugs in our technological infrastructure...

    One final comment on Y2K: Don't assume people "suddenly got smart" ten years ago. I've heard a number of people complain about the dumb programmers of yesteryear saving "a measly two bytes". After all, memory is cheap today- obviously, it was cheap back then as well. Go ask someone who was around back then about "a buck a bit"- yes, Virginia, there was a time when memory was $8 a byte, and this was considered _cheap_. Hint: it was about the time a lot of this code was being written. So the "measly two bytes" they saved paid for a decent dinner out.
  • A lot of people went and withdrew enormous amounts of money, stockpiled ammo, bought lots of extra gas, loaded up on canned goods, etc. What a waste!

    Granted, I could see how ATMs or those nifty pay-at-pump gas things could be downed for a few hours, but really, what's going to cause Kroger to quit selling food and toilet paper?

    People forget, we are on a planet driven by MONEY, and those of us in the US are in the most money-driven economy in the world! Let's face it, everybody REALLY wants one thing: Your Money.

    And what do you think will happen if suddenly Chevron can't take my VISA card? If Kroger sees that they (through some apocolyptic something-or-another) can't sell me any Corn Flakes? Or if I Amazon sees I can't purchase books?

    THEY FIX IT. WITH MIND-BOGGLING SPEED. So what if the laser scanners at Wal-Mart won't ring up my goods? They want my money, and they want it badly, so they'll make some poor schlep ring it up on a 1960's vintage cash register! That's what they'll do!

    Never underestimate the power of greed and the drive of profit-making. If everything else in the world failed, you'd STILL be able to get what you need because there'd STILL be people out there possessing it wanting to sell it to you.

    If there is a demand, there will emerge a supply. It's just one of those semi-natural laws we aren't anywhere near escaping.
  • by gnarphlager ( 62988 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @07:14AM (#1411110) Homepage
    I don't disagree with you at all. The war did wonders for our economy, and I wouldn't be surprised if the strategists were just ITCHING for Pearl Harbour to happen so we could leap on both fronts like a starved dog. I agree that the many people who agreed with what Hitler preached were just as guilty as he.

    But my point, and the reason I used him as an example, is that we need a central figure to hate. It's so much easier to focus on Bill Gates rather than Microsoft itself, or even certain parts of Microsoft (I think notepad is a pretty okay editor ;-). If we didn't leap on the Y2K issue when it was realized, then one person would have been singled out for the masses. The geek martyr, and it would have been his/her fault.

    Just like Hitler. In our history books, it's his fault. Too much Sluggy lately; I hear the voice of Kiki ringing in my head ("stay good, Adolph, stay good!!!")
  • by NME ( 36282 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @07:15AM (#1411112)
    I'm going to take issue with the assertation that the gatherings in large cities were displays of hope, faith in technology, defiance, or optimism.

    I'll go with 'Apathy'. I wonder how many people in Times Square (or people who did not stock up at all) were betting on 'someone else' taking care of the problem(s)?

    -nme!

    PS-- a good point I heard mentioned on NPR was that the Y2K meme showed us that
    1) We still don't trust technology
    2) The world is extremely connected by that technology. (Sure, maybe you and I knew that, but after tracking midnight as it made it's way across the world, everyone else knows it too.)

  • Most readers here already know this, but I ask you to make the point clear to those coworkers, friends and faily who do not...

    The only reason that Y2K was such a huge non-event was because $500,000,000 and hundreds of thousands of man-years of effort were invested into making it exactly that. A non-event. We won, it was a successful non-failure. We averted the potential (POTENTIAL since we'll never truly know the alternative outcome) disaster of the rollover.

    We'll never know what the consequences of inaction might have been, or wether or not we over-zealously attacked the problem. Maybe we overspent and overworked it. Maybe we nailed it just right. Perhaps it was overkill. We'll never know. And a good thing too. The planes stayed up, the lights stayed on, and no one was hurt.

    We did our job.
  • If you search the Microsoft Knowledge Base for leap year bugs, there are a fair number of leap year related bugs and glitches. Most of them don't look that bad. The Windows NT Server User Manager does not believe that 2000-02-29 is a valid date. This was fixed in SP4.

    Every leap year, comp.risks seems to have a nice selection of leap year related bugs.

