Twenty years ago this day many people were exhaling happily. The Year 2000 (Y2K) “bug” motivated many people around the world to spend billions of dollars to avoid disruptions with computer operations.

The bug was simple. Date year fields that were two digits would rollover from 99 to 00. Any software that depended on that field to perform date related calculations likely would be written to presume 00 meant 1900 rather than 2000.

I was involved nominally with prevention. My short-term contract was confirming site measuring and test equipment contained no date dependent firmware.

Despite all the effort, where I contracted there was one system affected by the bug. On January 1 a sequence of events recorder did not handle the date rollover correctly. While a nuisance, this was a recording system rather than a protection system.

There was a degree of mockery when January 1, 2000 turned out to be relatively quiet and benign. What no human will ever know is what might have happened if no action had been taken. There is no way to ever know.

The lesson learned is not that humans can respond to such events, but the uneasy dependence humans have on software.

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