back to article Beware the Y2K task done too well, it might leave you lost in Milan

Welcome to Y2K, The Register's short series of what was acceptable at the end of the 90s as the world prepared for the digitapocalypse. Today's tale of derring-do comes from a reader we're going to call "Pete" and is a warning of what could happen if you did that Y2K job just a bit too well. Back in the 1990s, Pete was …

  1. james_smith

    "Pete" sounds like someone I knew back then - in which case he did buy the car, and it was most definitely the wrong choice!

    1. J. R. Hartley

      I'm Pete. And so's my wife.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      I have Peter's Problem


  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lemme guess, passwords weren't inquired after either?

  3. Sloppy Crapmonster
    Thumb Up

    I did my y2k stint for NCR. Except they didn't know what equipment they had out there, so I spent the first two months of the job getting paid to stay at home playing video games while they figured out what they wanted me to do. After that, they sent me out across the country for training on how to identify their equipment, and then out across my home state to find it. Except their training and real life didn't match up, so they sent me back home again so they could figure out what was going on.

    I made a lot of money for very little work. Goodness knows how much it actually cost them.

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge


      Or "Numbers Changed Randomly", as we called them in the 90s.

  4. spold

    Y2K bugs

    I had a rather good Y2K assignment as part of an aquistion involving two hotel chains... the aquiring party needed me to go down to one of their largest properties (which happened to be in very sunny Arizona with a couple of PGA golf courses attached, and some excellent restaurants) and to inventory everything so they knew what they might need to look at... backoffice systems, PoS terminals etc.

    Anything we charged to the hotel bill just disappeared as comped - inventory this luxury restaurant.... better have brunch there, never mind the bill waiter just take me around the back to your IT systems. The place was also an underground maze that connected all the various above ground restaurants, kitchens, and outlets, an eye-opener as to how these places work. I spent a very happy week systematically trying all the delights the resort had to offer and noting down anything IT related.

    The IT work was not that stimulating but who cared! I did discover some Y2K bugs though... a large number of cockroaches that had set up home in one of the restaurant backoffice system servers.

    p.s. I also never saw such a well designed overall system which extracted as much money as possible from the guests. It all being all included, I had (quite) a few drinkies from the room minibar - the minibar automatically gave itself a tip!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Y2K bugs

      the minibar automatically gave itself a tip!

      I suppose they could theoretically claim the tip is for whoever has to go to all the rooms and refill the minibar, but somehow I'll bet that in reality that person is on a fixed salary and the "tip" goes to the bottom line of their F&B operation.

      1. Valerion

        Re: Y2K bugs

        A few months ago I was in a fairly posh hotel in NYC. Anything bought from the mini bar (not that I'm stupid enough or rich enough) to buy anything from the mini bar) also had a "restocking fee" applied that was about 50% of the cost of the (already eye-wateringly expensive) item. Of course, this was written in very small print.

        I can only assume the restocking fee covered the cost of sending someone down to CVS on the corner to purchase a new item and come and put it back on the shelf.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Y2K bugs

          I stayed in a rather nice hotel in the Caribbean and noted the prices in the hotel and wandered a couple of hundred yards down the road we had come in by to a shack I'd spotted and came back with two cases of Carib and a belly full of rum and fried chicken to die for and cooled them in the waste bin with ice from the free ice machines every 10 yds down the hotel corridors. This saved me a considerable amount of money and I was intrigued to discover some of the staff there ran a side business where they popped over to the shack to get cases for residents on the quiet when said people had been drained nearly dry of funds by the hotel prices. The Americans make it easy for the hotels though - most of them never had the courage to go out the front door until they left. Which is a shame because a lot of really nice Caribbean land has been converted into little America.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Y2K bugs

          Anyone dumb enough to get stuff from the minibar instead of getting their own deserves to pay the eye watering prices. Or is on an expense account and their company doesn't care.

  5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    knocked back the expresso

    " knocked back the expresso"

    What's "expresso"?

