Remember the Y2K Bug?

Y2K bug

I recently saw a photo of a bunch of commercial airliners parked up on the runway in case they plummeted to earth… it was a spooky reminder of the Y2K ‘bug’ and accompanying paranoia.


If you didn't live in a sealed box between 1995-1999, you'll remember the huge hype surrounding this catastrophic threat. We were warned that planes would drop from the sky, dam’s flood gates would open, nuclear reactors would meltdown and bombs may even explode!

As I'm typing this and you're reading it, we all know that nothing bad happened. Nothing. Nada. Diddly squat.

Wow, so lucky that we survived!

On many occasions since then I’ve ruminated as to whether this was successful avoidance of the greatest man-made disaster of all time, or, whether it was the most successful commercial hoax of all time.

I’ll address each argument individually.

Commercial hoax?

We all know how well the IT industry prospered during this time. The demand for business applications, systems, machines and processes was huge! Remember that back in 1998/1999 this stuff was selling for a real premium – margins were high across the board, including hardware!

There were few organisations in the industry that didn’t prosper from this demand. While most were professionals (who maybe could have been accused of taking advantage of the situation…), I knew of several unscrupulous individuals and organisations who were selling on fear, cranking up their prices and making decisions based on “how much can I get away with?” It was price gouging pure and simple.

Given nothing happened, I guess a couple of questions to pose are;

  1. Who benefited more from the spending? The IT industry or the customer? AND
  2. Were the promised business benefits realised?

Successfully averted disaster?

Well nothing happened! So that’s a good start.

There were wide-spread system improvements and the majority of people and organisations moved to full computerisation (I can’t believe I can still use that word). The money that flowed into the industry allowed leaps ahead and advances in applications and a strong business advantage was provided to those whose calculated risk taking paid off. For some, of course, they got it wrong and their business was damaged or even ruined.

There were structural shifts in the industry:

  1. A myriad of new careers were created
  2. Huge stock market wealth was created (and lost with the tech wreck)
  3. Economies were bolstered and built (think the growth of the USA and Taiwan for example)

Having had this conversation with many people since then, gathered others’ thoughts and opinions, I find myself somewhat sitting on the fence. I think it was a healthy combination of the two. What do you think?

All of this lead me to consider, within the technology industry – what’s the next Y2K? Data protection and the cloud? Robotics? Something entirely different and unseen as yet?