Y2k scare

As the end of the twentieth century and the end of the second millennium approached, governments, corporations, and people around the world worried that their computer systems would stop working. The reason for this concern lay in conditions created in the early days of computing. To save memory and computing power, early programmers used a two-digit date system, which listed the year 2000 (Y2K) as "00." This meant that when the date clicked over from 1999 to 2000, many of the world's computers would think it was 1900. It was feared that many would stop working altogether because of internal conflicts. On planes, at military installations, and in medical life-support systems, the consequences could be disastrous.

In the closing years of the twentieth century, countries spent billions of dollars correcting computer systems to make them "Y2K compliant." Banks, social security systems, and food distribution centers were all thought to be at risk. World leaders tried hard to reassure citizens that the problem was under control. In fact, there was more to the "millennium bug" than just New Year's Eve. Back in the 1970s, programmers used the number 9999 to mark the end of a sequence of commands. This meant that the date 9/9/99 was also potentially a problem. Developing countries were furthest behind. Not only were their computers older, and therefore more at risk, but they could not afford to fix the Y2K bug. In early 1999, the World Bank found that only 21 of 139 developing countries had done anything about it.

The Y2K scare created a global panic, but as midnight came and went on January 1, 2000, no computer glitches were reported. Cynics attributed the hysteria about the bug to computing companies cashing in on a nonexistent problem. In an age uncomfortable with its reliance on technology, the end of the millennium was bound to create superstitious fears. Whether the Y2K problem was solved in the nick of time, or was not really there at all, will probably never be known for sure.

—Chris Routledge

Para más información

Brallier, Jess M. Y2Kids: Your Guide to the Millennium. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1999.

Everything 2000: computer y2k.http://www.everything2000.com/computer/a_computer.asp (accedido a abril 4, 2002).

Savage, Jeff. Y2K. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1999.

Yourdon, Edward, and Jennifer Yourdon. Time Bomb 2000: What the Year 2000 Computer Crisis Means to You. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1999.