Our personal favorite is the Simpsons Halloween episode, where Homer forgot to check for the Y2K bug at the Springfield nuclear power plant. The result was planes dropping from the sky like stones and traffic lights shooting lasers at people.
Not everybody thought this was a problem, of course.
Computer programmers create actual, brilliant programs out of mere ideas in their heads. For them to go through millions of lines of old code (many armed with rapid, automated testing tools) to find every date-field is child’s play, not to mention damn dull. Don’t forget about the million/billion/zillion embedded chips and embedded systems. These cannot be re-programmed or upgraded. These are molded into solid cement and are unchangeable. You cannot get out of bed without them. Examine how many are actually date-aware… You’ll find that most aren’t.
No matter… old timer COBOL programmers were overjoyed that their services were needed once again (talk about ensuring job security!).
Special committees were set up by governments to monitor remedial work and contingency planning, particularly by crucial infrastructures such as telecommunications, utilities and the like, to ensure that the most critical services had fixed their own problems and were prepared for problems with others. It was only the safe passing of the main “event horizon” itself, January 1, 2000, that fully quelled public fears.
Ishikawa, Japan: radiation-monitoring equipment failed at midnight, but officials said there was no risk to the public.
Onagawa, Japan: an alarm sounded at a nuclear power plant at two minutes after midnight.
Japan: at two minutes past midnight, Osaka Media Port, a telecommunications carrier, found errors in the date management part of the company’s network. The problem was fixed by 2:43 a.m. and no services were disrupted.
Japan: NTT Mobile Communications Network reported on January 1 that some models of mobile telephones were deleting new messages received, rather than the older messages, as the memory filled up.
Australia: bus-ticket-validation machines in two states failed to operate.
USA: 150 slot machines at race tracks in Delaware stopped working.
USA: the web site of the U.S. Naval Observatory, which runs the master clock that keeps the country’s official time, reported that the date was Jan. 1, 19100.
France: the web site of the national weather forecasting service, Meteo France, displayed a map of Saturday’s weather forecast with the date 01/01/19100.
Otherwise, life went on as usual.
As Y2KHoax says:
Planes did not fall out of the sky, elevators did not drop, governments did not collapse. The Year 2000 arrived with a yawn.
The total cost of the work done in preparation for Y2K was option bit 300 billion US dollars. Whether it was worth it is a contested issue. Many people saw the Y2K bug as hype and fear-mongering, one of many end-of-the-world scenarios that was bound to crop up the closer the world got to 2000. Others felt justified, since not much happened on January 1st (because we fixed the problem, see!). We may never know what effect the upgrades may have had or didn’t have, but one thing’s for certain – COBOL still sucks.