back to article Y2K? It was all just a big bun-fight, according to one Reg reader

Welcome to Y2K, The Register's Christmas gift to those that missed the insanity of all those years ago, and those who remember it all too well. Today's tale comes from a reader we'll call "Bill" and is a reminder of just how silly things got back in the day, as Y2K paranoia swept the nation. Bill had taken early retirement …

  1. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Saved our bacon Y2K did.

    We had a few machines that were mission critical and yet not Y2K fixable. They were not really fixable at all and without the Y2K 'panic' we probably wouldnt have known they existed until they didnt. It was only the OCD PFYs who followed bits of cabling coming out of other machines that revealed boxes that would have been laughed at by the liquidator if they'd stripped the premises bare to sell the boxes of fanfold on top of them!

    It was an eye opener to me how companies that had been bought up by other companies and so run by accountants could casually risk a business by getting rid of the people who know before conducting a proper audit. And 20 years on I can find little evidence of a company that employed near 1000 people.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Saved our bacon Y2K did.

      But auditors don't talk to people except maybe the highest levels of manglement. Even if they talked to the IT troops, they would still be clueless as to what was in the room other than "computers" and "very noisy".

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Saved our bacon Y2K did.

        There are several kinds of audit.

        The most common kind is simply checking that the columns in the books add up.

        The deepest is known as a forensic audit - and that's the kind where you need to prepare for an anal probe.

        "Audits" beyond the book checks seldom if ever go beyond casting an eye over what's there to see that it matches what's on the books. It doesn't mean they actually _understand_ what something does or is for - unfortunately this means you end up with a "Brazil" scenario - where if something shows up that "shouldn't exist", the reaction is to make reality match the paperwork, no matter how critical the equipment might actually be (instead of the other way around).

        1. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Re: Saved our bacon Y2K did.

          > where if something shows up that "shouldn't exist", the reaction is to make reality match the paperwork, no matter how critical the equipment might actually be

          You'd be looking for the "offog" and and Eric Frank Russell was looking for one in 1955:

          1. herbgold

            Re: Saved our bacon Y2K did.

            Thanks so much for reminding me of the "offog" story - one of my favourites back in the day.

            1. Toni the terrible

              Re: Saved our bacon Y2K did.

              I also liked his novella/short story "WASP" Terra Uber Alles

        2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: Saved our bacon Y2K did.

          There are several kinds of audit

          The one most of us will be most familiar with will be the "can we tick all the boxes on the paperwork" type.

          Many years ago, I administered a SCO OpenServer system (yes, before the days when they committed self destruction) which had very limited facilities (compared to what the auditors were used to) in terms of automatically locking accounts/terminals in the event of multiple failed logins. However, the auditors had declared "we expect to see ..." and manglement (without consulting IT) just said "yes sir, and how high would you like us to jump ?"

          So against our advice, we were instructed to configure the "lock the terminal line after 3 failed logins". If I mention that most of our users were by now on telnet sessions (yes, it was "start of the art" at the time), I think you'll see what's wrong with that setup.

          Sure enough, it wasn't long before the problems started and at some times of the day we'd get complaints that no-one could login ! Of course, for telnet, SCO used a long list of virtual serial ports that teh telnet server connected incoming sessions to - always using the lowest numbered free "line". So once a user got one of the virtual lines locked, we had loads of login failures - once all the "lines" before the locked one were in use, all connections would hit the locked one and get thrown out. At periods of high login rate, some would manage to get a higher numbered line during the short window while the locked one was in use.

          Needless to say, only after all the complaints - which we made sure were laid firmly at the door of the auditor's "request" - did we get permission to turn off that feature.

      2. NeilPost Silver badge

        Re: Saved our bacon Y2K did.

        I remember talking to an Auditor I think from Coopers and Lybrand who was delighted to tick the checklist

        - Server room , door lock - check

        - We recommend a firewall, oh you have one, fantastic- check

        - Anti-virus software, you use it. Oh eggggggcccwllleeennnt - check

        - password changes??? Check

        Never bothered to check anything, just half hour conversational IT part of a company audit where all the IT Managers has buggered off and pointed the Business Grad box ticker at me.... who has little idea what any of this stuff was.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Saved our bacon Y2K did.

          Its strange isnt it - I've worked at places with ERP systems that can count how many griigle widgets are likely to be dropped in the machine shop and order in extra to make sure production isn't stopped but they dont give a fuck about the machine that controls the thing that actually sends the order off.

  2. Blackjack Silver badge

    The Year 2038 problem is less than two decades away...

    Hopefully everything will be 64 bits by then

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Year 2038 problem is less than two decades away...

      Word is the 2038 problem showed itself back in 2009 with 30 year mortgages.

      Veritas NetBackup uses Jan 2038 as the expiration of "infinite" retention backups. At least for master servers on AIX. Not sure if it's the same on all platforms.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: The Year 2038 problem is less than two decades away...