  • I installed slackware 3.0 back in about '95, on a 386. Kernel is now up to 2.0.36 (+- 1 minor version) Still running whatever 4.x version of sendmail is came with, amoung other secrutiy nightmares. The machine keeps running though, and it does everything I need. (Most of my work is on a different machine, this is just a firewall)

    Date on the BIOS is augest of '91. Now why were all comptuers supposed to just crash suddenly? I don't get it, I intentially didn't upgrade this just to see what would happen. (Granted I've not rebooted yet)

  • Y2K is not too serious of a problem. But what happens when we roll over to 5 digit years?
    Back in April I posted the following to the RISKS Forum [ncl.ac.uk]:
    So maybe I'm an April Fool, but it seems to me that the Y10K issue is worth a little serious thought.

    There are areas of human endeavor in which 8000 years is not an extreme time span. At present, we deal with these long time spans only in modeling things like geological and cosmological events. But it is not unreasonable that within the next century, we may begin to build very high technology systems with mission durations of thousands of years - for example, a system to contain radioactive wastes, or a probe to another star system.

    Y2K issues have raised our consciousness about timer overflows, but it's quite possible that this may fade in succeeding generations. There's no reason not to start setting standards now.

    Perhaps all time counters should bignums?

  • Does any programming language have an UNLESS clause?

    Perl does.

  • Interesting.

    I'm a sysadmin at a financial (definitely not one of the largest in the nation) and was directly responsible for "simulated environment" testing. Basically, we copied the accounts database and ran every concievable transaction on it for 5 dates in 2000 (thank you, CUNA). The problems we dicovered were just plain BUGS. We had to use a Beta copy of our vendors Y2K-compliant release, and it was gross. We only found one valid Y2k problem with the database software tha runs our system.

    Does your FI do its own software? There's no way I'll ever be able to find out what sort of problems ( if any) were fixed before we got the beta release, and your post piqued my curiosity.


    -nme!
  • There are telephone systems out in France and Italy,

    In case you did'nt read the news properly, those were caused by a major storm that killed about 100 people, destroyed 4000 trees in Versailles, damaged Notre Dame and many buildings in Paris. I can provide pictures as proof if you're into conspiracy theories.

  • Most Y2K problems wern't covered by the medis because they hapened before the media hyped it. Most banks were compliant years ago before issuing credit and ATM cards with expiration dates in 2000. If any part of the system would have seen 00 as 1900, your newly issued cards a few years back would have been rejected. So banks either fixed the problem then, or never had a problem with it. They just wern't "compliant" as no person went into the systems to mark their Y2K approval.

    My ISP that I worked for in 97 had their one Y2K glitch then when client had those CC's that expired in 2000. Every time it happened, we had to e-mail someone in the billing department to manually enter it for two weeks while it was fixed.
  • Aha!

    A lot of us don't know about the great canned food panic of '99(Irresposible speculation, of course, blah blah blah) because we were holed up in beeping data centers, Running Xclock and drinking sparkling apple cider that came in a gift basket from CDW.


    -nme!
  • I think the media are mostly to blame here. Ask anyone "in the biz" and they'd give you a very different story. One person asked me if they need to be worried about the Y2K compliance of their car. My response: "if there's nowhere to set the date, and nowhere to display the date, there's a 99.99999% chance that the damn thing doesn't care what the date is."

    The media blew this whole thing out of proportion, feeding on the fears of an uninformed public. And now they're doing the exact opposite, telling us that it was nothing to get worked up over, and questioning whether the money needed to be spent at all. I haven't heard anyone say "thanks for spending the time and money to fix it" yet.

    Damn media. Still not taking the time to understand what they're reporting, and reporting it to a populace that refuses to learn about what they're hearing about and taking whatever they're told by the media as the gospel truth.

  • this is like banks admitting they got cracked. What F500 business is going to report they got whacked by a Y2K bug? None that are publicly traded, IMHO. It was a big problem, most of it got fixed, some didn't, we'll see normal "bug-like" behaviour for years to come. Everyone here know that not all bugs appear the moment they occur, it could take months for a critical mass of bits to be misplaced.
  • man, if you can slide away and hide at your job, i'd take that anyday. no matter where i'm at, home, work, play, on a boat in the middle of a river someone at work is trying to get ahold of me for something that they broke or screwed up on the servers.

