Y2K

The term Year 2000 bug, also known as the millennium bug and abbreviated as Y2K, referred to potential computer problems which might have resulted when dates used in computer systems moved from the year 1999 to the year 2000.

In the early days of electronic computers, memory was expensive so, in order to save space, programmers abbreviated the four-digit year designation and stored only the final two digits. For example, computers recognized “98” as “1998.” How programs interpret “00” when the date changed to the year 2000? Would “00” be translated as 0000, 1000, 1900, or 2000? (Early in 1999, Computer Chronicles host Stewart Cheifet became aware of the possible problem when he received a credit card from a major gasoline company with an expiration date of 1000.)

Mainframe computers in use in important areas such as banking, utilities, communications, insurance, manufacturing, and government were considered the most vulnerable. The problem was not only with systems running conventional software, but it extended to devices such as medical equipment, temperature-control systems, and elevators which used computer chips.

The fear was that when clocks struck midnight on January 1, 2000, affected computer systems, unsure of the year, would fail to operate and cause massive power outages, transportation systems to shut down, and banks to close. Widespread chaos would ensue.

Research firm Gartner estimated the cost of Y2K remediation to be $300 - $600 billion. Businesses and government organizations created special technology teams to ensure that all hardware and software was Y2K compliant (Y2KC). The goal was to check every system that relied on dates, before midnight December 31, 1999. In some cases, the fix was to replace outdated hardware and/or software. Other cases required time-consuming analysis of program code, replacing or rewriting code as needed, and the testing of hardware reliant on computer chips.

In October 1998, the US government passed the Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act. The purpose of the act was to encourage companies to share information about the status of their Year 2000 compliance efforts. It also provided some protection against false compliance statements and limited liability for companies issuing Year 2000 Readiness Disclosures.

By December 1998, in response to growing uncertainty regarding the effect of Y2K on the world economy and physical infrastructure, the United Nations convened an international conference on Y2K for its members to share information and report on remediation efforts.

Donors of Y2K objects expressed how all-consuming their Y2K remediation projects were, literally overtaking every aspect of their lives. The project had no room for error and a fixed deadline that could not be extended. The doom, spread through media outlets, added to the overall fear of major system failures. Monarch Home Video, a commercial film producer, released one of the few Y2K themed products with their 1999 one-hour “family survival guide” video. Actor Leonard Nimoy narrated the show, and in a slow, controlled voice, described the disasters the world was about to face.

There were in fact some minor disruptions, mainly in small businesses, but no major end-of-the-world events or significant issues occurred at 12:00 AM on January 1, 2000. Some hailed the Y2K update efforts an overall success, yet others remained skeptical and still considered the issue a hoax. In any case, the bug had caused no epidemic of failures.


References: [last accessed 2019-09-11]