        I had to fix something that went titsup for Y2K in the early 90s.

        99 months considered "permanent". Not actually so as the purge process has no coding for same, but it is a long time. Most purges operated on calculating the duration in months between start date and now, then comparing same to the specified duration.

        One of my colleagues decided to be clever, calculate the end date and compare that to now.....(!)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Year 2038 problem is less than two decades away...

      Already got bit by it last year as customer cards were generated with a 20-year lifespan. (It's already on a 64-bit system but some genius used int instead of time_t.)

      Unlike the Y2K problem I guess we're older and wiser and know what the problem is before it happens and know how to fix it.

      Or maybe not, in this case the fix was to generate them with a 15-year lifespan and kick the can down the road.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: The Year 2038 problem is less than two decades away...

        Except 2038 could actually cause problems

        In 1999 nothing except some banks cared about years, but every control system, file system and network cares about things happening after other things

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: The Year 2038 problem is less than two decades away...

        "It's already on a 64-bit system but some genius used int instead of time_t."

        A variant of that bit Allied Telesyn in 1997 and shut down most of their router products worldwide (all the ones using SNTP...)

        At the time, China was using this product almost exclusively, The Chinese were reportedly less than impressed.

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: The Year 2038 problem is less than two decades away...

          The Chinese have not forgotten like we have how to think properly long term and doubtless thought Allied Telesyn should have foreseen the issue.

          And we wonder why the Chinese decided to build their own tech . . .

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: The Year 2038 problem is less than two decades away...

      I will probably be in lots more bits than that!

  3. Martin an gof Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    The small, round parcel of delight is also often topped with some demerara sugar, although we understand that the things are available without such a topping. Such a variation is an abomination in the eyes of this hack, but your mileage may vary.

    Take a look at the picture heading the article. No sugar, no "flaky" pastry. That is a proper Eccles cake.

    Well, that's what I've always thought...


    1. TRT Silver badge

      Those are fat Chorley cakes pictured. Aka fly pies.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        But Eccles cake still dont use flaky* pastry. Mind you food is pretty fluid and I dont mean soup. My mam came from Aberdeen and I used to love going up there and having hot rowies with butter for breakfast. It turns out rowies are croissants with a Scottish twist - ie a lot more cardiac arrests if you are an inactive sofa surfer.

        * certainly not the stuff used to top 'pies' - at least not when I was a kid which could at best be called dandruff rather than flaky.

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          I suppose a rowie could be described relative to a croissant. but it is of itself and also known as an Aberdeen buttery.

          My eldest’s other half is a chef and when doing full Scottish menus he does ‘Aberdeen butteries’ for breakfast instead of croissants.

          BTW my father (born in Hull) always referred to Eccles cakes as ‘fly cemeteries’.

        2. TRT Silver badge

          Eccles cakes are encased in puff pastry. Flaky pastry is also known as Rough Puff Pastry. It uses cubes of butter instead of square slices of butter as used in proper Puff Pastry.

    2. Bodestone

      that's pretty flaky pastry. I can see the flakes.

  4. Dr_N Silver badge

    But were they ...

    ... ISO 9000 compliant?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: But were they ...

      Did they have dates in them?

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: But were they ...

        They have no thyme-dependent features.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: But were they ...

          All the components were of current specification.

  5. TRT Silver badge

    Best before...

    Presumably they carried a date stamp of some type.

    1. sodium

      Re: Best before...

      You're thinking of Medjool pies not Eccles cakes...

  6. bryces666

    you mean by hand?

    "...and that since they were made using only 'traditional fully decimal digital technology',"

    Loved that piece describing hand made.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: you mean by hand?

      Back when I worked in the Scientific Civil Service there was an apocryphal tale of how one research establishment got a new piano for the Sports & Social club by describing it in the purchase order as "a digital tone generator".

      1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

        Re: you mean by hand?

        I remember, back when I w**ked for a large consultancy company (Can't Support Computers), that I used to play a game with my mangler. Each year I would try to hide more and more unusual things in my 'personal development goals' for the following year without him noticing, by describing them in a way that would have made Ted Rogers (of Dusty Bin fame) proud.

        One such I remember was "utilising computer simulations to exercise real-time problems solving, and maintain and improve hand-eye coordination", which simple translated to "playing computer games"!

        1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

          Re: you mean by hand?

          At the publishing company where I worked, "Network Throughput Testing" was our code name for multi-player team vs team combat sessions of the old Bungie game Marathon. I even used it in a personnel review, as one of the justifications for a raise for our PFY.

          1. NeilPost Silver badge

            Re: you mean by hand?

            Yes WAN Bandwidth capacity testing aka spinning up Unreal Tournament.

        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: you mean by hand?

          I was wondering whether you meant w**king while holding a mouse to control the internet.

          1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

            Re: you mean by hand?

            That word starts with a 'W', ends in a 'K', and has a two letter word in the middle! For some reason my computer always censors it as w**k!

