Y2K – why I know it was a real problem

Sometimes I write a piece not particularly expecting many readers, or even caring much whether they arrive. One reason is that I’m really working my way through some problem. Another is that I want to lay down a marker, a statement of something I know or believe so that it’s available in the future to anyone interested in me or that topic. This article about Y2K is an example of the latter. I’ve seen a few comments lately that Y2K was no more than an over-hyped scare and scam. I want to give my side of the story, and I also wanted to write something I could link to from the Wikipedia article on Y2K!

This article is therefore about my experience as a Y2K test manager at General Accident, one of the largest insurance companies in the UK. I usually try to rein in my arrogance, and I always have trouble with this when discussing Y2K with people who have strong views, but are clueless about what really happened. I’m always tempted to say “You don’t know what you’re talking about. I do, and I know you’re talking rubbish. I’m right, you’re wrong, and I can’t be bothered wasting time discussing the detail”.

I hope this piece is rather more constructive than that, but in this case I really do know what I’m talking about.

The article prompted some interesting comments. There wasn’t really a debate, because the commenters strongly agreed with me, and they knew what they were talking about.

After writing the article I read some more of the articles that had been written about Y2K. The standard was abysmal, a mixture of nonsense, guesswork and assertions lacking any evidence. Yet these articles were being cited as references in the Y2K Wikipedia article. One of the themes was that a “fix on failure” response would have been more effective and efficient. That goaded me into a follow up article explaining why “fix on failure” was based on an infantile view of software failure.

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