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What the hell was Y2K bug?

A recall: Since the early days of computing systems, computer programs stored year data only using two digits, for example, 1990 was stored as 90. Why was it a problem? Well, consequently, these computer programs could not distinguish between the year 2000 and the year 1900 because in the system both of them would have been represented as 00. And according to still some other programming conventions, year 2000 could be represented as 19100. Why such an oversight? Well, probably, during those not so heedy early days of computers, no programmer believed that human race would be using the same computer systems when we reach the start of the new millennium(did that mean the start of year2000 or the end of 2000?). Surely flying cars couldn't be managed using such primitive computer systems and logic. And some other people hopefully believed that the world would end well before the start of year 2000, so why worry about a silly thing like date convention. But we never got those promised flying cars, and the world didn't end, and the computer systems just kept inheriting old legacy conventions of programing. Years passed by and when we were about to reach the new millennium, the world suddenly realized, come 2000 and the applications and embedded systems, the world, built around these buggy programs would fail completely, produce incorrect results and cause total chaos. The End.

So the IT industry and the world went into double gear trying to fix the bug and solve the problem. 
According to one report, the total cost of the work done in preparation for Y2K was about 300 billion US dollars. Y2K came and went. There were some problems (in US, Japan, France and some other parts of developed world) but no major disruption of world system and not even a false nuclear alarm. Naturally, it made some people wonder if the bug (that they first created and then they fixed) was worth so much money.

[More about Y2K at wiki ]

Information Technology Industry old timers in India still remember that year as a time of great business, great opportunities, great experience and of great learning. Y2K meant work. In 1999, India setup a Corpus fund of Rs.700 crores to address the problem of Y2K bug. The Amount spent on Information technology in the year 2000 was more than 1 trillion.

Here are some of the Y2K bug ads from year 1999:

Advertising solution and awareness:

 "The Y2K Bug can destroy your company's asset. And I don't mean computers."
- Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Group of Companies

"The greatest asset of any company is its reputation - the confidence of its customers and shareholders. Nothing is more difficult, or easier to lose. The Y2K Bug can affect all your systems, from inventory to production billing. It can seriously hamper your ability to deliver to your customers' satisfaction. And if you are a listed company, it can undermine your share value. You will be vulnerable to lawsuits, and SEBI strictures. You can lose business - but more importantly, you will lose the faith of your customers. That's why none of us, whatever the size of our company, can afford to miss the Y2K deadline."

Good morning 2000,
Department of Electronics
Govt. of India
Let's make India Y2K OK

Y2k at a Glance
  • The Y2K bug can cause serious disruption 
  • Even if you don't use computer or microchip-based system, Y2K problems in your suppliers, customers or utilities can affect you
  • The bug isn't hard to fix - all it takes is time and senior management commitment
  • Failure to get Y2K OK can lead to loss of data, cash-flow problems, loss of investor confidence and legal action
  • the tests for the bug are simple, but must be carried out at all levels of date-dependent computer and microchip-based operations
  • Inventorise; Assess; repair-replace or Retain; Test and Install; and have a Contingency Plan
  • You can use Y2K to revamp your business &build new business 
  • There are several reliable sources of help.
(Agency: Lintas)

Advertising backup plan:

Y2K's coming. Don't just sit there.

It'll be the end of the world if you lose your data. And that could come with the new millennium, or computer crashes, or accidental deletion, or even a virus. In short, if you haven't backed up your computer data, you could lose it. That's everything from tax files to office inventory and payroll, even family photos. But there is a solution. Store your life's work in a safe place: Iomega's range of portable storage media. We have solutions for all types of data. Zip is the world's most popular, high-performance SuperFloppy for the home and office. Jaz is the ultimate choice for hard disk capacity and performance. And for mobile PCs and digital cameras, Click! 40 MB disk is the benchmark.

Iomega's innovative software solutions make protecting data even easier and more convenient: QuickSync automatically backs up your files whenever you save data on your hard disk; Norton Zip Rescue recovers your data when your hard disk crashes and Password Protection prevents unauthorized access to your data. So save yourself and relax.
Jaz 2GB
The superfast, extremely vast professional storage.
Zip 100MB or 250 MB
The SuperFloppy preferred by Millions
Clicl 40MB
Mobile storage solution for digital cameras & mobile PCs.
Your life is safe here 

Opportunity created:

To help bring faster growth in the IT and IT enabled Services in The State
Successful venture can avial the dedicated
IT Venture Capital Fund

- A year 2000 ad by Webel (West Bengal Electronics Industry Development Corporation Limited) and i-winm ICICI- West Bengal Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited


Unrelated post: Information Overload


  1. Y2K compliant was the buzzword in the late 1990s. And I too was afraid of the bug and heaved a sigh of relief when it didn't bite.

  2. I was counting on that bug...hoping I wouldn't have to give my board exams :)
    Y2K bug certainly was the buzzword, but in the end it didn't cause much buzz.


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