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what. why? someone pls explain to me pls i wasnt born yet in 1999 why turn computer off before midnight? what happen if u dont?

y2k lol everyone was like “the supervirus is gonna take over the world and ruin everything and end the world!!!”

This is the oldest I’ve ever felt. Right now.


Ahh the Millenium bug.

It wasn’t a virus, it was an issue with how some old computers at the time were programmed to deal with dates. Basically some computers with older operating systems didn’t have anything in place to deal with the year reaching 99 and looping around to 00. It was believed that this inability to sync with the correct date would cause issues, and even crash entire systems the moment the date changed.

People flipped out about it, convinced that the date discrepancy between netwoked systems would bring down computers everywhere and shut down the internet and so all systems relying on computers, including plane navigation etc. would go down causing worldwide chaos. It was genuinely believed that people should all switch off computers to avoid this. One or two smart people spoke up and said “um hey, this actually will only effect a few very outdated computers and they’ll just display the wrong date, so it probably won’t be harmful” but were largely ignored because people selling books about the end of the world were talking louder.

In the end, absolutely nothing happened.

Oh gosh.

I’ve been a programmer working for various government agencies since the early 1990s and I can say with some confidence:


One example I personally worked on: vaccination databases.

My contract was with the CDC to coordinate immunization registries — you know, kids’ vaccine histories. What they got, when they got it, and (most importantly) which vaccines they were due to get next and when. These were state-wide registries, containing millions of records each.

Most of these systems were designed in the 1970s and 1980s, and stored the child’s DOB year as only two digits. This means that — had we not fixed it — just about every child in all the databases I worked on would have SUDDENLY AGED OUT OF THE PROGRAM 1-JAN-2000.

In other words: these kids would suddenly be “too old” to receive critical vaccines.

Okay, so that’s not a nuke plant exploding or airplanes dropping from the sky. In fact, nothing obvious would have occurred come Jan 1st.


Without the software advising doctors when to give vaccinations, an entire generation’s immunity to things like measles, mumps, smallpox (etc) would have been compromised. And nobody would even know there was a problem for months — possibly years — after.

You think the fun & games caused by a few anti-vaxers is bad?

Imagine whole populations going unvaccinated by accident… one case of measles and the death toll might be measured in millions.

This is one example I KNOW to be true, because I was there.

I also know that in the years leading up to 2000 there were ad-hoc discussion groups (particularly alt.risk) of amazed programmers and project managers that uncovered year-2000 traps… and fixed them.

Quietly, without fanfare. 

In many cases because admitting there was a problem would have resulted in a lawsuit by angry customers. But mostly because it was our job to fix those design flaws before anyone was inconvenienced or hurt.

So, yeah… all that Y2K hysteria was for nothing, because programmers worked their asses off to make sure it was for nothing.

Bolding mine.

Absolutely true.  My Mom worked like crazy all throughout 1998 and 1999 on dozens of systems to avoid Y2K crashes. Nothing major happened because people worked to made sure it didn’t.

Now if we could just harness that concept for some of the other major issues facing us today.  

this meme came so far since i saw it this morning. god i love tumblr teaching tumblr about history.

Holy shit. I feel simultaneously young and old.

hey guys, how about a round of applause for the programmers of the 90’s for doing all this work and getting nearly no credit for it

Shit son I was in tech then. I worked on updating everyone’s computers so shit wouldn’t go horribly awry. Your friendly neighborhood programmers coded away the problem which was installed and tested by your friendly neighborhood tech support analysts. I never thought about it before; I helped keep the world from falling into a post-technological apocalypse. I want that on my grave of something.

I imagine some of you scary post 2k folks (back then all this was fields…) are going “but why would on earth would you do that, that’s dumb” to the concept of only coding years with 2 digits. Well, bear in mind two things: people really didn’t expect their software to be trundling on ten, twenty, hell thirty years after they wrote it… and memory was hella expensive and teeny small back then. My first home computer sported, I think, 4 or 8kbytes of memory. The second one sported an entire 32k of memory, it was VAST…

When the computer my family owned had a hard disk (which was actually the second computer my family owned, and we were *way* ahead of the curve on this because my dad designed computer processors) it was hundreds of pounds to buy and sported a whopping 5 megabytes. It had a power supply the same size as the entire computer to run it, and had a stack of boards on top about 6 inches high just to interface it.

I wasn’t allowed to use the hard disk….

I had floppy disks with a whopping 400kb of capacity (and that was big), but at least only the games I had came on cassette tapes… with their loading screens that took forever to come up.

Hell, even my RiscPC from 1996 sported an entire 4Mb of RAM when I got it.

And now I’ll stop reminiscing

Anyhow, my point it having that much memory was seriously important.