          2. KittenHuffer Silver badge

            Re: you mean by hand?

            I also meant to say that I have had experience of one-handed websites in the past!

            Though these days a fondleslab is more comfortable to use as it's portable. Just have to make sure you get one that is splashproof!

            Mines the dirty macintosh!

      2. John 110

        Re: you mean by hand?

        A centrifugal storage device was what we bought when we needed an extra floppy dive for our Apple IIe

      3. Toni the terrible

        Re: you mean by hand?

        Given that in one Gov lab the high tech fatique/tensile testing machine was used to generate tones to play happy birthday etc - mostly what it was used for

      4. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: you mean by hand?

        There’s a vatted* Scotch malt whisky called Sheep Dip. It was so named so that farmers could order it without it causing comment by their accountants/wives.

        *The Scotch Mal Whisky Association in its wisdom is trying to merge vatted and blended into one class but this is wrong headed. For the uninitiated a vatted whisky is a blend of single malt whiskies with NO grain whisky. A blended whisky contains cheaper grain whisky which reduces the mouthfeel (many fewer longchain alcohols) and adds spiritiness. The more expensive blends have higher proportions of single malts and lower of grain as you go down the price range the ratio changes.

        The whiskies on the bottom shelf in the supermarket have not much single malt in them of not much age and probably caramel to make it brown enough to hide the lack of age.

        A vatted whisky then is a better product than most blends. I’ve tasted Sheep Dip and it is a fine and complex whisky.

        BTW there is a single grain whisky out there produced from the big plant above Kirkcaldy in Fife. It is aged in proper barrels for a goodly time though and is not bad at all. Something different. Definitely a Lowland whisky though.

      5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: you mean by hand?

        Allegedly (it was well before my time there the Botany prof in QUB got a VW Microbus past the relevant committee by listing amongst several bits of microscopy apparatus. Also allegedly, and again before my time, it was written off by someone taking the right turn into the road where the greenhouses were a bit too fast. By the time I got there the departmental vehicle was an ancient Mini Countryman. One of my jobs was to drive it and help a PhD student with her field work. Life hs never been the same since.

  7. macjules

    – anything from which a 'g' might be stripped and a Land Rover Defender added.

    Given what the 'estate' was intended for I suspect that the LR Defender might be an added 'bonus' and the 'g' might need '-string' added to it. Of course, nothing at all like KPMG's exclusive 'club'.

  8. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    It was a great gravy train to be on

    in 1999 I was IT Manager for the European offices of a large American company. The Y2K thing became a bit of an excuse to update anything we wanted updated, really, and employ lots and lots of Y2K 'consultants'. The systems we had that I looked after were absolutely Y2K compliant, but nevertheless we had to do lots and lots of auditing, including our lift, made by the esteemed Porn & Dunwoody (now sadly defunct). It was built in the 1960s or earlier and there was nothing in it that had any vague notion of the time or date, but nonetheless we had to spend a couple of hours researching it and putting in in the audit database.

    My company spent an absurd amount of money having me and three other people man the London office, putting us (and our families) up in hotels so we could work the night and the next day and then sleep it off.

    To be frank, one of the reasons we had no problems* at all is that we did the auditing and checking and remediating, and I know people are going to downvote me for this, but a lot of it was blown out of all proportion. It really was an excuse for Y2K compliance companies to make shedloads of money and consultants to rake it in. Our company just had to LOOK like it had done the job, and be Y2K compliant. We did have to do some of it, but not to the extent we did.

    *The photocopier jammed on new year's day, and the lift got stuck temporarily. None of these problems were remotely related to the date.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Re: It was a great gravy train to be on

      I was on a few contracts for exactly that type of work. In the main it was companies that had realised the difference between their asset register and a work of popular fiction is the register had no plot.

      While there could have been real issues, this was taken as an opportunity to finally bin old kit and software and get in place some stuff which would last the next decade.

      Overall there was good work done but the actual Y2K critical stuff was probably a very small portion of it.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: It was a great gravy train to be on

        actual Y2K critical stuff was probably a very small portion of it

        That depends on the company, but I'm not going to argue!

        Anyone with ISO9000 paperwork had to do a lot to prove their systems were going to be ok and for my company at the time it allowed us to force the users into accepting standardised O/S & application versions on their servers (with the associated user testing and certification), support work during the next couple of years was much easier.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It was a great gravy train to be on

        I don't know where you all worked that actually upgraded, but around these parts it was all about rewriting existing COBOL... that's it.... non-stop for 2 years.... day in... day out (Office Space nailed that part).

      3. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: It was a great gravy train to be on

        In local authority services, in my experience, it was both an essential and an unconscionable gravy train.

        In effect there was a blanket requirement for everything to be Y2K checked at considerable expense and no exceptions were allowed.

        But this included lots of identical non-networked PCs and laptops used purely for typing documents to be printed and writing presentations. And a simple risk assessment says that the absolute most that would have been needed was to backup any current work to floppy just in the unlikely case the things failed to boot (which could anyway have been tested on a sample machine). And tbh there was greater chance of losing unbacked-up work from normal day-to-day usage than from Y2K effects.

