Post Y2K

Y2K was an issue.  Systems and program code did need to be modified and software patches were rolled out worldwide; and thanks to preparedness exercises and code reviews, the impact of Y2K was reduced substantially.  However, the scale of project work may not have warranted the estimated $200 through to $600 billion pay day (Schofield 2000).

But contemplate what might have happened if you hadn't made offerings - ! Drawing
Alan Moir’s But contemplate what might have happened if you hadn’t made offerings - ! [IT industry and the Y2K bug] Drawing (Moir 2000a)

Was it subterfuge, exploitation of society’s inadequate computer-related knowledge? Or perhaps IT managers just took advantage of the opportunity to upgrade systems that were difficult to maintain or manage.

The following quotes were gathered from IT professionals post Y2K, and in their own way they answer the questions posed above:

“At least the food is good.”

- Scott Peterson, spokesman for the National Association of Securities Dealers in Washington referring to the fare at the company’s five Y2K response centres (Computerworld Staff 2000b)

“We’re declaring victory, although I don’t think there was even a fight.”

- Peter Guyton, IS Director, Fuji Medical System

“I wrote a report warning that without remedial Y2K work the company (one of the biggest UK insurers) couldn’t produce credible accounts that would pass the annual audit.  The share price would have crashed.  I was believed.”

- James Christie, IBM Test Manager consultant with an insurance company during Y2K (Cellan-Jones 2018)

“I spent months during 1989-99 checking and fixing software to make sure that radio systems for emergency services et cetera didn’t fail.”

- Peter West, IT Expert (Cellan-Jones 2018)

“We found bugs and we fixed them.  It’s because we did such a good job that people who weren’t involved think there was never a problem.”

- Frances Coppola, Insurance company team lead (Cellan-Jones 2018)

Twenty years on, an uncomfortable parallel has emerged between the increasing intensity of Y2K fear propaganda and the successful career paths of IT professionals and IT-based organisations. Repercussions from Y2K fear are still being felt today in the form of periodic, repetitive, and perhaps unnecessary software updates implemented at the expense of software consumers.

What do you believe?

Post Y2K