Millennium Bug saviours




The downside of successfully averting a crisis is that nobody believes there was going to be a crisis, therefore you don’t get the credit of averting said crisis. But maybe one day there’ll be an Armageddon-style film celebrating the efforts of IT-ists such as Adrian from Wellington, New Zealand, who says:

I listened with interest to your comments in AMT277 about the damp squib of the Y2K bug.

I’ve worked for a large telecommunications company in New Zealand since 1997, and I can definitely say that the Y2K bug was a very big deal.

You wouldn’t believe the amount of software that it takes to run a digital telephone exchange, and get the phonecalls to the streetside cabinets – and then to the customers.

Also, there are the billing systems that make sure that the correct calls get billed to the correct customers. With us, we also had a large cable TV system, with digital Pay Per View movies, as well as us being an internet service provider.

We took all of 1999 to get software patches written and installed, hardware replaced, and systems tested – because the systems would have ground to a halt at the start of January 1st, if we hadn’t.

As we are the first country to cross the International Dateline, we had manufacturers from the US dialled into our systems, so that if they still failed, they’d have about 15 hours to make changes to the identical US systems.

In the end, as midnight rolled past, the only failure we had was in ordering our Pay Per View movies. The ordering system thought the year was “19100”. It was fixed in minutes.

Incidentally, we also had to be ready for Sept 9th 1999, because there were bugs that targeted the date of 9/9/99.

So – the only reason that Y2K was a “damp squib” was that companies worldwide spent a year or more preparing, fixing and testing.

We succeeded. We succeeded so well that no-one noticed!!

They say virtue is its own reward, Adrian. But it’s not as satisfying a reward as, say, money or glory, or the key to a city. You all need to blow your own trumpets a lot louder next millennium.


8 Responses to “Millennium Bug saviours”

  1. Darcy Says:

    All true points, but remember it’s a comedy podcast. 277 episodes in, that’s well over 100 hours laughing at other people’s problems. Fair enough to be the butt of the joke every once in a while. I’m happy to have provided that service to other AMT! listeners.

  2. Martin Says:

    Helen. This response isn’t good enough. There should be an on air apology. Olly was so far from the truth here, and has disparaged many thousands of software engineers.

    At my company, I and several hundred of my colleagues spent a lot of 1998 and 1999 working on the dual nightmare of fixing Y2K bugs while also handling the introduction of the Euro. I’m not looking back on it with fond memories, but if we hadn’t bust a gut on that, I can guarantee that any company using our software would (amongst other things) not have been able to run the payrolls to pay people on the 1st January 2000. And believe me, that is not a storm in a teacup for the millions of people who would have no money that month. The idiots who talked about toasters stopping working and things like that were indeed idiots. But that doesn’t mean that Olly was even remotely right – huge numbers of developers worked really hard to change lots of systems at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars. And it worked.

    So in the next podcast, I expect to hear the following statement from Olly;

    “I, Olly Mann, am an arts graduate who is completely unqualified to talk about technical things. I was 100% wrong about the millennium bug, which was a real thing, which got fixed thanks to the efforts of lots of software engineers. Next time a technical question comes in, I will either pass it on to Martin the Sound Man, or look it up on wikipedia.”

  3. Darcy Says:

    Thanks for that, Adrian. I cringed when Olly said that the Y2K bug only affected Windows desktops. But I forgave him because he rightly acknowledged that Peter de Jager is a dick. Saw him on TV once telling people they should be afraid their toasters will blow up on 1/1/00. I hope it’s not true that he made $10M from selling

    As an aside: In my world, we went through our equivalent to Y2K in 1995. This database (a Pick derivative) stores dates as the number of days since 12/31/67, so the problem was in May 1995 when we hit day 10000. Dates that had been four digits for years were suddenly five digits, and now it mattered if you sorted them left justified or right justified.

  4. King Trax (@King_Trax_) Says:

    BTW…I did not see Ian’s penis.

  5. King Trax (@King_Trax_) Says:

    You might have had bank issues in 2001 because of the millennium bug because they were very outdated in the late 90’s. Even though your home computer was not going to be affected, banks hated to spend money on computers up to that time. But they hired thousands of IT folk to work non-stop to update all their systems. There were still a few issues but nothing that would make the news.

    BTW….I met Ian Stephen McCulloch at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. He got totally wasted before the concert during a birthday celebration, smashed the cake all over the backstage walls, then passed out on stage after a couple minutes of poor attempts at a song. Concert cancelled. Great guy.

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