    2. Imhotep Silver badge

      Re: It was a great gravy train to be on

      We each had to provide a disaster plan if everything fell over on the date. Mine was that I kept a spear in the basement so that I could hunt down and eat my coworkers if things got really bad. I was never asked to modify it, so I like to think I was that close to being a corporate head hunter.

    3. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: It was a great gravy train to be on

      You almost sound like a Brexit Gammon descrying Y2K as the original Project Fear..... whereas in reality massive amount of effort/resources almost completely neutered the issue.... except you actually admit doing some work.

    4. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

      Re: It was a great gravy train to be on

      It definitely was blown out of proportion, but it was also real. There were the harmless date display issues, but also definite date processing issues that could have caused processes to fail in the products I dealt with.

  9. Will Godfrey Silver badge


    Well, in 2038 I'll be 89 - assuming I'd still alive, and if I've still got all my marbles I expect to thoroughly enjoy the fun and games of everyone else running round like headless chickens.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm,

      They may be running around before but some may be afterwards. Much of manglement has no idea what the 2038 bug is.

    2. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm,

      I’ll only be 72 and fully expect to still be running, though not like a headless chook.

      When I was a teenager in NZ there was a guy in his 70s who would jog the 1km from his retirement unit to the club on a Saturday afternoon, go for a pack run with the slow pack then jog the 1km home again.

      I decided I would try my best to be like him and I’m doing fine. The thing is as you age you have to work and tone EVERY MUSCLE regularly. If something hurts it is telling you it needs to be made stronger. The ‘net is full of sites giving appropriate exercises. I do this once a week.

      Age gracefully? Disgracefully and energetically is much more fun.

      To all the women out there, I am in FULL working order.

  10. Chris J

    But are they GDPR compliant?

    Being cookies and all?

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: But are they GDPR compliant?

      Lovely, have a =====>

    2. The Basis of everything is...

      Re: But are they GDPR compliant?

      Mmmm. Cake!

      But every time I have a byte I get bits all over the keyboard.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: But are they GDPR compliant?

        Just have a nyble in future.

  11. Nunyabiznes

    optionally employed

    Ah the hysteria of the times! I sold a camper to a fellow who promptly wedged it into his garage as a Y2K shelter. He was a legitimately smart guy, but couldn't grasp the concept that the generator, propane heater, separate water system, etc could just as easily been incorporated into his house and he still could have parked his truck inside.

    I was intentionally unemployed over Y2k. Worked at a consultant right up until 5pm on Dec. 31 and started my new job on 1-3. Easy days and a helluva party knowing I had a few days to recuperate before reporting to new job.

    1. Shooter

      Re: optionally employed

      I bought a generator in March of 1999. I wasn't even thinking of Y2K at the time; I was just tired of the spring storms knocking out my electricity for days at a time. Made even worse because my house is on a well rather than city water - no power meant no water, no water meant no toilets, etc.

      I ended up paying about twice what I would have a year later, and was quoted a delivery time several months in the future (it actually showed up about a month early). Still, it was worth every penny when the power was out for a week in November 1999! Water, warmth, and a refrigerator full of unspoiled food..

  12. Jason Bloomberg

    When I were a lad...

    The only "Y2K bug" I uncovered was actually a leap year calculation error in code written by someone who had presumably learned by rote that "a year is a leap year when exactly divisible by four", and wasn't aware of the hundred or four hundred year caveats, or couldn't be arsed coding those.

    As it was actually of no consequence in 2000, we left it as was; 'a surprise bug' for anyone still around for "Y2K1".

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: When I were a lad...

      The only "Y2K bug" I uncovered was actually a leap year calculation error in code written by someone who had presumably learned by rote that "a year is a leap year when exactly divisible by four", and wasn't aware of the hundred or four hundred year caveats, or couldn't be arsed coding those.

      My bet is on the latter possibility, probably made the not unreasonable assumption it would last his life time.

      As it was actually of no consequence in 2000, we left it as was; 'a surprise bug' for anyone still around for "Y2K1".

      Lazy but smart, don't change things if it won't be a problem within the next xx years, where xx exceeds your foreseeable employment at that place by a nice margin.

      My preferred solution is to check the last two digits for "00" and depending on the outcome move either the first or last two digits into a two digit field and divide that by four and checking the remainder. That method is valid for the Georgian calendar between 15-10-1582 and 28-02-4000 (which is the next caveat after the 400 year one).

      1. Captain Boing

        Re: When I were a lad...

        Not an "IF" in sight


        Function IsLeapYear(n As Integer) As Integer

        IsLeapYear=((n Mod 4=0) And (n Mod 100 <>0)) Or (n Mod 400=0)

        End Function


        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: When I were a lad...

