Y2K, the Crazy: Computer glitch or mind-blowing catastrophe?

IT was in control of Y2K issues by Millennium Eve, but users' fears were still running rampant.

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"Saipan was our canary in the mines," Ingevaldson says. By the time Y2K rolled into the U.S., programmers had the snafu fixed. A few other glitches came up that night, but nothing quite as visual. Still, he says, it was a long night. "I got home at 5:00 a.m."

Hosting a potential disaster? Invite a reporter

Dick Hudson, CIO at Global Marine Inc., an offshore drilling company in Houston, was so confident that his systems would work at the stroke of midnight that he invited a Computerworld reporter, Maryfran Johnson, into his data center to observe operations on New Year's Eve. It was a gamble that most of his colleagues wouldn't have taken for all the money in the world.

He and Johnson watched together as the time change proceeded from the Far East to Europe and finally the U.S., with nary a data disaster to report. "We had nothing to do," he says.

The live reports on Computerworld.com, posted throughout the evening, made Global Marine look good -- but Hudson says the stunt raised a few eyebrows with top executives, who had been unaware of the presence of a reporter beforehand.

Y2K = The beginning of the end?

Global Marine's Hudson did hear of one Y2K casualty. A colleague, the CIO for a multibillion dollar corporation in the Houston area which Hudson declines to identify, used Y2K as the rationale for migrating off of a mainframe and onto an SAP client/server ERP system.

The company gambled on the project, which began around 1998 -- and lost. "They spent $220 million on the project but didn't get it up in time," Hudson says. The company then faced the task of getting its existing systems Y2K compliant. The ERP system never did go live, and within a year or two the business began faltering. The company was eventually sold at a fire sale price.

One of Hudson's colleagues at Global spoke with the company's CIO about it. "[We] heard from their CIO that cost overruns on the SAP project were a major factor in the sale of the company," Hudson says. In the end, the CIO left, the company changed hands and the entire office staff -- including the IT staff -- was let go.

How techies partied

Bruce Schneier didn't have any systems that required mediation -- he had just founded Counterpane Internet Security and had all new systems. But he did feel a brief urge to exploit all of the unwarranted public trepidation over Y2K.

At a New Year's Eve party in Minneapolis, he considered going downstairs and pulling the main breaker at the stroke of midnight. "I wanted to pull the switch," says Schneier, currently chief security technology officer at enterprise security provider BT Global Services. "But I didn't. My wife talked me out of it."

Benny Lasiter and his colleagues at Texaco Natural Gas, a division of Texaco U.S., had to work on New Year's Eve, but they still managed to create a bit of a party atmosphere.

"We were somewhat on edge, but it was also a little bit loose because we felt that the hardest part was behind us," says Lasiter, now an IT strategy consultant in Houston." So yes, the team did manage to get its funk on, he recounts. "On the evening of Dec. 31, we had Prince blaring the song '1999.' "

More to come?

Now that we've put Y2K to rest once and for all, get ready to roll your sleeves up once more -- after all, Year 2012 -- and the end of the world -- is right around the corner.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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