  • https://corporate.findlaw.com/law-library/year-2000-information-and-readiness-disclosure-act.html
  • https://www.britannica.com/technology/Y2K-bug
  • https://www.computerhope.com/jargon/y/y2k.htm
  • http://www.cnn.com/TECH/computing/9903/15/rippley2k.idg/
  • https://www.computerworld.com.au/article/108362/ripple_effect_y2k_supply_chain/
  • https://news.avclub.com/let-s-remember-the-quaint-apocalyptic-hysteria-of-the-y-1798260073 [includes the video “Y2K Family Survival Guide” with Leonard Nimoy, 1999; 1 hour video]
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAFIsPX3_3A [Computer Chronicles – Year 2000 – 30 min video]
  • https://www.sec.gov/news/extra/y2k/mktwplan.htm
  • https://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2000/02/07/272831/index.htm
  • https://news.avclub.com/looking-back-at-all-the-ways-y2k-was-used-to-sell-us-sh-1836982164
  • https://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Y2K-Angst-Spooks-Merchandisers-Companies-avoid-2906421.php
  • https://www.zazzle.com/y2k_bumper_sticker-128586199957014928
  • http://www.cnn.com/US/9906/09/y2k.wacky/
  • https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/y2k-the-game-review/1900-2532010/
This turquoise and gray jar has a cork lid. It contains eighteen colorful plastic bugs.Donor Jan Lilja received the jar as a gift from a colleague at the time she was the Y2K Executive at the Food and Nutrition Service, an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Description
This turquoise and gray jar has a cork lid. It contains eighteen colorful plastic bugs.
Donor Jan Lilja received the jar as a gift from a colleague at the time she was the Y2K Executive at the Food and Nutrition Service, an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Food and Nutrition Service administers the nation's nutrition programs such as food stamps (now called SNAP), WIC, and school lunch and breakfast programs. Because most of these programs are administered through the states, territories and local governments, Lilja was also held personally responsible for preventing computer software problems in nutrition programs at these entities when dates changed from 1999 to 2000. To recognize the hard work done, the U.S. government created Y2K medals. She requested about 100 of these for individuals within FNS and arranged an awards ceremony. When the medals did not arrive in time for the ceremony, she purchased plastic bugs to put in the ceramic jar. Rather than receiving a medal, awardees received a bug and a paper certificate (for such a certificate, see 2016.3118.01). These bugs were far more widely displayed than the medals that eventually arrived (for such a medal, see 2016.0138.02).
She distributed the bugs as rewards to those working on the project.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 2000
ca 1999
1999-2000
ID Number
2016.0138.01
accession number
2016.0138
catalog number
2016.0138.01
Major computer software companies such as Microsoft and Apple provided Y2K compliant updated operating systems and application software for users to download. To help identify other Y2K issues on personal computers, a number of companies offered remedial software products.
Description
Major computer software companies such as Microsoft and Apple provided Y2K compliant updated operating systems and application software for users to download. To help identify other Y2K issues on personal computers, a number of companies offered remedial software products. One of these was IntelliFIX 2000 by Intelliquis International, Inc. Their product would check hardware, DOS operating system, and software. This version was free and ran a pass/fail test. The full version, which could be purchased for $79, would report the issues and permanently correct date problems with the BIOS and the CMOS real-time clock. In 1999, Stewart Cheifet of the Computer Chronicles rated the product as a very good all-in-one solution for hardware and software.
References: [last accessed 2019-09-18]
http://www.cnn.com/TECH/computing/9909/22/top.y2k.idg/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAFIsPX3_3A
[Computer Chronicles – Year 2000 – 30 min video]
Location
Currently not on view
ID Number
2007.3054.07
nonaccession number
2007.3054
catalog number
2007.3054.07
date made
2000
2001
2002
ID Number
2008.3017.56
catalog number
2008.3017.56
accession number
2008.3017
Included in this 17-piece collection of computer vendor literature are examples of Y2K focused company advertising.Peregrine Systems, offered ServiceCenter 2000 Y2K Crisis Management software that provided businesses with a central point for managing, analyzing, tracking and repo
Description
Included in this 17-piece collection of computer vendor literature are examples of Y2K focused company advertising.
Peregrine Systems, offered ServiceCenter 2000 Y2K Crisis Management software that provided businesses with a central point for managing, analyzing, tracking and reporting on Y2K issue remediation. This product could also be used after the Y2K crisis to document and respond to day-to-day emergencies.
Nortel Networks promoted a trade-in rebate program to make upgrading network technology to Y2K compliant hardware more affordable. Not only would they buy back in part their own products, they would do the same for those of competitors. The program was advertised as a Y2K-preparedness strategy.
IBM’s 31-page brochure stated “IBM e-business tools are ready for the year 2000. How ready are you?” This literature was directed toward small and medium-sized companies and described the various Y2K compliant hardware, software, and services available to them.