          That is an implicit IF with several combined conditions, doesn't translate to efficient low level code and even takes a while to read for the average programmer. Besides that, it wouldn't work in the languages available to me when I wrote those routine in the early '90's (COBOL and RPG).


          And it won't take the year 4000 into consideration either.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: When I were a lad...

      "The only "Y2K bug" I uncovered was actually a leap year calculation error "

      I uncovered a few hundred of those. Irritating and not all fixable (they'd picked up the "centuries aren't leap years", but not the "They are when divisible by 400" part")

      So some of the leap year calc fails didn't matter and others did.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: When I were a lad...

        Once worked on a bug, when the system brought up a particular patient's details it would crash out.

        Big of digging found some logs that the date 29/2/<current-but-not-leapyear> was not a valid date. Which, to be fair, it wasn't. As it was VB6land, no real stacktrace.

        Further digging and manually brought up the patient record. Date-wise the only field was DoB, which was 29/2/<leapyear>.

        Had a look at the backend functions, turns out it calculated ages by subtracting <DoB> from <birthday-in-current-year>, and if the date is after today subtracted 1, but as it wasn't a leapyear, the 29th Feb was not a valid date.

        IIRC I switched it to simple date library arithmetic with a bit of hardening around the 29th

    3. Killfalcon

      Re: When I were a lad...

      The inverse of this error is in the specification of excel's date format, where day 1 is jan 1st 1900, and day 60 is feb 29th 1900.

      It's presumably still there because fixing it would break a lot of spreadsheets, but it's something to be aware of if looking at historic data sets!

    4. Martin

      Re: When I were a lad...

      A good opportunity to retell one of my favourite jokes.

      A freelance Cobol programmer had made so much money by August 1999 fixing Y2K bugs, he decided to spend some of it. So he got himself cryogenically frozen, to be woken up in 2015, when, he hoped, any Y2K issues would be well fixed and the world would be a better place to live.

      He work up...and looked round. He was in a hovering bed with robots looking after him. He was massively impressed by the level of the technology. Suddenly a voice spoke to him, saying "How are you feeling?"

      "Fine" he said. "But I'm amazed by the technology you'd managed to get to by 2015".

      "Ah" said the voice. "Actually, it's 2096, and we're a bit concerned about a possible Y2.1K bug. So we've woken you up as you're the only Cobol programmer we can find."

  13. dak

    £30,000 per hour!!

    In 1999 I was a prod support Solaris admin for a Very Large Bank in a Very Small Country. I was on-call on 1/1/00 (1/1/2000 if you prefer) and scheduled to go in to the office for a few hours early in the morning.

    I took a phone call at about 02:00 that said things were running very slowly and not to go in at the scheduled time as my bit was going to be late. When I did arrive I found that the pace had picked up and someone else had performed my single task. Everything completed correctly and the world's banking system remained safe.

    My (entirely idle) shift was at triple time, which was nice, but the fact that the enhanced call-out fee for spending a few seconds on the phone equated to £30,000/hour is what I usually tell people about that day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: £30,000 per hour!!

      "I was on-call on 1/1/00 (1/1/2000 if you prefer)"

      2000-01-01 surely!

      1. NeilPost Silver badge

        Re: £30,000 per hour!!

        Ugh no. Damn Americanisations. Your bad !!

        01-Jan-2000 please and it’s clear globally what you mean


        The Y9999 bug is a S.E.P.

        1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

          Re: £30,000 per hour!!

          No, an americanisation is mm/dd/yy, yyyy-mm-dd is ISO and sorts properly. It's the only proper way to quote dates.

          The only proper way to quote time is of course in UTC, with an offset if you must.

        2. dak

          Re: £30,000 per hour!!

          That's actually DD-MMM-YYYY

  14. dak

    Y2KY Jelly

    Following my post above, I should take this opportunity to mention that one of our ops took great pleasure in offering to supply Y2KY Jelly to the devs, intended to allow four digits in where only two fitted before.

    Ey-up John, how's things?

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Y2KY Jelly

      You owe me a screen cleaner for that one ;)

      1. dak
        Thumb Up

        Re: Y2KY Jelly

        That's OK, I can afford it - £30,000/hour, me.

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Bad day

    The excuse-to-overspend comments here is why Y2K is widely perceived as a swindle, and that has harmed our profession and IT budgets since. Like most folk I spent a lot of time testing and fixing a genuine problem on standard recompense.

    If you chancers try to pull this again on the next date then at least let a few planes fall out of the sky, maybe make one nuke explode.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Bad day

      What was there before Y2K? Chronic underspending. What was there afterwards? Chronic underspending.

      So sorry for wrecking the graph for two-three years at the end of the 90s meaning some money actually had to be spent on IT, even if sometimes wasn't strictly Y2K related (new kit was needed after all).

      Perhaps more consistent investment would be better. I look forward to the beancounters wondering what hit them when offloading everything to Azure and firing everyone blows up in their face.