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Re: knocked back the expresso

      What's "expresso"?

      Fast coffee, but not instant.

    2. Forum McForumface

      Re: knocked back the expresso

      Railway coffee?

    3. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: knocked back the expresso

      'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This presso is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-PRESSO!!

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: knocked back the expresso

        E's Goode! E's Goode! He's Ebeneezer Goode!

    4. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: knocked back the expresso

      Ignorant Espresso.

    5. Number6

      Re: knocked back the expresso

      Sounds like the end result once the body has processed the Espresso.

    6. Jamie Jones Silver badge
    7. Carpet Deal 'em

      Re: knocked back the expresso

      Italian esprimere shares an ancestor and all relevant definitions with English "express". It's really only a question of whether you tolerate Anglicizations or insist on calling the city "Wien".

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: knocked back the expresso

        I'm all for calling them by their real names. It makes things a lot easier... I made a plan for driving down through Europe to Italy and had planned on passing Cologne, Munich and Vienna... Only they don't exist, instead, I ended up driving past Köln, München and Wien... Damned stupid English maps!

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: knocked back the expresso

          "Damned stupid English maps!"

          FWIW, have you ever tried navigating the UK using a French or German map? Same issues in many cases.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: knocked back the expresso

            Yes, I know, I now live in Germany. It is the same in pretty much every country where a different language is spoken. I knew about it before I left the UK and had written down the local names on my PostIts (I was riding a motorbike, so I put a series of PostIts in the tank bag window with the list of roads and major cities I'd pass by).

            When I came back to the UK with my German car, I was only driving from München to Calais and from Dover to Littlehampton via the A22 and cross-country over the A272 and then on to Southampton, Alton and Manchester over Nottingham and back to Dover, so I didn't need a navigation system. But it was showing German names for some places, when the built in entertainment system was showing the map.

          2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

            Re: knocked back the expresso

            > > "Damned stupid English maps!"

            > FWIW, have you ever tried navigating the UK using a French or German map? Same issues in many cases.

            Interestingly, the opposite language-mapping effect occurs in Australia if looking for fruitpicking/farm/outback jobs.

            If you search in English, you find essentially zero jobs.*

            If you have established to Google that you are non-English-speaking, by for example checking your email in your home language:

            (a) when you google you are swapped to your home country's google, and

            (b) you find thousands and thousands of jobs.

            The jobs "map" is vastly better in Foreign than in Native, for that sector in Australia.

            I discovered this via a French backpacker houseguest, and have confirmed it with German-, Spanish-, and Swedish-speaking backpackers.

            * "essentially zero": for example, last time I checked coupla years ago, using a radius roughly equivalent to sticking a pin through London and a pen through Edinburgh and spinning the whole UK around in a circle, there were 3 (THREE) jobs accessible to English-language searches.

            In 2 seconds later on her laptop, there were high tens of thousands.

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: knocked back the expresso

        When it came to Britain, late 50s to early 60s it came as "Expresso" as in "Expresso Bongo";

        Sometime more recently it became "Espresso".

        But I'll stick with the proper name . "Expresso"

  6. NATTtrash

    By now, Pete is...

    "Exactly what they expected to happen and what I would be needed to do was never made clear."

    "'ve got nothing to do except eat, drink, and fill in your expense claim for ten or so days on double-time."

    "He didn't have a security card to get into the DC if something did actually go wrong. Nor did he have any contact details for the team. In fact, he wasn't even sure where the DC was"

    " not really paying any attention"

    "Fortunately, nothing broke for which he was responsible"

    "...dutifully filed my expenses."

    " a deposit on a flat in Canary Wharf..."

    Am I the only one if I say I am surprised if Pete is not the CEO of a multinational by now? Or at least a Commission member? He has all the skills after all...

  7. Andre Carneiro

    I’m my line of work I have to declare any gifts over the price of a pen.

    I’m definitely in the wrong job.

