The Millennium Bug – The Y2K Incident

When faced with new challenges, the world often finds a solution which is the most painless for everyone. Technology aided us in those times, and technology continues to aid us, in hard times, easy times and times where we have nothing else to do. But, counting on technology is a trap in itself. It can fail, leaving us somewhat powerless during those times. Well, people have already experienced that, especially during a single period known as the beginning of the new millennium. During that time, from December 31, 1999, to January 1, 2000, computers and software all over the world went a bit haywire and thus, the Millennium Bug or Y2K, came to be. Following is more on the subject.

The Problem of Transition – Computers During Those Days Were Problematic

In the year 1999, the fastest processor available to people was the Duron Spitfire with 800 MHz, from AMD. The speed of the processor, compared to today’s 5 GHz beasts is outdated, not to mention the various instructions added to newer generations of processors. But the problem wasn’t just in the processors, but rather the code itself, the operating systems and time keeping software. The problem arose out of expensive storage. Storage was scarce during those days and people who even had megabytes of storage were considered lucky or rich. Gigabytes were new and people having gigabytes usually worked for companies with large servers.

In order to reduce storage space, the date format, saved as DDMMYY, where DD stands for day, MM for month and YY for year. It was a six digit code. Yet, computers always prefixed the years with two digits, like 19 or the last two, in most cases, like 92, meaning 1992. When the rollover happened, programs couldn’t distinguish between 1900 and 2000. That caused a lot of software to go a bit crazy.

Micah Elizabeth Scott from San Francisco, United States [CC BY-SA (]

Y2K – The Name and Origin

Even in 1995, people were issuing out warnings as to what will definitely happen when the new millennium comes. David Eddy, a programmer from Massachusetts, sent an email in 1995, on June 12, which contained the numeronym Y2K. The Y stands for years, the 2 for the number 2 and the K for kilo, all in all meaning year 2000. He later said that people called it the Century Data Change or CDC and Faulty Date Logic or FADL. He also said that Y2K just came naturally to him, rolling off his tongue.

Plenty of software and hardware bugged on that day, various sensors sent alarm messages, in nuclear plants, communications networks, cash registers and most embedded solutions. The year 2000 being a leap year caused some problems on December 31, because that year had 366 days. All in all, nothing too serious happened.

All computers have bugs, at one time or another. The Y2K problem or the Millennium Bug, was an interesting phenomenon which took place when the world reached the year 2000, and computers failed to acknowledge that properly. We could have more such bugs, but the hardware and software today are far too advanced for such a simple bug to happen.