  17. Alan Brown Silver badge

    "If you chancers try to pull this again on the next date then at least let a few planes fall out of the sky, maybe make one nuke explode"

    There _were_ some problems in the leadup to y2k (5 Jan 1997 and 9/9/99 being two dates) .

    knocking out phone service for 20,000 customers was catastrophics if you were one of the affected people.

    knocking out Internet service across 80% of China for 12 hours was catastrophic for those affected in China

    having most of the world's alarm systems unfunctional for a day could have been disasterous (as it was, 20% of alarm systems weren't fixed in time)

    There _were_ problems uncovered which would have been catastrophic - most of them got fixed.

    There was also a lot of snake oil - but the reality is that a lot of y2k problems _DIDN'T_ happen because they were found and dealt with ahead of time.

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      And for the burglars and ne’re-do-wells would have to have known and been able to detect which 20% that was which is probably beyond 90% of them. So I doubt much security was compromised as a result.

      I’m not at the point where I need to install a dummy box to avoid standing out. Full double glazed security windows have reduced burglaries around here to pretty much zero other than from unsecured sheds and garages. Mine are secured.

      Modern pressurised double glazing goes off like a LOUD gunshot if broken or cut so that route is now out. They can also be locked cracked open in the summer. The doors are metal frame multilocking so even the polis don’t ram the lock any more, they ram the centre panels instead. But your burglar isn’t going to do that.

      So the only way in is to pick the standards compliant locks. It can be done but in full view and hearing of the neighbours (next door’s front door is right beside mine, I would hear theirs being picked). I have watched lots of the Lockpicking Lawyer’s site on YouTube so I know the skillset required to pick locks like that and very few can do it and even fewer can do it quickly and quietly.

      Someone did enter our backyard recently, they left the gate open, but found nothing to take or way of entering. The yard is overlooked by the windows of several of the neighbours. So again someone crouching at the back door picking the lock stands a good chance of being seen. The shed door could probably be picked but it’s an old, rusty, heavy lock and would likely break most modern lockpicks. They might away with my garden tools (none expensive) and my wallpaper steamer and lots of bags of home compost.

      If this unseasonably warm weather continues I shall have to start queen wasp patrol in there early this year. Can’t keep them out and the inside of a dry, sheltered WOODEN building is too much to resist. In the summer you can hear the wasps rasping at the fence posts from several feet away.

  18. a handle

    1am 2nd Jan 2000

    I was asked by a former employer to assess data communication systems for Y2K compliance. I discovered that every single system, all incarnations and all revisions, all over the world would fail at about 1:00 in the morning on the 2nd of January 2000. I also provided the company with a reconfiguration workaround they could implement. I invoiced them for about 30 hours.

    The annoying thing for me is that everyone at the company had a university degree, many with PhDs, except me who had left school at 16, when I worked there I was paid a fraction of their salaries. I should have invoiced them for 300 hours.

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: 1am 2nd Jan 2000

      A PhD means learning all there is to know about ONE thing or process. You might pick up other skills along the way but programming is unlikely to be one of them. I have a Biology PhD, I have programmed in BASIC and various macro languages. My wife had a BSc in CompSci so I knew that all the languages were slightly different apart from those which are very different. I kind of get what JAVA is haven’t engaged with it. Our youngest has a double major in CompSci and Biochem and she has made me a couple of Java apps.

      But ask me to check Cobol code and I will ask for Cobol programming for dummies and expect to have a steep and frustrating learning curve. I expect I could do it, eventually. But better to hire someone who knows it innately and all the tricks.

      One thing a PhD teaches you is to respect and value the expertise of others. Don’t assume all of us don’t value or appreciate what you do. I care about what you can do and know and not the qualifications you have. Most of my scientific skills have been gained on the job. Just like you.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: 1am 2nd Jan 2000

        I believe the "sequence" of degree level education runs BS, MS and PhD aka Bull Shit, More Shit and Piled high and Deep.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I saw in the new millennium in the control room of an electricity distribution company, with a plastic cup of warm, flat lemonade in my hand.


    Much to our relief, everything worked, but that was not luck, it was the result of a huge amount of bloody hard work. We even pulled old radios that we knew were completely indifferent to date and time out of storage and put a set (with a faultman in attendance) in every major substation, so we could manually operate the network in extremis.

    IIRC, the patches to certify Windows NT 3.51 only came out very late, maybe in September 1999. This caused a bit of stress as our accountants had bought a billing system that depended on NT3.51. The IT folks were only told of its existence in June or July 1999

    Yes, there were rorts: a local council's water folks were able to justify a big stand-alone backup generator at their principal pumping site "in case the grid went down because Y2K". This was actually just a perfectly reasonable contingency plan, but the councillors had never bought it until Y2K

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Dont feel too agrieved - I personally find the holdiay season a good time to be at work earning shit loads. I always find the xmas/ny period to be the dullest of the year, sparkly but dull - there is nothing to buy in the shops, theres fuck all on the TV you havent seen 30 times before and the amateur drinkers are out in force getting morose as they remember why they dont drink normally or just blocking the bar^ while trying to remember the order for 10 drink for their group. Highly overated time of the year unless you are a child and I'm glad my bro and family drove to ours in 3 times the normal journey time thus wasting 8 hours of serious drinking.

