The past two decades have been wild for the technology world. We saw the insurgency of smartphones and tablets, the rise of Bluetooth, personal assistants, AI, machine learning and much, much more. It’s quite hard to believe that only two decades ago, people were freaking out over electronics imploding on the dawn of the new millenia. But, as eccentric as it may seem, it really did happen, and it all started from some simple word of mouth. This phenomenon was known as “Y2K”
1999, Y2K spread fear across the world, from big businesses to small home users alike, everyone would be affected. Once the clock strikes midnight on January 1st 2000, all their data, sensitive information and every byte they hold dear would implode with their electronics’ operating system. This spells despair and chaos for the parties involved. Everyone.
Y2K involves the date display system of the operating systems in electronics, specifically the year part. Many believed that the date display system was programmed hastily and did not support any digits beyond 99 in 1999. Thus, the computer would not know to roll back to “00” for it was not programmed that way. It seemed logical for those who knew little about computing, and these people happened to be the CEOs and employees of major banks and stock holdings. If their computers and networks were to crash, it would represent many millions, dare I say billions of dollars in damages and reparations. This may seem ridiculous to us now, but I assure you, this was a major economic crisis at the time.
Banks and many firms ran on dated hardware due to the sudden growth in technology which meant expenses for companies in order to keep up. In order to cut on costs, some companies did not upgrade and fell behind the technological advancements and the security benefits that new iterations brought. This was a real concern, considering that the issue came to light in 1999, and all computers bought before that are all susceptible. This means, in an age of software packaged in discs, that not everyone was able to get the latest update or install it for that matter. They could face millions in losses and could disrupt the economy altogether.
Many companies came out with “Y2K ready” as a certification for their electronics and products for sale that had essentially no difference to the others in hardware. People bought into it and the companies gained millions off this hoax. This lead some to believe that it was a conspiracy by manufacturers to force customers into buying their products and thus make more revenue.
January 1st 2000, every computer was fine, the date rolled over smoothly and the world breathed a massive sigh of relief.
In the age of the internet and fact checking, these hoaxes could no longer make it to such a global scale. In spite of this, Y2K still serves to teach us a lesson, to always update our software to remain protected from any bugs and errors that can be fatal to our computers and our data, for a real threat might come along and actually destroy our data for good.