Skip to comments.Y2K and the Collapse of Modern Civilization
Posted on 12/28/2009 8:09:37 PM PST by myknowledge
We now know how civilization could end, and exactly when. Not with a nuclear war, not with famine, and not with pestilence. No, the collapse of civilization might be caused by a ridiculous computer error. Something bad will happen on January 1, 2000. The problem is called the "millennium bug" or "year 2000" or Y2K, K meaning 1000.
The problem began back in the 1950s when computers first came into use. Back then, believe it or not, computer users did not have TV- like monitors. The input medium was punched cards which held 80 characters. Those 80 characters were called a "record." With so few characters, the programmers squeezed as much information into a record as possible. For the year, they only put in two digits, so that 1959 was entered as 59.
Computer memories were tiny back then, and disk space was very expensive. So the dates were also stored in memory and in disks with only two digits. Records had to be as small as possible so that as many as possible could fit in memory and disks. If anybody thought of what would happen in the year 2000 when the two digits 00 would be treated as 1900, programmers and managers figured that the old program code would be long replaced with new programs.
Even after punched cards were replaced by monitor terminals, years continued to be coded with two digits because new systems had to be compatible with the old ones. Over time, computer memory expanded and disk space became ever less expensive, but few thought of the year 2000. There was a hint in 1970, when 30-year mortgages extended to 2000 and programs dealing with that had to be fixed. We are now seeing ever more signs of the problem. For example, some credit cards expiring in 2000 or later have been rejected by computer systems.
The problem will escalate in 1999 when many systems look ahead one year. But most system crashes will occur in January 2000, when software will crash, freeze, or malfunction due to the wrong date. Since January 1, 2000 is a Saturday, the problem may not be realized until Monday, January 3, the big hangover after all the big year-2000 parties.
Of course many people in government and business now know about the problem, and are spending many billions of dollars to fix it. Estimates of the global cost to reprogram or replace computer systems range up to $1 trillion. At best, Y2K will cause interruptions and a decrease in productivity as resources become devoted to repairs and replacement rather than new technology. At worst, some alarmists claim that the entire global economy will collapse as computer systems world-wide crash. They say this will be the end of civilization. Some are taking this quite seriously and are cashing out their investments. A few are even moving to remote areas away from possible chaos in the cities.
One of the problems is that many systems continue to use very old programs, and the original programmers are long gone from the field. In some cases, the written programs and documentation are missing. So it takes much time for a programmer to figure out how the program worked and where to fix the date problems. Secondly, there is now much communication among computers. Even if one company is year-2000 compliant, the computers it talks to may not be, and may pass bad data. Third, a big part of the problem consists of computer chips now embedded in many products, such as cars, televisions, machines, and military equipment.
Another worry is that many countries have only just begun to examine, let alone fix the problem. Even if the problems are mostly fixed in the US, if Europe crashes or computers in Japan don't work, trade will come to a halt. That alone could cause a global depression. Add to that satellites not working and a possible disruption of the distribution of goods, including food, and we could be in deep trouble. The problem is that parallel to the physical production and distribution of goods there is a financial counterpart: goods go one way, and money goes the other way. You buy food; the store gets money. If the financial chain is broken, the physical goods will sit there and rot. The most scary aspect is the possibility of computerized nuclear missiles malfunctioning in the U.S., Russia, and other nuclear powers. If the U.S. defense system cannot operate, there is a danger that some regimes could take advantage of the situation, such as taking over the oil fields in the Middle East.
Despite this pending possible doom, most folks are going about their business as usual. Many businesses are doing nothing, figuring they can fix the program if and when it crashes. The stock markets don't seem to reflect the problem. Are the alarmists wrong, or are we living in a fool's paradise? The problem is, nobody really knows. The year 2000 is a wild card in the global economy. It might be no worse than a bad blizzard, it might cause a minor recession, or it could be the end of civilization.
Personally, I am not yet in a panic, but I am concerned, and will watch events closely, especially during 1999. There are several web sites that are examining Y2K. I suggest not reading these in late the evening, if you want to get a good night's sleep.
It is analogous to fearing that your car, secretly rigged with a bomb, would detonate upon reaching 100,000 kilometers on the odometer, incinerating you inside.
How outlandishly insane is that? What's next? December 21, 2012. The 13th count on the pagan Mayan calendar.
All right, back to Y2K. There could be dozens of crazed Y2K 'survivalists' living in the woods of the American Northwest for a decade now, and they still wouldn't resurface from hiding.
The 'predictions' preached and espoused by the Y2K 'survivalists' was that when the clock precisely struck 0000 hours on January 1, 2000, everything that ran on computers was virtually rendered useless. Economies, stock exchanges, banks, cyberspace (Inernet), power grids, other forms of critical infrastructure, would shut themselves off. Modern jet aircraft, civilian and military, that ran on computers, would not take off.
What if military generals and admirals took hold of the Y2K hysteria? There would have been mass troop and naval deployments in every corner of their countries to prevent invasions. Jet fighters of the period that ran on computers, like the F-15, F-16, F/A-18 would not take off because the Y2K computer bug had disabled their computer-controlled flight control systems.
In cities and possible towns across the globe, people would have scrambled to every food store they could find and loot the food supplies for survival. There would have been mass bloodshed and starvation between people untrained in survival skills because they would have killed each other.
People's life savings and 401ks would have been eliminated entirely overnight, because the computer bug had frozen their bank accounts.
National economies and stock exchanges would have been driven to the ground overnight, because Y2K killed the computer-based commodities exchanges.
Y2K 'survivalists' across the world, living in rural areas, separated from human civilization, would have fared much better off had the Y2K computer bug did its work...