Location
Currently not on view
ID Number
2007.3054.09
nonaccession number
2007.3054
catalog number
2007.3054.09
This computer-generated sheet acknowledges the contribution of an employee of the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to exterminating the Y2k "bug." It is signed by George A. Braley and Janice G.
Description
This computer-generated sheet acknowledges the contribution of an employee of the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to exterminating the Y2k "bug." It is signed by George A. Braley and Janice G. Lilja, and was given to the museum by Lilja.
For related objects, see 2016.0138.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2000
ID Number
2016.3118.01
catalog number
2016.3118.01
nonaccession number
2016.3118
This collection was donated by Joan Krammer, who worked on the Y2K issue for the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail.
Description
This collection was donated by Joan Krammer, who worked on the Y2K issue for the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail. Headquartered in Toronto, the paper was founded in 1844 and, as of 2019, had 1.5 million daily readers.
The newspaper’s Y2K team was responsible for ensuring that all computer systems, those critical to the production of the newspaper as well as equipment such as elevators and thermostats, would continue to operate correctly in the year 2000. They examined, corrected, upgraded, and tested 878 systems that relied on computer clocks.
Included in the collection are eight proof sheets and 28 photocopies of letters. To prove that the newspaper could be produced, the clocks on all computer systems were rolled forward to 2000 and a test run was made. These proof sheets show the content for all departments, and a 2000 year date. The letters represent a sampling of those received by The Globe and Mail from vendors, advertisers, and subscription holders requesting assurance that the paper was Y2K compliant. It also contains sample reply letters in which the newspaper, to minimize the risk of legal action, states that proper attention was given to resolving Y2K related issues.
References: [last accessed 2019-09-18]
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/about/
Location
Currently not on view
ID Number
2007.3054.08
nonaccession number
2007.3054
catalog number
2007.3054.08
The coming of the new millennium generated few examples of themed merchandise. There was speculation that the negativity associated with the Y2K bug would do little to produce strong sales.
Description
The coming of the new millennium generated few examples of themed merchandise. There was speculation that the negativity associated with the Y2K bug would do little to produce strong sales. This notion was supported by JC Penney’s failed attempt to sell pillows, throws, dresses, and countdown clocks carrying the “01-01-00” graphic. General Mills, Inc., however, came up with the idea of adding a sweetened cereal in the shape of the numeral “2” to their standard Cheerios brand. They packaged this cereal in a shiny purple box and called it Millennios. Printed on the back of the box were seven predictions of future events, with space left to fill in the year. Predictions include “By ___ everyone will be driving electric cars” and “By ___ people will be able to teleport from one place to another.” This box, made for sale in Canada, is written in English and French.
References: [last accessed 2019-09-18]
https://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Y2K-Angst-Spooks-Merchandisers-Companies-avoid-2906421.php
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1999
ID Number
2007.3054.01
catalog number
2007.3054.01
nonaccession number
2007.3054
Currently not on view
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
2000
ID Number
2001.0137.09
As the “Millennium Bug” gained media attention, some businesses used the hype to market special millennium foods. From cars to breakfast cereal, companies like the Figueroa Brothers, Inc., cashed in on the Y2K name.
Description
As the “Millennium Bug” gained media attention, some businesses used the hype to market special millennium foods. From cars to breakfast cereal, companies like the Figueroa Brothers, Inc., cashed in on the Y2K name. This bottle once contained Y2K Millennium Meltdown ¿R-U-Ready? hot sauce, a spicy concoction made with jalapeño peppers.
The Guardian Life Insurance Company's Y2K Project Team spent over three years working to make their company Y2K compliant. This meant many late nights working and thus many visits to the local restaurants. This bottle of hot sauce was given to the team by the owner of the restaurant most frequented by the team.
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1990-1999
recipient
Guardian Life Insurance Company of America
maker
Figueroa Brothers, Inc.
ID Number
2004.3020.08
nonaccession number
2004.3020
catalog number
2004.3020.08
This Y2K advertisment was from Computer Associates, a system and application software company now owned by Broadcom of California. The front features a man standing before a very large chalk board pointing to an endlessly long scientific equation.
Description
