The start of a new year inevitably makes me think of a memorable occasion about a dozen years ago. If you’ve done the math, then you know I’m referring to Y2K — January 1st, 2000 — when the world was nervously awaiting the arrival of the dreaded Millennium Bug. I was right in the middle of the whole thing — in fact, it was my job to be one of those worrying about it.
It hasn’t been that long ago so everyone remembers how it was in the late 1990s when it began to dawn on people that we were headed for trouble. It seemed that programmers and designers had either not planned ahead or had made some incorrect assumptions, and the approaching problem could affect zillions of computers and just about anything else with internal chips.
The world seemed divided into two camps — those who shrugged it off and those who thought a major catastrophe was going to occur. Organizations like the huge international company I worked for had to take it seriously, and as a result spent millions of dollars in the years leading up to the event, just to head off problems. Their efforts included designating two people at each of their facilities — one from the factory side and one from the staff/management side — as Y2K gurus. That was me, although I didn’t feel like much of an expert even after extensive training seminars.
In the year or so leading up to the deadline we did our thing, which included checking and rechecking every item in our facility — computers, machinery with controllers, power systems, and a lot of other stuff — then either certifying each as OK or arranging upgrades when needed. Of course the whole process included tons of documentation and red tape out the kazoo.
It was the oddest New Year’s Eve I’d ever experienced, sitting in our facility and monitoring various types of equipment while midnight approached, and it was almost anticlimactic when it all continued to operate normally. That’s pretty much how it went everywhere (although there were some isolated problems) and that lack of major trouble caused many to later criticize the whole effort. I’d prefer to think that we just did a good job preparing for it.