      * my local used to turn over three times the saturday on xmas eve with 5 times the bar staff all on bonuses though we used to get some impressive tips too and the landlord did ask me why there was a £1/4 million time checked in which was me being too tall to see the till screen without standing back and not being able to do so with all the bloody staff in the way and not realising it had not rung up properly in the days when you did the sums in your head and I concatenated two rounds!

  20. Carl D

    Ah, yes. Y2K. Brings back a few memories.

    I recall a friend of mine who worked in IT telling me in mid 1998 that the whole upcoming Y2K thing was going to be a big non event.

    And, he was right, at least for here in Australia.

    But, I do remember a rather "enterprising" person who was trying to sell Y2K insurance for all of your household appliances (computers and anything with a digital clock, VCR's, microwave ovens, etc.) in the last half of 1999. They even advertised in the TV magazine that came with our weekly Sunday Times newspaper in Perth.

    Don't know if anyone bought this "insurance" but I wouldn't have been surprised if there were a few suckers.

    1. Dagg

      Yes In Australia it ended up being a non event because people like me did things like working bloody hard for 18 months replacing a banking package fly in fly out for a regional bank.

      I ended up with an absolutely obscene awesome level of frequent flier points. Me and the misses spent the next year on several holidays including the UK.

    2. Wexford

      Another Perthite here, except I was on holiday near the other Perth at the time (Scotland...not the other other one in Tasmania) monitoring things back home which I'd assured the boss would be ok. We had some software patches to deal with, and everything was fine.

      Except for the one patch that I'd failed to apply, being that of elm (yeah, the unix email client) which only I used, on the email server. As of midnight, all incoming emails were sorted to the bottom of my mailbox rather than the top, and it wasn't until after a couple of days' wondering why I'd not received anything that I realised. So, in the end, Y2K did cause some minor dramas for people who were expecting a response from me!

  21. FuzzyWuzzys

    My Dad suffered with Y2K

    I was working in in IT at the time and it was the usual stuff.

    However my Dad was still working as a tech manager of a chain of leisure centres and he was responsible for Y2K compliance. He had some serious stuff like PCs and boiler room automation systems. However here is a list of the silly things he told me he had to check for Y2K compliance...

    - 3 pin plugs

    - kettles

    - lighting tubes, not the starters or anything attached, just the tubes

    - desk drawers(?!)

    - tools like spanners and screwdrivers

    - plastic trays to hold nuts and bolts

    - door handles

    - desk lamps

    It was months and months of him and his team checking endless lists of items that had no possible way to fail due to the date change but the buildings were places where the public entererd and used the facilities so everything had to be checked and ticked off.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: My Dad suffered with Y2K

      In these IOT days, most of the items on your list could now have some kind of computer in...

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: My Dad suffered with Y2K

      What if the power grid had Y2K trouble and the voltage went down, up, off and on, or backwards? Then your lights, electric (?) kettles, and other plug-in appliances could be unusable.

      Desk drawers... what if Y2K crashes an aeroplane, and someone on board has the only key to the desk?

      Spanners... nope. Well - if the British economy is crashed by Y2K and you have to get everything from whichever of Europe or the U.S. or China survives, then it'll be all metric sizes / all non metric sizes / made of surprisingly soft "steel" which needs very gentle handling. So maybe that.

  22. Bodestone

    I writ it on a bit of paper

    I'll say no more.

  23. waitingForTheStorm

    I realized after my post that 2000 was a leap year. So, the 1972 trick worked out without any trickery for Feb 29.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Indeed, I was brought on-board in a college of printing during late 1999 and my first task was to certify Y2K compliance throughout and provide a contingency plan. Within a few days of starting, we had the switch from BST to GMT. Hundreds, HUNDREDS, of computers needed clocks resetting. The previous computer tech bod just assigned his two technicians the job of going around and resetting all the clocks manually. I couldn't believe it! Once I found out that was how they handled clock changes (No, I couldn't quite work out why he'd decided to do it that way either; I found out when my techs had scheduled that into their work diaries and I queried it), I said "No way, Jose", and instead scheduled them to use that time to install the NTP clients I sourced on EVERYTHING and I set up a couple of internal NTP servers. Y2K testing during the half term was then a cinch - just fudge the NTP servers and see what fell over.

      Only had a half-dozen industrial control systems in the presses and some pre-press gear to check after that, and most of that "testing" was just getting hold of the Y2K compliance certificates from the manufacturers. The whole thing passed without so much as a hiccup or a burp. But of course, I came in on 3rd and 4th of January to run everything up, give it a quick once over, then shut it down again, ready for teaching to resume on 10th Jan. Double pay for two days, and 4 days off in lieu. Sweet.

