Tell Your Y2K Story –Ten Years Later

We’re just a few days from Y2K+10, ten years after the big scare of the whole world collapsing from a lapse in computer programming foresight.

I remember it closely, I spent a few hours in the later part of Dec 1999 backing up data at the small business my wife was working at. We were able to download nearly all of her company’s (a very small office) data onto just over a dozen zip drives, remember those? Funny that we could fit nearly all the digital files onto those drives –perhaps, if Y2K fears were to happen, it’s better than uploading to the cloud.

I also remember an army of Y2K consultants, and their concerns over liabilities, appear marketing how they’d offer CIOs Y2K enterprise proofing for companies that were concerned about losing all their data. I even had one slightly off-keel friend stay home on NYE 2000 eve with a gun in hand, military rations beside his bed. I wasn’t phased, I enjoyed reveling in downtown San Francisco with friends.

I want you to reminisce, do you remember what you did to protect your personal data, finances, work data, or what your company did in preparation for the Y2K apocalypse? Leave a comment, share with others, and take a look back 10 years ago. To trigger some memories, here’s a video to remind you of the fear, oh Leonard, really? Illogical.


53 Replies to “Tell Your Y2K Story –Ten Years Later”

  1. I was at the fireworks show at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia on New Years Eve along with several thousand people. As midnight hit, one (somewhat intoxicated) man standing near me boomed out “Happy New Year! We're alive!” He then turned around to face the city skyline. “And the lights are still on!” A second or two passed, and the guy broke out in a full sprint, yelling back to his buddies. “I have to go home and check my computer!”

  2. I can't believe that was 10 years ago already. I remember storing water, who cared about the computers, we were all just concerned the lights would go out.

  3. Gosh, I hadn't thought about Y2K for awhile. My husband and I spent the last several months of that year trying to soothe anxious small business owners who thought the sky was about to fall. We cheerfully backed up hard drives, helpfully reset BIOS, looked for possible vulnerabilities, calmly held clients' hands and reassured them that their data was safe.

    And when January 1, 2000 came and went without calamity, there seemed to be both a collective sigh of relief and a grumble of disappointment that Y2K disaster didn't strike [someone else, of course].

    What is it about predictions of doom, whether at the hands of terrorism, or influenza, or your computer's internal clock, that sparks mass panic and hysteria?

    And when our vigilance or careful preparations help us dodge that catastrophe, why do people seem to feel disappointed, and then disgruntled that they were so worried, and nothing happened?

    Interesting things to think about on a cold winter's night.

  4. I opted to go the route of leaving the US. Heck if it was all going to go south I was going to head south as well, south to an island miles off the coast of Belize. We took 10 friends and spent the Y2K on the beach under the stars with a Reggae band and fireworks… and all was well. But the plan was if it went sideways we could always be fisherman and enjoy a temperate climate.

    Alas it was back to work in the tech industry making interweb dreams come true.

    Happy New Year.

  5. So I'd actually been working on some large Y2k projects since 1998 and knew enough not to be worried. But, a few weeks before Y2k I was grocery shopping at Ralph's in West Los Angeles and people were hoarding all of the water and toilet paper. I mean they were taking every thing! The irrational part of my brain kicked in and I went to the mall and saw Brookstone was selling battery powered head lamps so I bought every single one they had which was just enough for my IT staff at the time. I worked for a large startup owned by the Seattle Times. It was half joking and half paranoia when I gave it to my staff. I had my entire staff on call for 2 days before and after while I stayed home watching the entire Y2k coverage on TV starting in Sydney until LA. I think I ended up staying up for around 48 hours watching my Nextel and email. Fun Times

  6. I was in my first venture and we had a customer in IBM ready to buy our product in 1999. IBM's IT was too busy with Y2K projects and refused to implement our product internally until well into 2000. Meanwhile our prospective customer within IBM wanted to transition off a legacy system before Y2K. We offered to provide our solution as SaaS, which closed the sale for us. Within couple of months we re-architected our product so that we could deliver it as a service. The Y2K scare ended up being an opportunity for us and changed our business model for good.

  7. I was in Denver at the time and was helping our tech company shed itself of its old POS system for a Y2K compliant one, part of a two-year effort. It was also the first time Stanford had made it into Rose Bowl in many years but I decided not to travel during Y2K.

    We rung in the new millennium looking at news reports and checking to see if New Zealand would be in the dark and partying with friends. We were cautious, but not really afraid.

  8. I worked in the IT industry back then. As a production manager at one of Swedens biggest outsourcing companies. We worked around the clock for almost two years doing inventory, seaching for faulty code and replacing hardware/software that couldn´t be converted.

