The Last Worst Time

Friday, December 25, 2009


Y2K was a colossal false alarm. Y2K was a dire problem solved by an unprecedented global effort. On the 10th anniversary, which is true? Slate technology columnist Farhad Manjoo explains the consequences of misremembering Y2K.

Comments [6]

Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Bah! The real millennial glitch that year was with 19th century election technology, the hanging chad. It also griped me that all the end-of-the-decade round-ups all began with the 911 attacks, as if the decade didn't actually begin with this other, far more far-reaching and ominous, debacle that exposed the political divisions in the nation and the frankly irrational solution that ensued from our constitutional remedies available. It's not so easy as either writing new code or ignoring it.

It will require an educational system which fosters thought rather than the one we apparently have had from the evidence provided by Tea Party rallies or by callers of any stripe to a national telephone talk program such as C-SPAN's Washington Journal. I shudder to think what callers to Rush sound like. I'll admit, Talk of the Nation callers are a cut above, but that is a self-selected minority.

Researching the actual cost/benefits of Y2K rewriting of code, rather than discussing an unknown quantity would be useful. I know my sister-in-law's brother-in-law made some hours on such a project, then.

Dec. 31 2009 05:52 PM
Duane Butcher from Tashkent, Uzbekistan

wow, you guys really fell short of your usual high standards on the Y2K story.

"Well, nothing went wrong so all that money we spent must have had SOME effect". Really? Isn't a more plausible answer: the whole thing was a fraud, and the money we spent was wasted. If the problem was real, don't you think SOMETHING would have leaked through? Why didn't you ask Mr. Manjoo about the countries which did absolutely nothing to combat Y2K, and still faced no problem?

I understand this was a cute, short, story about how averting a crisis could reduce our ability to fight the next crisis--but couldn't this really be a story about a fraud on a massive scale? Why WAS there no inquiry into what worked and what didn't, and into how justified our fears really were?

Dec. 29 2009 12:00 AM
Kevin from NYC

Averting Y2K38 is going to require some more effort:

Dec. 28 2009 07:22 PM
dan from nyc

Ten years ago I proposed "extending" the Y2K bug for another 10yrs. My proposal is a week from being wholly obsolete!

Dec. 27 2009 03:10 PM

On the day I was to kick-off a Wall Street technology project I sold for my consulting company, they sent me to help solve Georgetown University's Medical Center's Y2K problem. After a month, our interim team leader asked me to take over - which I turned down. In that month, I determined that Y2K fears were unfounded. I returned to implement real projects - including infrastructure installations. I didn't Y2K-proof my personal PC - without negative impact.

A lot of people made a lot of money over nonsense.

Dec. 27 2009 10:37 AM
Hilton Evans


Velcro was NOT invented by NASA or some NASA spin-off any more the Tang. NASA began operations in October 1958.

The idea for Velcro was hatched by a Swiss man, George Mestral, in 1948 and patented in 1955 before NASA's founding.

Not to worry, though. Even Walter Cronkite got this one wrong.

Dec. 27 2009 10:13 AM

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