    :)

    Y2k = The holiday i've been deserving for years! first time in 5 years i had a vacation of more then 2 days, first time in 5 years that nothing blew up while i was on vacataion - because everyone else was on vacation.

    Y2k is a godsend for the IT market.. to bad dumb people will play it out with lies and bitching. It goes to show that long term planning, long term commitments and a strong workforce can solve any problem.

    It *is* my firm believing that we did what we should have done, and people should be kissing our feet. We still have some bugs, Oracle financials is having problems with some imports bringing in 1900 as the year, some old electronic forms are brain dead and some old furnance temp/timing computers seem to be lost (but they know how long 15 minutes is so that doesn't matter anyhow).

    So my hats off to all you guys, and myself. We earned this, we did this, i got to celebrate for the first time in years, and i got some time to myself.

    Amen brotha!!!!

  • Now I have a nice supply of water and ammo, a shortwave radio, and a bunch of really good flashlights, things I should have around anyway.
    Exactly. I took the Y2K runup as an opportunity to increase my general preparedness for whatever may come. My power didn't go out on Jan 1, but it's gone out before during storms or when some idiot hit a pole, so I'm sure I'll use that diesel generator someday. The wind-up solar-powered radio is not only good for power outages but for camping trips too. A couple extra cans of soup are useful if I get snowed in.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why does everyone on Slashdot feel the need -- nearly every day -- feel the urge to use Hitler in order to make comparisons?

    It's a bizarre urge, IMHO -- one that perpetually verges on the tasteless and one that, more often than not, reveals the utter banality and lack of critical insight of the poster who makes the (by now) routine incantation of "Hitler."

    "Well, ya know, what would the world have been like if ..."


    Anyway, my point is this:

    The assertion that culture thrives on villians and not heroes is, I'm sorry to say, utter rubbish.

    Our culture does thrive on heroes -- as any visit to your local movie theater will prove. There's a reason that stories (films, novels, plays) are constructed the way that they are. And that reason is this: that as texts of our collective consciousness (and shared unconscious), the plays and novels and films that we crave need the villians in order to worhip the heroes.

    We don't worship the villians; we never have. Our culture admires the fact that goodness can triumph over evil -- but our culture knows, too, that without the careful presence of "evil" we wouldn't know goodness. (An old argument -- vauguely religious -- but very true).

    Besides, the definition of "culture" in my post and the post previous is tricky and unstudied. I'm not sure what someone (myself included) means when we refer to "our culture". We're all parts of cultures that are so varied that it's impossible to unweave each association from the tapestry of the whole.

    That aside, I felt compelled to point this out.

    Don't be fooled into thinking we worship the so-called "villians". It's an interesting assertion, but it's not quite true.

    (Of course we *do* worship Katz -- more of a college freshman than most college freshman -- for his perceptive scrutiny of media and media trends. Who is this Katz guy anyway? He makes bizarre ex cathedra pronouncements as if he has the truck of a perceptive media critic. How can a college student like Katz be so uninformed?)

  • If anything, a problem of this magnitude that requires nearly a trillion dollars in fixes would have pulled us out of a recession or at least kept it from getting worse. Just like WWII, all it took was for something to require billions and billions of dollars to be spent on something. The ripple effects of all that money would create jobs all over the place.

    This argument is "the fallacy of the broken window". By this reasoning, a street punk who thinks it's kewl to break windows should be hailed as a public benefactor, since he creates jobs for glaziers.

    Obviously, this reasoning must be fundamentally flawed, since it leads inescapably to an absurd conclusion. The flaw was pointed out by economist Frederick Bastiat in the essay "That Which is Seen, and that Which is Not Seen" [catalog.com]. Yes, destruction creates jobs for those who are hired to repair it, but this drains money that otherwise would have been spent on new goods and services. The fact that the former is seen while the latter is unseen leads to the fallacy.
    /.

  • As for my computers, I shut them down: the Linux box so I could replace the tape drive, the other Linux box because there was no point in keeping it up without the other one, and the Windows 1895 machines not because I refuse to trust a Closed Source OS to handle the rollover correctly but because I downloaded the new Mcaffee virus signature file to a Samba volume then forgot to run any scans before I shut down the Linux machine that hosted the Samba volume. Then I realized there had been a fan or computer running in my office every single moment for the past six years. It was very, very quiet.