    Still today, I wonder what would have happened if we hadn´t done all that work, since we replaced a lot of code, a lot of hardware and also found lots of systems that nobody knew what they where doing.

  9. Back in 1999 I had responsibility for a bunch of Unix servers of various flavors including the “mission critical” box that also ran the company's primary business platform that was made of millions of lines of COBOL code. We did our homework, found a test suite and discovered that all the Unix servers were not just unable to make it into the 21st century, but the COBOL app was grotty with 2 digit years and other problems. We patched up the Unix servers and participated in a huge horse race with the developers to get the app coded up. However, by the last week of December, 1999, we had everything squared away.

    Supposedly, this left me with little to do but watch the rest of the world melt down at the stroke of midnight. Given my own experience, I was actually pretty confident that computer related problems were going to be fine. I did have a pretty good chunk of cash squirreled away at the house just in case….

    My brother-in-law was a different matter. He was convinced that it was going to be the end of the world as we know it. He went so far as to invest in thousands of dollars of tinned meat and freeze dried food. I can still picture him surrounded by boxes of this stuff along with kerosene lamps and firearms. Wasn't long after my sister-in-law divorced him.

  10. Y2K huh? I was camped out by the nearest ATM, hoping money would come spitting out as the clock struck 12. Kidding…

    I worked in a small office at an educational institution at the time. The IT guys had done all the patches they could find, but I admit I backed up my computer files (also on ZIP–ha!) as well. Shows how much faith I had in the IT guys. On New Year's Eve, I went out as usual, and had a wonderful time ringing in a new century. I was more “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” back then. Now I might take things a bit more seriously, who knows.

  11. While I was too young to do any prep or back any data up for Y2K (I was a sophomore in high school at the time), I do have a funny story regarding NYE that year. My uncle had a party at his home for NYE and had a bunch of people over. He has always been the prankster of the family, and this year was no different. When the countdown was at :30, he went to the basement where the circuit breaker was. He could hear everyone in the house counting down, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Happy.. AHHHHH!!!!!!” Right as the clock struck midnight, he killed all the power in the house. People were screaming, freaking out that Y2K had actually happened. It took about a minute before someone went outside to find the rest of the houses on the street still had power. Needless to say, he was not the most popular person that night.

  12. i was holed up with my husband at the time and good friends in a house in sag harbor. we had an amazing meal of horseradish crusted beef tenderloin, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and amazing wines. our only EXTRA item was a gallon of water. after much drinking and eating, we watched the ball drop on tv then all stood still for a minute – waited for the power to go out and for complete chaos. really though….nothing.

  13. I just remember that my son, who was a baby at the time, enjoyed a brief stint as a model for a clothing company called “Y2Kwear”. If there ever were a worse business model for a company, I can't think of what it would be! You'd be done and out of business in less time than it would take to pay the domain fee for a year!

  14. I threw caution to the wind: I was on an airplane at 40,000 feet when the clock struck 00:00Z of the new milennium. Despite the many warnings of catastrophic worldwide technology failure, the US Air Traffic Control system worked and I made it safely to my date and a great NYE celebration!

  15. I worked at Scudder Investments in Boston on the eCommerce team and was horrified to learn that my mobile number was given to the IT group and I was listed as an 'essential resource' to the Y2K monitoring. I have no idea what I could have contributed since my job was acquisition marketing but back then any title that had 'e' in front of it was essential. LOL.

  16. I was traveling in Europe at the end of 1999 and spent New Years eve 2000 in Amsterdam.
    I had a sense of being in a parallel universe because Europeans did not appear as concerned or panicked with Y2K as the U.S.
    Makes me wonder if people in the U.S. are too eager for doomsday scenarios and the end of the world?

  17. I had a friend whose wife was a legacy SysAdmin for Weyerhauser Paper Co. about 3 weeks before the end of 1999, he got home from work to find a note from her that indicated she had moved to an undisclosed location in the middle of Montana and was living off the land and off the grid to avoid the civil unrest as a result of the digital infrastructure collapse that she was sure was going to happen.

    We thought it was a convenient excuse to leave her husband, but months later she returned with a daily journal in hand complete with pictures.

    She was definitely in the middle of nowhere.

    Noooooooooormal.

    Erik Boles
    http://ErikBoles.com
    http://twitter.com/ErikBoles

  18. I actually had a Y2K incident, the only one that I have heard of. When I came home from a party at 3:00 am, the heater was heating away, even though it was on a timer and should have been off. At midnight, the timer couldn't handle a 2000 date, and reset to a day in 1986. I still let it think that it is 1986.

