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The Y2K Bug Was Actually Much Worse Than We All Remember


History has a funny way of playing tricks on our memory, and the Y2K bug is a good example.

The famous computer glitch was devilishly simple: experts worried that computers and programs using a two-digit date system would flip their lids in the year 2000 - when their systems read "00."

You probably remember the almost-hysterical panic some people felt before New Year's Eve 1999. Grocery stores across the country noticed more people buying canned goods and bottled water.

These days, if we remember Y2K at all, it's remembered as history's greatest anticlimax. The new year came, things were alright, and we all had a good laugh about it.

Some people even remember Y2K as a hoax that we all fell for, imagining that the risk was made up from the very beginning.


In fact, the world came closer to disaster on January 1, 2000 than most people realize.

What almost everyone forgets is many computer programs were outdated, and were at risk of malfunctioning.

Banks, insurance companies, power plants, and airlines were all at risk because their computers and programs relied on calendars most of all.

Here in America, state and local governments were also at risk, because they mostly relied on outdated technology.

And while the world didn't suddenly end because of the bug, it caused some serious consequences that we forget today.

While we remember Y2K as a harmless glitch, it didn't exactly fix itself.

While countries like Russia and Italy chose to ignore the glitch, America, Germany, and Australia all spent millions updating their computer systems.

Major businesses did the same, hiring teams of workers to patch up any obvious problems in their hardware and software.

In total, governments and businesses spent more than $300 billion preparing for Y2K, so if "nothing happened," it's only because we were so prepared.

In fact, there were a number of errors connected to Y2K around the world.

Emergency workers responding to a power plant failure in Japan caused by Y2K.BBC

A nuclear radiation monitoring system in Japan failed seconds after midnight, and the power plant had to rely on their backup system.

A program in the UK also incorrectly told 154 pregnant women their unborn children had Down syndrome.

And while no weapons systems malfunctioned, the threat that they could was very real. Russian and Americans worked side-by-side monitoring their weapons during the date change.

While a few dozen errors with bus tickets, bank accounts, and airline schedules isn't a global catastrophe, it's nothing to sneeze at either.

So if you're a '90s kid, feel free to say "I survived Y2K with pride."

Did you remember waiting for Y2K?

[H/T: BBC, NatGeo, Britannica]