Y2K lunacy abounds

By Lewis J. Goldberg
web posted January 17, 2000

It really, really seemed that we had all learned something from the Y2K remediation period of the last six years or so (two years for you non-techies.) Unfortunately the media still abounds with Y2K lunacy. Every day for the last week, on the radio or in print somewhere, is some ignorant so-and-so lamenting that Y2K was addressed at all, and suggesting that companies might have done better to just 'ride it out' and fix problems as they occur. They site the non-event on January first as proof that the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on fixing outmoded computer programs was a waste. This is synonymous to thinking it was not worth getting a flu shot because you didn't get the flu.

The reason New Year's day was such a dud was that thousands of programmers worked their hind-ends off to get the problems worked out. All the money and time spent on Y2K ensured that the power stayed on, TV stations kept broadcasting, and the ATM's kept ATM-ing. There is still potential for computer errors, but they will never make it to the evening news. The errors will be in the form of erroneous billing, missed shipments, lost orders, etc. These are things that companies will just 'deal with.' After all, horrendous computer errors happen every day to someone, we just never hear about it because, well, who cares?

The so-called Y2K scare was also good for the economy. All those billions of dollars flying around brought a little more prosperity to a lot of people, if not you, then maybe someone down the street from you. Almost every company in the nation had to inspect and update their old computer programs. A lot of companies just said goodbye to their old computers and bought new machines with more modern applications. Many late-adopters had to do both because their new programs or hardware were not going to be ready to run by '010100,' even if they were only going to miss by a week.

As a project with an inflexible deadline, Y2K caused many companies to slow, if not halt, new development efforts. Now that the panic is behind us, these companies are free to delve into their stack of system changes and new ideas...the stuff that makes companies more efficient and profitable. This backlog of projects should fuel another IT boom in the year 2000 and beyond, and further serve to boost the economy.

Make no mistake, the worst Y2K fears would have been realized had everyone just 'rode it out.' That's like riding out a tornado from 10 feet short of the cellar door. If your head doesn't get integrated with the side of a Buick, it's just dumb luck, not wise planning. In the case of Y2K, fear-mongering had a positive effect...it got everyone thinking and preparing. Because, not in spite of, that fear, January first was just another boring New Year's Eve.

Lewis J. Goldberg is the web master of PlanetGoldberg and a frequent contributor
to Enter Stage Right.

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