...BUT Y2K DIDN'T HAPPEN!!!
The events that the Y2K conspiracy theorists never came into fruition. Human civilization coninued as normal when the clock struck 0000 hours on January 1, 2000, cities across the world welcomed in the New Year with 15 minutes of fireworks displays, the first year of the 3rd millennium A.D.
No civilization collapse, no destroyed national economies, stock exchanges, foreign invasions, mass starvations, critical infrastructure shutdowns, loss of 401ks, life savings and frozen bank accounts, etc.
What did you think about Y2K?
The dreaded 2.012K bug?
Y2k makes more sense than the mayan calendar scare. Way more.
As it turns out,the Y2K bug would have been the least of our problems.
Y2K didn’t happen because programmers like me were paid to fix it.
Y2K was a non-event because a LOT of people spent a lot of time and money preparing for it..
I led a project team that spent 1 year and $1.2MM “fixing” bugs in the chemical plant I worked in... Had we not prepared, it definitely would have been a big problem.
> ...BUT Y2K DIDN’T HAPPEN!!!
> No civilization collapse, no destroyed national economies, stock exchanges, foreign invasions, mass starvations, critical infrastructure shutdowns, loss of 401ks, life savings and frozen bank accounts, etc.
There was a pretty good reason for that. A lot of time and effort and bucketloads of money went into making sure that it didn’t, in the two-or-three years leading up to Jan 1 2000.
That is significantly different to saying there was never a threat — there certainly was. And, fairly early on in the remediation projects, these threats were identified and fixed, starting with the mission-critical systems and moving back to the silly, unimportant stuff.
> What did you think about Y2K?
Y2K was probably the one and only time the IT Industry has had the money and the senior management attention necessary to get one of its most important projects right.
Alot of very hard work, against a difficult deadline, was necessary to get the perfect result: NOTHING BAD HAPPENED.
And for this reason it is perceived as a non-event.
The IT side of it was quite separate to the frenzy that surrounded it, with survivalists buying up bullets and sacks of dried beans and moving up into the mountains.
That was plain nuts. And that is similar to what these Global Warming / Climate Change hoaxters are trying to get everyone to do.
Please pay me to fix the Mayan calendar.
I take beans, bullets, and batteries.
Y2K was a real problem as evidenced by the fact that business and government did spent trillions of dollars to fix it. If that money and effort wasn't spent then there was a real chance that yes indeed things would have been bad.
In contrast 2012 is based on a bunch of hooey. No science. No evidence. Just false prophets.
Perfect place to bring this back!
Two years of down markets and devaluations. The real crash wasn't even scheduled yet. That came in 2007 and 2008. The dot com was a computer nerd setback only.
I worked in IT at a financial institution and had the flaws in the code not been fixed a lot of people would have been very upset with their account balances.
I was one of those.
The amazing thing was that I was getting hysterics about this from a couple educators in my Soroptimist club. They were preparing to buy survival food, etc. I put together a PowerPoint presentation showing the problem in very simple terms and also showed how we were fixing it. It calmed them right down.
I work in manufacturing and the worst that happened was that one day, all inventory in the plant showed as expired and unshipable. Problem was fixed before noon.
In my local grocery store, I picked up a packet of sauce which stated that it would be good until sometime in 1902. I pointed it out to the check out girl who was very confused until I started laughing.
I believe the hysteria was caused because we IT types knew the problem, but could not get the attention of the money men until the worst case scenarios were presented to them. But, no, once we got the funding, the problem was easily soved.
LOL, that clip was so hilarious.
Y2K, the first Trillion dollar scam.
Because mayan tech is a hoax.
Y2k is real. The y2k *scare* is debatable. But it is a fact that the computer code was only 2 digits and that when you go from 99 to 00 there will be *SOME* kind of problem incurred with SOME programming. I think it was blown out of proportion and there was some scamming involved. But there is some scamming involved at every level of corporate business efforts. That doesn’t mean y2k was a complete hoax anymore than middle management is a complete hoax. Or wallstreet trading is a complete hoax.
But we had documented that every piece of hardware and software they relied upon would not fail. If we hadn't done all that certification they would have had some serious problems.
BTW, for those who think that nothing would have happened, another client of mine, a municipal government didn't quite test everything. On January 1, 2000, the fuel pumps at the fire station which fueled all the diesel fire trucks as well as the gasoline powered fire vehicles and police cars stopped working. It took 2 days to get someone from the manufacturer out there to replace the electronics in the pumps.
Your ignorance is truly impressive. It was only because of the enormous effort thousands of programmers (myself included) reviewing millions of lines of computer code (no Groanup, computers to not run by magic) that system crashes were prevented. It had nothing to do with dot.com.
It didn’t cause major problems because a lot of IT folks spent a lot of time to make sure everything was patched up and tested.
Where I worked, every PC, (mostly W95), had the BIOS tested and fixed, if needed. Older OSen, like Netware 3.11, 4.10, and 4.11 were updated and tested. Remember synthetic time on Netware when you rolled the date into the future, and then rolled it back, (NDS) ?
Accounting software had to be tested also, dates are pretty important in that regard.
It was a big deal.
Many good replies concerning the end of civilization, but with all due respect I think it will probably end as depicted in the following video.
Hey newb, all those who did prepare are prepared now, when things look like they may really get bad. Ya think we weren’ thinking about that when we prepared?
I knew Y2K was silly when I got my first driver’s license with an expiration after 2000. I figured if the DMV had managed to figure it out so had everybody else. Actually won an argument about Y2K by throwing my license on the table, “see DMV’s OK” turned out to be pretty compelling evidence.
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