Ten years ago this week, the much-hyped Y2K crisis -- which had come in with a long, sustained roar -- went out with a whimper.
In the years and months leading up to the new millennium, IT organizations spent billions patching systems and replacing hardware and software that had infamously been designed to support only a two-digit year -- a problem dubbed the Year 2000 bug, the Millennium bug, or simply Y2K.
While the world pondered dire predictions of massive global infrastructure failures -- everything from elevators to air traffic control systems was rumored to be vulnerable -- the specter of a total paralysis of business operations resulting from cascading Y2K failures galvanized organizations into a frenzy of activity. For many CIOs, the unprecedented size and scope of addressing Y2K problems was the biggest project of their careers.
And then it was over. On Dec. 31, 1999, the world held its breath -- and nothing happened. Jan. 1, 2000 came in just like any other day. There were no major failures to report anywhere.
In the aftermath, or non-aftermath, some pundits said all the preparation had been overkill. Others maintained that only the hard work of IT pros, many of whom did not sleep that night, kept the information systems of the world on track.
Many of the IT professionals and CIOs who lived through that ordeal still carry those experiences, and painful lessons learned, with them to this day. On the eve of Y2K's 10-year anniversary, Computerworld asked a few veterans to recall the good and bad that came from the whole Year 2000 experience, and to share some of the crazy things that happened as the hype built up and the millennium closed in.
We start with "Y2K: The good" -- read on for veterans' opinions on the ways Y2K changed IT for the better. Then read "Y2K: The bad" (and there was lots of bad) and the thrilling conclusion, "Y2K, the Crazy" (there was plenty of crazy, too). In the meantime, take a moment to share stories of how you spent Millennium Eve.
But first, the good.
IT became a player
"Y2K put IT on the map," says Paul Ingevaldson, who, as senior vice president of technology, oversaw Y2K preparations for Ace Hardware Corp.'s global operations.
For the first time, companies realized just how critical IT was to business operations. At retailers such as Ace Hardware, for example, the rise of e-commerce had forged a direct link between downtime and lost revenue. "There was no way they could not understand how important IT was to the company. That was the positive side," says Ingevaldson, who has since retired and now writes a regular column for Computerworld.
Y2K was a wake-up call for executive management in particular, says Benny Lasiter, who was a senior data management analyst and lead database administrator for a real-time trading floor application at Texaco Natural Gas, a division of Texaco U.S., which is now part of Chevron Products Co.