    Then I loaded a bunch of booze and ammo and preservatives-laden/canned food into the pickup and headed for the hills [slashdot.org]. But hell, I do that every New Year's. It's only so I can get roaring drunk and shoot off guns; they frown on doing that inside the city limits. As for the preservative-laden foods--I'm usually far too hung over on January 1 to cook.

    --

  • "And it wasn't a *hard* problem either. Not technically. Finding a fix for Y2K-imperiled code tended to be easy; scheduding and managing the upgrade of live systems with no disruption of service was in many cases hard. Coming up with the resources was hard for some companies. But the fixes themselves tended to be pretty obvious"

    Comeon now - my former employer's customer service software (accounts, billings, credit, cash collection) consisted of 12 million lines of IBM 1401 assembly language vintage 1965 (bet you didn't think that would run on an ES/9000, did you?). No source code, no documentation, 99% of the original designers and programmers retired or dead. It _worked_ fine, because it had been debugged for 30 years. But it **wouldn't** have worked as of Saturday 2000/01/01.

    _Easy_ to go in and fix that? Would you like to take on the job? A good million manhours over 30 years, in the always-easier forward direction, to create it, and it could have been fixed _easily_? No way, no how.

    Without a certain amount of scaremongering, that company (a critical, 'head for the bunkers' industry) would have been dying in mid-January ("I'm sorry sir, our computers are down for the next 4 years") and dead in mid-February ("no cash? Sorry, no more coal for you").

    The geeks did a very very good job on this one. No ifs ands or buts.

    sPh
  • Ok, so basically, we fixed up the old jeep to go down the 2000 road, threw on our seatbelts, and went for a ride..

    Now we're UPSET that the jeep didn't FLIP, CRASH, and BURN?!?!?!
  • This will be another non-event.

    Do you expect that any company will be servicing 30 yr old equipment (other than those selling to the FAA)?

    I ask that, because we're on the virge of a 64-bit revolution. IBM's mainframes are moving to 64 bit, as are all large servers. These are the systems that tend to hang around the longest. Everything will probably be at 128 bits by the time that 2038 rolls around.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This was a scam, pure and simple.

    I had thought that until this morning. Now, I've got 40+ Dell's that think it's January 6, 1980, and I can't set them to the year to 2000 in the BIOS. Dell claimed the machines were Y2K compliant, and I believed them. A local "consultant" stopped by about a month ago claiming to be able to fix all of the Y2K problems with Win98SE and with the newer Dells. I ignored him, and now I can't get through to Dell support. I guess I'm going to get a major "I told you so" from him along with an even bigger bill.

    Also, about 1,500 BGP routes disappeared between Thursday night and Saturday morning. Don't tell me things weren't really screwed-up when ~3% of the routes on the Internet disappear.

  • dates have always been somewhat of a clusterfuck in Java. Every language has an area (at least one) in which it sucks hard.

    I had written both a countdown clock and a normal desk clock in Java, and had to deal with java.util.date kludgery quite a bit :O.. And the shift from 102 to 11 was pretty useless...

    Still, they should have RTFM, particularly knowing how arcane and crappy the Java date interface was.. I'm just chuckling at all the websites featuring 19100, 192000, 3900, etc...

    Enjoy the bugs!
    Your Working Boy,
  • "A curious exception to the global celebration was the United States, content to watch it's ball drop in Times Square, a crowded and exuberant but comparatively visionless and primitive national celebration."

    Pretty much everyone I have talked to across the US has listed this as a strong net positive of the Y2K "thing". By not scheduling huge parties, by not having a massive "national vision", by not dumping huge amounts of money into the hands of greedy "entertainers", by simply not traveling over the long weekend, many people had time for friendly, personal celebrations with family, friends, and neighbors.

    We had three neighborhood parties within walking distance, then sat up with our little guys to count down the seconds and bang pots and pans at midnight. Which do you think they will better remember in 80 years - that, or some "national vision" televised from Washington?

    sPh
  • by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Monday January 03, 2000 @08:32AM (#1411221)
    At my company there are two teams. Both receive a project of approximate equal complexity.

    Team A: Develops a realistic plan and conscientiously follows it. All team members put in small amounts of overtime when needed to meet intermediate goals. There are no suprises and a stable program is delivered several days ahead of schedule with concise, well-documented code.