This Y2K advertisment was from Computer Associates, a system and application software company now owned by Broadcom of California. The front features a man standing before a very large chalk board pointing to an endlessly long scientific equation. Below the image it reads: “And Now, A Simple Explanation Of How To Prepare For The Upcoming Century Date Change.” On the reverse is a letter from the company’s Senior Vice President and General Manager, Rich Chiarello. The letter invites readers to attend a free 7-hour seminar titled “The CA Discovery 2000 Seminar.” Participants would learn the size of the problem, available options, where to start, and how much it would cost to remediate their Y2K problems.
References: [last accessed 2019-09-24]
https://www.newsday.com/business/technology/ca-computer-associates-broadcom-1.19772182
https://tdwi.org/Articles/2018/09/06/BIZ-ALL-CA-Technologies-Acquirer-to-be-Acquired.aspx
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1990s
maker
Computer Associates
ID Number
2004.3020.09
catalog number
2004.3020.09
nonaccession number
2004.3020
New York License plate, personalized with "IMY2KC." The previous owner of this license plate was the manager of a 5-year Y2K Upgrade Project for Guardian Life Insurance. The plate is red and blue on a white background with the Statue of Liberty on the left.Currently not on view
Description
New York License plate, personalized with "IMY2KC." The previous owner of this license plate was the manager of a 5-year Y2K Upgrade Project for Guardian Life Insurance. The plate is red and blue on a white background with the Statue of Liberty on the left.
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1990s
ID Number
2004.3020.06
catalog number
2004.3020.06
nonaccession number
2004.3020
Leading up to the new millennium, many computer companies offered products or services to assist with transitioning computer systems to the year 2000.
Description
Leading up to the new millennium, many computer companies offered products or services to assist with transitioning computer systems to the year 2000. For example, Micro Focus sold Revolve 2000 that would identify lines of code that could potentially be affected by the change to year 2000. At Guardian Life Insurance the Y2K project directors negotiated a ten-cent cost per line contract with Micro (IBM was offering the same service for $1.25 per line.) Nearly twenty million (20,000,000) lines of code were analyzed by the end of the project. Of that number, less than one percent needed to be updated.
This dongle is one of twenty Guardian purchased to track the number of lines of code analyzed.
References:
Computerworld, September 12, 1994, pg 67.
Computerworld, November 11, 1996, pg 11 (advertisement).
InfoWorld, January 15, 1996, pg. 5 (advertisement).
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1996
maker
Guardian Life Insurance Company of America
ID Number
2004.3020.04
catalog number
2004.3020.04
nonaccession number
2004.3020
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.
Description
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?”
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1999
maker
Guardian Life Insurance Company of America
ID Number
2004.3020.01
nonaccession number
2004.3020
catalog number
2004.3020.01
At Guardian Life Insurance Company, the Y2K team formed in 1996, consisted of fifty individuals chosen from within the company. By April 2000 the Guardian Life Insurance Company’s Y2K team had completed their task.
Description
At Guardian Life Insurance Company, the Y2K team formed in 1996, consisted of fifty individuals chosen from within the company. By April 2000 the Guardian Life Insurance Company’s Y2K team had completed their task. Less than one percent of the approximately twenty million lines of code analyzed were identified as potentially affected by the year 2000. That number is still nearly 200,000 lines of code that had to be manually reviewed, updated, and tested. As part of the work they discovered and quarantined 2,500 obsolete programs. They had “cleaned house” and improved their disaster recovery procedures.
Pictured in the photograph is the 12-member core team. From left to right: Spencer Parness, Marianne Puma, Chris Chen, Brian Marshall, Arthur Bonagura, Emilio Rodriguez, Thomas Mannix (Y2K Project Assistant Director, and donor of the Guardian objects), Ann Foyler, Mark Malone, Janet Sokoloff (Y2K Project Director), Joseph Connel, and Armond DePaulo.
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1999
maker
Guardian Life Insurance Company of America
ID Number
2004.3020.05
catalog number
2004.3020.05
nonaccession number
2004.3020
One of the many computer companies offering products or services to assist with transitioning to the year 2000 was TSR, Inc. They provided “Catch 21” a Y2K software solution for IBM-based computer systems.
Description
One of the many computer companies offering products or services to assist with transitioning to the year 2000 was TSR, Inc. They provided “Catch 21” a Y2K software solution for IBM-based computer systems. Although Guardian Life Insurance Company did not use the software, they did use the TSR marketing gift, a three-minute sand timer encased in clear and blue acrylic.
Since the Y2K project had an unchangeable completion date, deadlines had to be met, decisions needed to be made without delay, and the people who could make high level decisions had to attend scheduled meetings. This sand timer was used at several meetings to reinforce these points. If given a response of “we need to get back to you,” the Assistant Project Director would set the timer on the table and give them until the sand ran out for a decision.
The project was completed on time and Guardian encountered no application outages or loss of business with the transition to the new millennium!
References: [last accessed 2019-09-23]
