In Computerworld’s first 50 years covering the tech industry, it’s possible that no single IT topic got as much attention as the so-called “Y2K crisis.”
In the second half of the 1990s, IT organizations spent billions patching systems and replacing hardware and software that had been designed to support only a two-digit year format. Because of the unprecedented scope of the work required to address the problem, what became known in industry shorthand as “Y2K remediation” projects turned out to be the biggest challenges many IT leaders faced in their careers.
The world knew the problem by many names — Year 2000 Bug, the Millennium Bug and simply Y2K — and just about everyone had heard dire predictions that business operations would spiral into a state of total paralysis as the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31, 1999.
And then it was over.
As Robert L. Mitchell wrote in “Y2K: The good, the bad and the crazy," a Computerworld feature looking back at the Y2K phenomenon 10 years after the fact), the world held its breath on New Year’s Eve 1999 — and nothing happened. Jan. 1, 2000, came in just like any other day. There were no major failures to report anywhere.
In the aftermath, or non-aftermath, Mitchell reports that some pundits said all the preparation had been overkill. Others maintained that only the hard work of IT pros kept the information systems of the world on track.
Whatever side you take in that debate, there’s no argument that Y2K had a big impact on the psyche of IT professionals and the world at large. The Millennium Bug became a convenient scapegoat for everyone from CIOs to little kids with messy bedrooms. And it certainly provided a wealth of material for our editorial cartoonist, John Klossner.
We hope you enjoy this wry look back at the way we obsessed over, sought to profit from or tried to ignore the looming specter of Y2K.