Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

Y2K

I have just been reading yet another article that mentions Y2K as an example of a wrong assumption. In fact those who advised of the potential disaster that was called Y2K were 100% right in their assumption that it could be an absolute disaster. Because it would have been such a disaster those companies with computers hired hundreds or thousands of extra staff for a couple of years leading up to 2000 to go through all of their code and fix all of the Y2K issues with that code. Had these many tens of thousands of extra staff not been employed on fixing Y2K it would have been the disaster that was predicted. The assumption was correct but action was subsequently taken to fix it.

How do I know this? Well I spent about three years leading up to 2000 working on nothing but Y2K fixes. The team I worked on had about 100 people on it and all we were responsible for was identifying the programs that had problems and testing them once the many other teams had fixed them. Also in the first month of 2000 I saw three programs crash due to Y2K problems that had not been fixed. These delayed some financial processing by a week or two while these programs were fixed. By this time I was working with a small team on a relatively small system. Had the effort not been put into fixing 99.999% of the Y2K problems before 2000 then that original assumption as to how big a disaster Y2K would be would have been wrong in that the disaster would have been many times greater than had been predicted..

Y2K is perhaps one of the best examples of people underestimating a potential disaster but managing to almost fix it in time so that only those directly involved noticed.

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