https://www.marketwatch.com/press-release/tsr-inc-announces-retirement-of-chairman-ceo-joseph-f-hughes-2017-07-05
https://trsconsulting.com/trs-consulting-about-us/
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1990s
maker
TSR Hobbies
ID Number
2004.3020.07
nonaccession number
2004.3020
catalog number
2004.3020.07
Currently not on view
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
2000
ID Number
2001.0137.10
The Y2K project directors at Guardian Life Insurance in lower Manhattan, used objects such as baseball caps and model trains to promote competition between the divisions and to keep team spirits up as the work moved forward.
Description
The Y2K project directors at Guardian Life Insurance in lower Manhattan, used objects such as baseball caps and model trains to promote competition between the divisions and to keep team spirits up as the work moved forward. A model train was displayed in the company lobby, and as a division became Y2K compliant, a car with the division’s name on it was added to the train.
The Y2K project directors wore this baseball cap to team meetings when they felt the team was losing focus. The cap is embroidered with "Count Down 2000" and has a digital readout that counted down to the year 2000.
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1999
maker
Guardian Life Insurance Company of America
ID Number
2004.3020.03
catalog number
2004.3020.03
nonaccession number
2004.3020
This cap is a duplicate of 2004.3020.01Currently not on view
Description
This cap is a duplicate of 2004.3020.01
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1999
maker
Guardian Life Insurance Company of America
ID Number
2004.3020.02
catalog number
2004.3020.02
nonaccession number
2004.3020
The University of Miami, School of Medicine, Jackson Memorial Hospital Medical Center hired Lee I. Taylor as their Y2K project manager in 1998. He was responsible for ensuring that nearly 14,000 devices, applications and systems were ready for the year 2000.
Description
The University of Miami, School of Medicine, Jackson Memorial Hospital Medical Center hired Lee I. Taylor as their Y2K project manager in 1998. He was responsible for ensuring that nearly 14,000 devices, applications and systems were ready for the year 2000. The State of Florida’s Y2K Governor’s Advisory Council required that institutions create a public awareness campaign as part of their remediation efforts. The donor, in talking with the university’s General Counsel’s Office, was informed that any campaign statements should not make any definitiveY2K readiness assertions, in case they were wrong.
The announcement Mr. Taylor submitted to the Chief Information Officer (CIO) read: “Are we Y2K OK? That’s a good question. I can tell you that we’ve done everything humanly possible – short of actually spending money – to handle this issue. We’ve wasted countless hours dealing with people we don’t like and frankly don’t trust, compiling data I wouldn’t bet my life on to conclude this project in a manner that makes our lawyers happy. What does this mean to you? Not much I’m afraid. But, then again, I bet 12:00 midnight has been blinking on your VCR since the early 1980’s, so who are you to judge us? 1 JANUARY 2000 IT’S A CRAP SHOOT.”
While it is not certain that this compliance statement satisfied the governor’s office, the CIO did have it printed on the back of t-shirts. These shirts were given to the Y2K team members who had to work through New Year’s Eve 2000. (The front graphic was designed by the chief web designer and co-donor, Lynne S. Cohen.) Co-donor Lee Taylor wore this t-shirt from sunset on December 31, 1999 until well past midnight – the School of Medicine and its three hospitals experienced no major glitches.
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1999
user
Taylor, Lee I.
designer
Cohen, Lynne
maker
Taylor, Lee I.
Cohen, Lynne
ID Number
2000.3064.01
catalog number
2000.3064.01
nonaccession number
2000.3064
UUNET, founded in 1987 in Virginia, was the first commercial internet service provider (ISP). In the beginning they offered e-mail and news services. As the company grew, they provided a comprehensive range of internet service products.
Description
UUNET, founded in 1987 in Virginia, was the first commercial internet service provider (ISP). In the beginning they offered e-mail and news services. As the company grew, they provided a comprehensive range of internet service products. By the late 1990s they delivered internet services to the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. The UUNET brand has been retained through numerous acquisitions. Today UUNET is an internal brand of Verizon Business.
This polo shirt is one of a collection of UUNET corporate logo sportswear produced to celebrate specific company and industry events. In 1999, the focus was on remediating potential Y2K issues. According to the donor, a senior executive, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on the Y2K issue in the U.S. and at foreign subsidiaries. The shirt was produced by the UUNET Y2K team in Germany for their colleagues in the U.S. The clock-shaped design reads “We are OK with Y2K.”
References: [last accessed 2019-09-23]
https://www.verizon.com/about/sites/default/files/Verizon_History_0916.pdf
https://www.company-histories.com/UUNET-Company-History.html
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1999
maker
WorldCom
Promodoro
ID Number
2002.3114.06
nonaccession number
2002.3114
catalog number
2002.3114.06

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