  19. Having spent two years preparing major IT systems in the UK for the impending Y2K deadline, I was on call and staying sober – just in case. The only Y2K disaster I heard about was in Italy where some of the justice systems failed and they let out hundreds of prisoners early

  20. I was a student at the time and because my degree had Information Systems in the title I bagged a boring but lucrative summer job running a Y2K test suite from floppy disks on every computer at a local manufacturing company, noting any issues found for someone else to fix. Not sure what happened after my summer was up, but they seemed to survive!

  21. I remember filling the tub with water and going to the grocery store which was sold out of toilet paper. The recruiters would call on the phone in the months preceding year end and ask if you knew Cobol or Fortran and “were you available for a short-term contract?” So much hype and fear-mongering. Well, we built those old programs better than that! (They were'nt still around calculating overtime pay, were they? LOL.) Jan 1 2000 was a nice day, as I remember.

  22. In 1999 I was still living in South America and I remember some folks that would charge you to check your Microwave, Toaster, Fridge, etc and make everything Y2K compliant. Nice little sticker… what a great scam 🙂

  23. I worked for an outsourcer with a major Canadian bank as a major customer, and was assigned as the shift manager for 2nd shift (i.e. 6 am – 2 pm Jan 1). I showed up at 6 am at the control room and was told that 10 of the 11 people who were to show up where already called and told to stay home because it was so quiet. We had only 2 minor problems – one on the mainframe and one on a Unix box, both associated with dates displaying incorrectly in logs. Quite a letdown!

    We had arranged for satellite TV in our “crisis centre” so I and the few other people in the building could keep up on the news. So at least it wasn't a total loss – we could sit around and watch TV.

  24. 10 years ago I joined a Silicon Valley startup called CATC. It was developing a protocol analyzer for a nascent and largely unknown technology called Bluetooth. 10 years later I see Bluetooth headset on lots of ears and take pride in my modest contribution to that technology.

  25. WOW, what a flash back. Not all good mind you! I was a new CIO type back then and this was my first major challenge to overcome. Preparations started about 1.5yrs before D day, for the mid size enterprise I was working for.

    At the midnight hour myself and my staff were all at the ready at work in our data centre, we had 4 time zones to make it through. Earlier that evening, my family (wife + kids) and my associates families all got together at work to celebrate (no alcohol). About 9:30pm my wife and kids went home, the others wives stayed with their partners. Luckily for them none had kids at that time.

    We replaced a number of aging systems in advance of this witching hour, applied every patch we could find, and I remember the biggest issue with our production application which cost our firm $40K to buy originally, but the Y2K remediation bill was $85,000. The code was RPG with 2 digit dates originally. Tests showed that we roll back to 1900.

    Like many others after all this work it was a none event, Thank fully. At 5:30am I was able to leave work January 1st, 2000 knowing that all systems, desktops, applications, etc. worked in all time zones. Just before each associate went home that morning, I handed each one a magnum size bottle of champagne to celebrate with their loved ones and friends.

    What still bugs me the most is that many folks who remember that time, all say it was *BS* and they don't realize that it was because of all the work folks like us did, that it was a none event.

    Anyway, that's my story of Y2K…..

  26. i was holed up with my husband at the time and good friends in a house in sag harbor. we had an amazing meal of horseradish crusted beef tenderloin, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and amazing wines. our only EXTRA item was a gallon of water. after much drinking and eating, we watched the ball drop on tv then all stood still for a minute – waited for the power to go out and for complete chaos. really though….nothing.

  27. Now it's 2013. The Retro- Romantic disease infects many and serves no one. I recommend Ken Wilber's Integral theory and model to make sense of this Post Modern “everything is terrible” silliness.

  28. Believe it or not round that time I was still having a 486 DX4 with widows 3.1 just used couple of years to work. Feeling it kinda prehistoric with the state of the art running at 1999 , I thought there would be a good excuse to update my tools. However I was also having the weird feeling that while everyone else's data was going to fade away, mine was going to make it and would be still standing after the whole crash. Then they said they founded the solution, and it happened…My PC went back to January the 1st, 1902. The 2nd I just kept working my stuff in the same computer till 2002 I got a new one. HA!! I still remember that episode at Chris Carter's Millenium. Do you?…

  29. It was huge at our work. I was doing some desktop support at the time and we had to install or update every computer with something or other (don't remember now). I do remember it stuffing up one person's computer and as he hadn't backed up he blamed me for it. I remember those zip drives.

  30. It was huge at our work. I was doing some desktop support at the time and we had to install or update every computer with something or other (don't remember now). I do remember it stuffing up one person's computer and as he hadn't backed up he blamed me for it. I remember those zip drives.

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  32. Fantastic time, really. On NYE we had a mountain of Cantonese duck. SF Bay Area was the best place to be for Y2K.

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