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Dec 31, 07 - 4:49 am
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December 31, 1999: The world braces for chaos as midnight approaches. Will computer systems crash when the calendar switches over to 2000?
Although the answer turned out to be “no,” and the so-called Y2K crisis never materialized, the potential for disaster seemed real enough in the days and weeks leading up to the final day of the 1900s. Fears within the computer industry and the resulting media frenzy it produced certainly helped to fan the flames.
The problem, as some saw it, was that older computers still being used for critical functions might break down when the date switched from 99 to 00, since the numeric progression convention, programmed to store data using only the last two digits of any given year, wouldn’t recognize the logic of a century change.
As far as these computers were concerned, it would be 1900, not 2000. How much data might be lost as the result of this 100-year miscalculation was the great, unanswered question.
Y2K fears were real enough to make governments around the world take remedial action before the event, which had the unintended benefit of actually strengthening the existing computer infrastructure.
Systems were upgraded or, when they couldn’t be replaced, were given additional backup. Billions of dollars were spent fixing the original source code in older computers.
If the threat was real — and there are still plenty of people around who say it was — then the precautions paid off. If Y2K was a form of mass paranoia — and plenty of people believe that, too — then a lot of money was wasted.
As for the midnight switchover itself, 1999 passed into history with barely a whimper. A few glitches were reported here and there, but nothing catastrophic occurred.
The industry would be in crisis soon enough, but as January 1, 2000, dawned, nobody saw that one coming yet.
This entry was posted on Monday, December 31st, 2007 at 4:49 am and is filed under Memories, Technology, Trivia. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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