    Team B: Maintains a moto of "We've got time!". All intermediate deadlines are missed by a mile. Everyone nearly always goes home early, the exception being days when the intermediate deadlines are due. On these days, everyone pulls an all-nighter so that the deliverables can be presented the next morning. The final deliverable, due on Friday, is delivered Monday morning. To anyone who's taken Comp101, the code is obviously a poorly architected, cut-n-pasted, undocumented peice of a bad knock-off of a poor hack.

    Now, who gets the credit for "putting in the effort to go the extra mile"? Who is the "real team players"? Who gets the rewards and their pictures in the company newsletter?

    Clue to people new to the industry. NEVER deliver on time. The pressed tee shirts don't know what your job entails, and if you deliver early they think your job was too easy. Complain about tight deadlines and lack of man power. Go home, login, and run a script to keep data moving. Next morning, tell your boss that you pulled an all-nighter. The weekend after the final due date, get your team together for a weekend party, have everyone log in and then pass the bottle. Monday morning (red-eyed and dreary looking) make up grand and heroic tales of how much effort was put forth to pull off your amazing feat to get the project finished by Monday morning. This is the time for the team leader to recommend raises to honor the valiant efforts of all the 'team players'.

    Of course, this is all unnecessary if your companies management has a clue.
  • I grew up in Florida, a prime target for hurricanes. Residents of the cities that were in the most danger were told to evacuate. If the previous hurricane had blown off course and hadn't done as much damage as had been expected, more people who were told to evacuate wouldn't evacuate and said something like "the last hurricane missed us, I'm not evacuating again." The news media still told people that they should evacuate and stressed that the previous hurricane blowing off course does not in any way imply that the current one will, but people ignored this. The problem wasn't the media, it was the people watching it. The media loves disasters, they will sensationalize them as long as it gets them ratings. The next major computer disaster will be reported by the media, it will be the average John Doe who will ignore it. Fortunately, the average John Doe wouldn't be able to do anything to prevent the disaster even if he wanted to.
  • Actually, those countries were doing quite a bit to prepare, all soundbites and hysterical news reporting aside. But the reality is that less developed countries had less code to wade through, and therefor less to do, not to mention less exposure to Y2K issues if something had been overlooked, than countries like the US, France, Germany, and Japan, where you can't even sneeze without a computer, much less spend a quarter on a pack of chewing gum.

    If the world had done nothing, and some 20% of the infrastructure had had glitches (or whatever the prediction was), it wouldn't have mattered much to someone trekking in the Annapurnas or on safari in Africa. On the other hand, in London, Paris, Tokyo, or New York the impact would probably have been quite significant. This is not to say less developed countries would have been immune, merely much more resistent.

    Yes, there were fearmongers and fools, both probably still cowering in their bunkers waiting for the Last Days. You are right, the true fearmongers (particularly those hyping the Y2K issue in the last couple of months when it served absolutely no constructive purpose) deserve to be smacked up side the head, financially as well as literally. But that didn't make the warning being given one, two, or five years ago any less timely or apropos. The irony is, we heeded those warnings, fixed our code, and prevented allot of difficulties as a result. Those with the foresight to warn us will get little if any credit, those of us who lost weekend after weekend getting things in shape in time for the new year will hardly be remembered either, but, luckilly for all of us, Y2K itself will go down in history as a non-event and be forgotten as well, which sure beats the alternatives.

    One thing Y2K does demonstrate is than an ounce of prevention was worth many pounds of cure. As one of the ones who spent most of the weekend in the office making sure our trading systems were up to the task, I can tell you there were problems (not just with our stuff, but with data from the clearing firms, exchanges, etc.). Those problems were resolved and business was normal Monday morning, but had we treated this year like we have every other new year's weekend the story would have been very different.
  • Do you expect that any company will be servicing 30 yr old equipment

    Much of the world will have replaced their 32 bit machines, but many poor countries may not be able to afford anything other than the 32 bit discarded machines from the rest of the world.
  • Didn't someone also say just locate a nearby Morman family because supposedly their religion dictates that they have at least six months of food on them at all times (because, like, Jesus will show up on their front porch someday or something).

    Jazilla.org - the Java Mozilla [sourceforge.net]
  • No. Gambia Y2K OK [gambianews.com]. Gambia's Y2K group says your source is wrong.
  • One thing to remember: Small businesses may type all their invoices into their (single) computer, but they're also small enough so that they can put all of their sales and info stuff on paper. I know that my own employer, at least, puts a paper copy of each sales order, invoice, and cashed check into that customer's (paper) folder so that if the possibility of a computer error ever arose, the data is right there at the bookkeeper's fingertips.

