In the early days of electronic computers, memory was not as efficient or inexpensive as it is today. To save memory space, programs stored as few digits as possible for dates. In COBOL, for instance, January 1, 1999, was stored as 010199. As Year 2000, or Y2K for short, approached, it became apparent that there might be serious problems because many large-scale systems were based on older programs. Simply, the problem with storing only two digits for the year is that a year written as “00” might be read by a computer as the year 1900 instead of the year 2000. If left unfixed, computer hardware, software, and communications worldwide could have malfunctioned. The impact of the “Millennium Bug” might have been catastrophic because the use of computers and networks has become integral to our lives: banking, communications, transportation, medicine, and even cooking is rarely done without some kind of computerized assistance.
To fix this potential problem, governments and businesses began operations in the 1990s to make sure all necessary computer systems had been checked or converted to new systems to minimize loss of services. The Guardian Life Insurance Company is an example of a large business that needed to fix their systems. The company's Y2K Project Team analyzed over 20 million lines of code and over 17 thousand computer programs and verified that all of their systems were in compliance and ready to go by December 31, 1999. To approach their goals, the Y2K Project Team distributed these baseball caps to internal departments as their systems were confirmed Y2K-compliant. This worked to foster healthy internal competition and cooperation at Guardian and helped the team complete its task. The embroidered letters on the front of each cap read “IMY2KC,” which stands for “I am Y2K Complaint.” The embroidered letters on the back of the cap read “RU,” which stands for “Are you?”
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