  24. waitingForTheStorm

    Y2K + 1

    I did a lot of Y2K remediations, starting in late 1998. It was fun work. I was working in PCAO at the time, and there were a lot of small embedded computers in plants and industrial facilities. These had 2 digit decimal year counters that would overflow on the change of year. Predictable, but bad behavior.

    A common scheme in the industries I coded in was to add a firmware patch that would change the year to 1972 and add an offset (28 in this case) as the time was output. The offset was, in most cases, separate from the year counter and was added on every output of dates.

    At one company, one of the critical control machines created a canonical date for all of the other machines in the shop. So they installed the firmware, the year changed, the firmware changed the date to 1972 and added 28 to the offset. Of course, there was code to mitigate the Feb 29 date.

    Fast forward to the end of 2000. The firmware had not been updated. So, the year changed, the firmware set the year to 1972 and added 28 to the offset register. The clocks told all of the other computers it was now January 01 2028 (1972 + 56). A few minutes after midnight, the machines started running their cleanup code; one step was to delete any database records not created in the most recent ten years. By the time anybody figured out what had happened, the databases were empty and starting to collect data for 2028. It took many hours of hard work to fix that particular issue.

    I was not responsible for anything in that domain, so I got to just sit back and watch the pandemonium.

    I first ran into the 2038 problem when I was writing device driver code for handling expiration dates on magnetic tapes. That one scares me. I knew from my work that the Y2K issues were largely hype.

    If I am alive in 2038, I will be in a bunker somewhere with food, water, and a way to adequately protect me and my family.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least they allowed us a can of beer or two while we lurked around in the IT Department of an Insurance Company to greet the dawn of the New Millennium. They insisted on waiting until five past the new century and then re-starting everything and running an abbreviated set of acceptance tests. All very jolly apart from the fact that I didn't get paid overtime.

    I worked for a long-gone Mainframe manufacturer at the time, and in our local office he biggest job we did in the run up to Y2K, apart from applying reams of patches, was to re-write a client's Employee Pension System in order to replace the '80's vintage one that a code audit had revealed to be not worth fixing. That caused some fun & games when we started to run the two in parallel during early '99 as they started producing disparate results.

    "The new one must be wrong" they cried.

    Nope. It was the old one. There were a few, a very few, pensioners who were the much younger surviving spouses of people who'd been born in the 19th Century, and the old system had quietly stopped paying their pensions as the centenaries of their births ticked past...

    Another Y2K impact was that the local city council had to implement a new billboard licensing system, as the old one ran on a piece of way past end of life kit from the 80's that, due to firmware Y2K bug, became a very large space heater as the year ticked over to double zero. No way that was getting fixed as the thing had been out of support for the best part of ten years at that point. This was, it must be noted, a place that had policies in place such that no major equipment could be written down and disposed of until it was at least Fifteen years old, with the end result that their Data Center looked like a museum of Mainframe kit ancient and, well, even more ancient

    I wonder if some of it is still there?

    Happy days.

    Speaking of 2038, "Eternity", in the "Cloud Native Micro Services Based" system with which I now work, is some time in 2037...


  26. Tom 35

    Y2K scams

    The IT manager got suckered into buying a $350 Y2K "test kit". It was a 3.5 floppy and a roll of Y2K Ready stickers.

    On the bootable floppy was a batch file read some info from the bios then printed a bunch of rubbish on the screen then flashed Y2K Ready on the screen. It didn't test anything, it was a complete scam.

    So first I did a charge back on the company credit card, then I stuck the stickers on everything... coffee maker, water cooler, garbage cans, 3 hole punch. Well it was all Y2K ready!

    Add that I had already updated what needed to be updated and flagged 3 machines that were going to fail for replacement and told them the photocopier logs were going to say 1990 until the leas was up in 8 months.

    IT manager was Pissed about the stickers. But didn't say anything because he didn't want to explain about that $350 scan.

  27. Paul Cooper

    Y2K was real, but over-hyped

    Where I worked, we had a massive accounting system that had been developed over the years in-house. It did exactly what people wanted, and could be adapted fairly readily to cope with new needs. Unfortunately, it WASN'T Y2K compatible, and couldn't be made Y2K compatible. Therefore, our IT people spent several months identifying, procuring and migrating to a replacement system that was far less flexible, and which required many changes in working practices. As we had communications systems that ran 24/7 over satellite links, we had people manning the systems over the new year, just in case. There were, I believe, contingency plans to maintain communications in the event of something not working. As it happened all was well, but all was well because of an organization-wide drive to ensure that any software or hardware that might be affected was identified well in advance.

    It was over-hyped because of hysterical press-reporting about cars failing to start, and many other things that were never an issue - cars having

    ECUs etc. were a new thing back then, so the press (who are usually about a century behind) assumed that these new-fangled devices were just as likely to fall over as complex systems that depended on a continuous time measure.

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