    No, my big worry isn't about small businesses, most of whom genuinely want to serve their customers. My worry would be about big businesses, most of whom have "customer service" reps who believe that service is what a stallion does to a mare. When you reach "customer service", you reach an ill-trained know-nothing who is being paid $17,000 per year to answer phone calls about things she knows nothing about. Unlike a small businessman, she doesn't know you personally, and really doesn't give a damn. She makes the same amount of money whether you go away happy or sad, after all -- unlike a small business owner, who sees your happiness in his bottom line.

    -E

  • If you actually read any of the Y2K stuff written by knowledgeable people and not just blind journalists, you'd say that most of them agreed that January 1, 2000 wouldn't make most Y2K problems come to light. For example, the United States imports a *huge* amount of stuff from countries like China, Mexico, and Colombia. At least 50% of the contents of any Wal-Mart comes from China. Most coffee and much fruit comes from South America. Now if a junk appliance factory in China or Korea bought some old computer system in the seventies to keep track of shipping and inventory, and they were bitten by a Y2K bug, how long before anyone realized it? No lights would go out, nothing would explode, but shipments of merchandise slated for a month or more down the road might be delayed. That's the kind of bug that was expected by everyone except crazed media types.
  • There are actually several Y2K leap year issues. The first, as everyone knows by now, is the surprisingly persistent myth that 2000 is not a leap year. (Or "century year", according to the most pedantic.)

    The second is that there are some pretty strange variants out there. I haven't followed the Y2K mailing list for years, but I recall people mentioning finding live code with both double leap years (February had 30 days) and a negative leap year (February had 27 days).

    Finally, many calendar calculations actually involve a year starting on March 1st; this forces the oddball month of February to the end of the year. One of the most widely used one is Euler's equation for the day of the week given the month, day (2-digit) year and century. Unfortunately, several popular programming magazines published a simplified version which is valid from March 1, 1600 through February 28th, 2000, but it will be off by a day from March 1st, 2000 on. *This* bug will be a real pain because it will be hidden in speedsheets and database functions and it will require a software patch to fix -- easy if you're running the latest version of the software, but not so easy if you've frozen your software at an earlier release for some reason.
  • Naw, I scanned a few survivalist type sites, and they're all saying "Just wait 'till the end of this month, everything will collapse then."

    SOme people don't need a reasonable reason to be paranoid, alas.

    -E

  • Now your making assumptions. You're assuming that every peice of embedded code ever placed on chips has been kept track of. You'd be suprised.
  • The flip side is that my blizzard kit meant that all I had to do was get some extra water. I couldn't count on getting water by melting snow!

    Seriously, I agreed with the Red Cross entirely on preparations - we didn't need more than prudent for usual local conditions, yet few people in California have earthquake kits, few people in metro Colorado have blizzard kits, few people on the eastern and gulf seaboard have hurricane kits, etc.
  • Right now, the problem is that so many older Unix programs think that sizeof(time_t)==sizeof(int). But that's an assumption that can be easily changed as y2037 approaches, in order to change sizeof(time_t) to be 64 bits. Yah, it'll be a nuisance re-compiling all Unix programs to be Y2037 compliant, and there's probably some Unix database programs that have 32-bit time_t values embedded in their databases, but the major SQL databases certainly don't have that problem.

    In other words, 2037 is going to be a LOT easier than the Y2K bug was...

    -E

  • "not to mention the complete lack of docs on all software"

    I'm a computer science student, about to graduate in April. Are you saying that not all code is cleanly documented? What have I got myself into?

    The horror...the horror...
    Mike van Lammeren
  • Is that the Rochester that's in the same state as Springfield?
  • As 2000 problems go, I suppose that this was as serious a problem as there was in the US, but even so, it wasn't very serious at all.

    The DOD didn't lose the satellite system, they lost the ability to process data from it. They were always in complete control of all of their satellite assets.

    A critical eye at the Washington Post report shows that all the "Y2K" buzzwords are in place:

    significant problem
    major computer failure
    major Y2K computer glitch

    The Post's claim that "word of the computer failure was leaked to reporters" is laughable...I was watching TV as a Pentagon spokesman stood behind the lecturn and told the reporters about the problem.

