Y2K's Bark Was Worse Than Its Global Byte

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

Washington (CNSNews.com) - New Millennium or not, Christendom's odometer rolled over to 2000 this weekend with barely a peep out of the feared Y2K bug that threatened to confuse the world's computers by causing them to mistake this year for 1900.

In Washington President Clinton hosted a New Year's Eve celebration attended by hundreds of thousands on the Mall, where the mood was upbeat after news of glitchless events in other national capitals from Tokyo to Moscow to Paris reached the U.S.

"This is my son's first New Year's Eve, and I wanted him to have it here in Washington, DC," said Jean Leblanc, with his arms around his wife Marie and their one-month old son Michel as they stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial, watching fireworks illuminate the Washington Monument. The trio said they flew over from Paris on the supersonic Concorde and had no worries about Y2K computer failures.

"No problem," Marie Leblanc told CNSNews.com. Her husband added that he works for a French bank that has fully prepared for Y2K.

"This is the only place to be tonight," Lisa Turner of Cleveland, Ohio told CNSNews.com. "I'm going to write this in my journal as soon as I get home tonight," she added.

Strangers embraced and kissed each other as a statuesque Abe Lincoln took in the whole affair from his perch on the Mall. In front of the giant Lincoln sculpture, huge speakers blared emcee Will Smith's song "WillY2K."

Just moments before midnight, the current president addressed the throng from those same steps.

"The great story of the 20th century is the triumph of freedom and free people, a story told in the drama of new immigrants, the struggles for equal rights, the victories over totalitarianism, the stunning advances in economic well-being, in culture, in health, in space and telecommunications, and in building a world in which more than half the people live under governments of their own choosing, for the first time in all history," said President Clinton.

"We must never forget the meaning of the 20th century, or the gifts of those who worked and marched, who fought and died, for the triumph of freedom," he added. "If the story of the 20th Century is the triumph of freedom, what will the story of the 21st century be?" asked Clinton.

Software programmers breathed easier as revelers partied hardy beginning in New Zealand, where the clock first struck midnight, and ending 24 hours later on the Pacific island of American Samoa when the Earth's last time zone changed to January 1, 2000.

Spreading its longitudinal wings that stretched from Pole to Pole, the bug swooped westward around the globe at 1,000-mph, starting in the Pacific and continuing over Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas with hardly a glitch in the planet's software.

However, officials who helped coordinate the worldwide task of preventing the early programming technique of using two digits, such as 84 or 99, to indicate yearly dates from causing computers to fail when their clocks hit the ambiguous "00" for 2000 were quick to remind the public that the Y2K bug could have disrupted New Year's Eve like a swarm of hornets at a Fourth of July picnic.

"I think we should not underestimate the nature of the problem that was originally there," said President Clinton's so-called Y2K czar John Koskinen, who oversaw an $8 billion U.S. government campaign to update federal computers. Some estimates put global Y2K government and private industry expenditures at more than $600 billion, which some experts say was cheap compared to the costs if no Y2K action had been taken.

"In information technology in general, there wasn't an over reaction. It was money well spent," said Georgetown University database administrator Mark Green. "It could have been bad," he told CNSNews.com.

"If it hadn't been spent there would have been chaos. We would have seen persistent breakdowns in major computer systems in public and private sectors causing massive disruption to political and social and economic life," said one analyst with the Gartner Group, an information technology research firm.

"There has been an enormous demonstration of global teamwork in investing and executing these absolutely necessary Y2K computer fixes," said Gartner Group Vice President Matthew Hotle in a statement.

For now, the mood in the information technology sector is optimistic but tempered with caution.

"We appear to be on the verge of a major success," International Y2K Cooperation Center Director Bruce W. McConnell told CNSNews.com. "No significant disruptions have been reported, but we are not yet out of the woods. We will remain vigilant over the coming days and into January."