    1. NeilPost Silver badge

      Pen.... Sharpie or Mont Blanc ??

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      So are you a pen-tester then?

    3. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      I’m my line of work I have to declare any gifts over the price of a pen.

      I’m definitely in the wrong job.

      Have you ever taken a good look at the price of a really good pen? 2K in any decent currency is not uncommon.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        The best pen I ever had was a fibre tip one that I won for drinking about 15 pints of Guinness one night at uni. It took about two weeks of lecture notes - we had around 20 hrs a week of them - until the tip wore down to a point where it was an utter pleasure to write with and performed brilliantly until I lost it on a Badger Ales promotion night!

    4. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


      I’m my line of work I have to declare any gifts over the price of a pen.

      I’m definitely in the wrong job.


      Sounds like you're working for a government department.

      There are ways around the petty rules such as ordering a multi-tone and harmonic noise generator(a piano for the social club in other words)

      And doing the normal dirty of ordering far in excess of what you need so when the petty minded accountants and buyers cut down the order by 50% , you still have enough spares to sell on ebay.

      And I'm sure there are many many other wheezes you can think up.

      (Btw the story about the inflatable boat +motor being taken out of Portsmouth dockyard on top of someone's land rover is a complete lie.... it went out the harbour and the guy picked it up on southsea beach ...)

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        I have to declare any gifts over the price of a pen.


        Sounds like you're working for a government department.

        With the growth of anti-bribery legislation over the past (UK Bribery Act of 2010, 1998 amendments to the US FCPA, etc), particularly the extension of provisions against public-sector corruption to the private sector, it's increasingly common for corporations to require gift declarations. Those declarations may also be required for tax reasons in some jurisdictions.

        This 2016 article from Foreign Policy, for example, discusses the global state of bribery and the increasing interest in businesses in clamping down on it.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not necessarily the wrong job, just the wrong time...

      Various laws and regulations have significantly altered what is considered appropriate for gifts and expenses these days.

      There aren't many people who can get €15k of drinks/food/extras signed off at a strip bar these days while around the turn of the century it was considered a departmental Christmas party... Allegedly...

  8. chivo243 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Y2K! Paying dividends to this day

    I didn't make any extra dosh off W2K. The biggest benefit was an extra week off work just in case, we had to work to fix things. The knock on effect of this is we still get an extra week paid at Christmas vacation! Someone at the top realized it was a good idea! So far 20 weeks paid vacation due to Y2K bugs!

  9. ThePhantom

    In the mid-1980's I was the onsite vendor support for a very early ATM implementation not using a water-cooled IBM mainframe. To keep things on the QT, the bank's Tandem fault-tolerant computer wasn't in the bank's data center, but was hidden offsite. Whenever I was on shift, I was escorted there from the main data center whilst blindfolded. I found out much later that the mainframe was hidden in the retrofitted basement of nearby carpark.

    As for Y2K, yeah, I was on call for 48 hours but felt like the Maytag man.

  10. Lazlo Woodbine

    I worked for a large retailer, for Y2K I drew what many people considered to be the short straw, it was my job to test everything worked on New Years day, in 4 shops.

    As I was also on call for the period I was paid 1/2 time to stay relatively sober from 2pm on NYE when we closed until 9am on 3rd Jan when we reopened.

    On 1st Jan I was paid quadruple time from the minute I left the house until I returned after testing the 4 shops, I just had to note the times, no evidence required, traffic was bad that day, took me about 10 hours to check the 4 shops...

    As I'm not really that much of a drinker this wasn't really a hardship, and the money I earned over those 4 days paid for my next car, not a TVR, but nicer than I would have bought otherwise.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New Years Day shift

    12 hour shift 08:00 - 20:00 1/1/2000, for which I got the best part of a months salary, for doing very little - only calls were colleagues and family asking if we had had any calls.

    Got quite a bit less for a following 12 hour shift a couple of days later.

    Paid for my holiday that year.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021