    Rather than a serious problem, it seems like a last gasp "Y2K" FUD report.

  • the Y2037 bug in Unix has me worried. In 37 years, there won't be very many people left that really understand the fundamental architectures of today's machine
    Just as the people today don't understand the architectures of 25 years ago, when Unix was created?
  • ... is a newfound disrespect for modern media sources.

    I mean, for the last year or so we've been bombarded with stories and articles about the end of the world at the hands of the Y2K bug. Modern media has been making a *killing* off of scaring people into thinking that there were going to be catastrophes and chaos come January 1, 2000.

    Now that it's over, and it was all a big hoax, I for one hope that there's a backlash - that people start to realize that not everything they see on CNN or read in Time magazine is worth even thinking about, and that there is more to the world than being victims of hype, consumers of bad news.

    So all I really have to say about Y2K is that its gone, and lets see if anyone has learned a lesson.
  • "Please tell me you did NOT leave the "fixed" application written like this"

    Yes, that would have been a potential future problem ;-). The whole thing was replaced with a C++ based client/server app. That project had its own set of, um, interesting points, but at least it provided a modern foundation for the business system.

    sPh
  • It isn't over yet. Lots of offices are still on vacation until Tuesday. There may be a lot of bugs that haven't yet been discovered - let alone reported.
  • The big concern wasn't that the banks would be unable to pay you your money. (Though that could happen, too, if they lost track of who owed THEM money.)

    The concern was that the banks' records would be so fouled up that they would have know way to know whether/how much they owed you.

    If that had happened the FDIC would be no help - because THEY would have no idea whether / how much you were owed, either.

  • Now what am I going to do with the 20 cases of creamed corn and 200 kilos of spam?
  • I got it from the radio news, there was no mention of storms. Kindly refraining from assuming that I am too stupid to read an article in the future.

    The point remains that there were -real- problems from y2k, and some of them were fairly significant - at least what I'd call significant.
    The point is, only media pundits and hypemeisters predicted planes falling out of the sky and nuclear holocaust, and only media pundits and hypemeisters are crying now that 'nothing at all happened! it was all hype!'

    Well, the uneducated public presumably will repeat what the pundits say; but I still think the only story here is the irony that the hype industry is now trying to hype how we were all fooled by the hype...



    --Parity
  • I did'nt call you an idiot. And on top of that, my tone was'nt condescending. So admit your error, and move on. Don't shoot the messenger.
  • Isn't the solution just to switch to 64-bit hardware (with the larger time_t) before the year 2038? With the cost of most Linux hardware being what it is, I'd be really surprised if any computers running today would still be mission-critical come 2038.

    The problem should solve itself with a recompile, unless I'm missing something really strange.

    D

    ----
  • I agree totally. Geeks are seen as outcasts by a lot of people, when really, most of us are normal, or even better than them. Just because we know computers, that shouldn't outcast us. If the power had gone out, we would have been blamed for NOT fixing the problem. If it doesn't, we are blamed for causing a giant hype. We are the scapegoats whether we help or not. What I think would be funny is if every geek, for one day, stood back and said "no, sorry, your turn now." and did nothing. It'd be a nice holiday, and they would realize how important we are in everyday life after half the world's economy and power crashed. Only problem would be, OUR lights and money would be gone...
  • To quote from the Bastard Operator From Hell [ntk.net]:
    THE PHONE RINGS AGAIN!
    "The screen on my PC is really dim" The woman at the other end says "Should I wind the brightness knob up?"
    "NO!" I scream "Don't touch that knob! Have you any idea of the radiation that comes out of that thing when the knob gets wound up?!!!!"
    "Well I..." she says, all uncertain
    "TAKE MY ADVICE!" I say "There's only ONE way to fix a dim display, and that's by power surging the drivers"
    The words "power surging" and "drivers" have got her. People hear words like that and go into Dummy Mode and do ANYTHING you say. I could tell her to run naked across campus with a powercord rammed up her backside and she'd probably do it... Hmmm...
    "Have you got a spare power cord?"
    "No.."
    "Oh well, never mind, we'll have to do the power surge idea... "


    Emphasis mine :-)
    ---

"And do you think (fop that I am) that I could be the Scarlet Pumpernickel?" -- Looney Tunes, The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950, Chuck Jones)

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