Remembering Y2K: The disaster that never happened (free PDF)
Around this time 20 years ago, we were all worried that we would soon be living in the Stone Age and that our computers would shut down as soon as the clock struck a second past midnight on New Year’s Eve 1999. Yes, the Y2K bug was a real fear.
The panic was that the world as we knew it would essentially come to an end in the wee hours of the morning on January 1, 2000 because complex computer programs first written in the 1960’s were created with a two-digit code for the year, leaving out the “19.” As the year 2000 drew near, people began to worry that software wouldn’t be able to interpret the 00 of the year correctly, thereby causing a major glitch in computer systems around the world. Many people thought that systems wouldn’t be able to operate past the date of December 31, 1999, and that the two zeros of the year 2000 would incorrectly be interpreted as January 1, 1900. This would cause power plants to stop operating properly, banks to incorrectly calculate interest, airlines schedules to be blanked out, and many other routine calculations to be completely out of whack, not to mention serious concerns with security of nuclear power plants and more.
Of course, there were numerous conspiracy theories around Y2K as well, but the essential heart of the matter was not knowing what the Y2K bug, aka the Millennium Bug, would really do to computer systems.
In the end, nothing happened. Except plenty of great Y2K parties and merchandise sales.
Here’s a recap of TechRepublic’s vintage Y2K coverage from back in the day. Our writers covered the topics with a measured dose of wisdom and concern with just a bit of mirth.