The Y2K Bug, also known as the Year 2000 bug or Millennium Bug, was centered around a problem in the coding of computerized systems.
It was expected to create havoc in computers and IT networks across the world at the start of the year 2000.
The fear of a technological meltdown lead to private companies and government departments to work feverishly on a fix for a problem that never really materialized. Though, many skeptics believe it was barely a problem at all.
What is Y2K Bug?
The Y2K bug was a computer flaw, or bug, is a problem in the coding of computerized systems, that may have caused problems when dealing with dates beyond December 31, 1999.
The flaw, faced by computer programmers and users all over the world on January 1, 2000, is also known as the “millennium bug.” (The letter K, which stands for kilo (a unit of 1000), is commonly used to represent the number 1,000. So, Y2K stands for Year 2000.)
History of Y2K Bug :
When complicated computer programs were being written during the 1960s through the 1980s, computer engineers used a two-digit code for the year, designed to abbreviate four-digit years as two digits in order to save memory space.
The “19” was left out. Instead of a date reading 1970, it read 70. Engineers shortened the date because data storage in computers was costly and took up a lot of space.
Many feared that when the clocks struck midnight on January 1, 2000, computers might interpret December 31, 1999, turning into January 1, 1900; as computers would be unable to recognize “00” as “2000,” perhaps interpreting 2000 to mean 1900.
Many affected computers would be using an incorrect date and thus fail to operate properly unless the computers’ software was repaired or replaced before that date.
Other computer programs that projected budgets or debts into the future could begin malfunctioning in 1999 when they made projections into 2000. In addition, some computer software did not take into account that the year 2000 was a leap year. And even before the dawn of 2000, it was feared that some computers might fail on September 9, 1999 (9/9/99), because early programmers often used a series of 9s to indicate the end of a program.
Possible Threats Due to Y2K Bug
It was feared that such a misreading would lead to software and hardware failures in computers used in such important areas as banking, utilities systems, government records, and so on, with the potential for widespread chaos on and following January 1, 2000. Mainframe computers, including those typically used to run insurance companies and banks, were thought to be subject to the most serious Y2K problems, but even newer systems that used networks of desktop computers were considered vulnerable.
The Y2K problem was not limited to computers running conventional software, however. Many devices containing computer chips, ranging from elevators to temperature-control systems in commercial buildings to medical equipment, were believed to be at risk, which necessitated the checking of these “embedded systems” for sensitivity to calendar dates.
Banks, which calculate interest rates on a daily basis, faced real problems. Interest rates are the amount of money a lender, such as a bank, charges a customer, such as an individual or business, for a loan. Instead of the rate of interest for one day, the computer would calculate a rate of interest for minus almost 100 years!
Centers of technology, such as power plants, were also threatened by the Y2K bug. Power plants depend on routine computer maintenance for safety checks, such as water pressure or radiation levels. Not having the correct date would throw off these calculations and possibly put nearby residents at risk.
Transportation also depends on the correct time and date. Airlines in particular were put at risk, as computers with records of all scheduled flights would be threatenedafter all, there were very few airline flights in 1900.
Y2K was both a software and hardware problem. Software refers to the electronic programs used to tell the computer what to do. Hardware is the machinery of the computer itself. Software and hardware companies raced to fix the bug and provided “Y2K compliant” programs to help. The simplest solution was the best: The date was simply expanded to a four-digit number. Governments, especially in the United States and the United Kingdom, worked to address the problem.
Possible Impact of Y2K Bug
In the end, there were very few problems. A nuclear energy facility in Ishikawa, Japan, had some of its radiation equipment fail, but backup facilities ensured there was no threat to the public. The U.S. detected missile launches in Russia and attributed that to the Y2K bug. But the missile launches were planned ahead of time as part of Russias conflict in its republic of Chechnya. There was no computer malfunction.
Countries such as Italy, Russia, and South Korea had done little to prepare for Y2K. They had no more technological problems than those countries, like the U.S., that spent millions of dollars to combat the problem.
Due to the lack of results, many people dismissed the Y2K bug as a hoax or an end-of-the-world cult.
Measures taken to Prevent Impact of Y2K Bug
In the United States, business and government technology teams worked feverishly with a goal of checking systems and fixing software before the end of December 1999. Although some industries were well on the way to solving the Y2K problem, most experts feared that the federal government and state and local governments were lagging behind. A Y2K preparedness survey commissioned in late 1998 by Cap Gemini America, a New York computer industry consulting firm, showed that among 13 economic sectors studied in the United States, government was the least ready for Y2K. (Rated highest for preparedness was the software industry.)
In an effort to encourage companies to share critical information about Y2K, U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton in October 1998 signed the Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act. The law was designed to encourage American companies to share Y2K data by offering them limited liability protection for sharing information about Y2K products, methods, and best practices.
In western Europe the European Commission issued a report warning that efforts to solve Y2K in many European Union member countries were insufficient, particularly in terms of the cross-border cooperation needed to be ready by 2000. The British government announced that its armed forces would be prepared in time and would provide assistance to local police if utilities, transportation systems, or emergency services failed.
Many other countries, notably Asian countries suffering at that time from an ongoing economic crisis as well as small or geographically isolated countries, were thought to be less well prepared. It was uncertain how this would affect the tightly integrated world economy and physical infrastructure. In mid-December 1998 the UN convened its first international conference on Y2K in an attempt to share information and crisis-management efforts and established the International Y2K Cooperation Center, based in Washington, D.C.
An estimated $300 billion was spent (almost half in the United States) to upgrade computers and application programs to be Y2K-compliant. As the first day of January 2000 dawned and it became apparent that computerized systems were intact, reports of relief filled the news media. These were followed by accusations that the likely incidence of failure had been greatly exaggerated from the beginning. Those who had worked in Y2K-compliance efforts insisted that the threat had been real. They maintained that the continued viability of computerized systems was proof that the collective effort had succeeded. In following years, some analysts pointed out that programming upgrades that had been part of the Y2K-compliance campaign had improved computer systems and that the benefits of these improvements would continue to be seen for some time to come.
Seventeen years after the once feared Y2K Bug came and went ,the Trump administration ordered its officials to stop preparing for it. Now, as part US President Donald Trump’s deregulation drive, his administration will finally stop preparing for it, reports philly.com.
Yesterday the US government announced it will axe a mountain of red tape, including one regulation that required bureaucrats to keep giving updates on their preparation for a bug that many believed would hit computers at the turn of the century.
Seven of the more than 50 paperwork regulations the White House axed yesterday dealt with the Y2K bug, including one that required the Defence Department produce a report every time a small business is paid, a task that accounted for 1200 man-hours every year.
Post By – Alok Upadhayay