Artificial Intelligence

The Tech Scare – Y2K Problem

As technology evolves, the influence it has over mankind grows exponentially. Thus it dawns upon the coming generations to look back on the overlooked mistakes in computing. The most prominent being the Y2K problem which brought together computer programmers around the world to solve the first major technological scare. Many more are bound to be in the future hence it is essential to understand the responsibilities needed to manage the evolution of technology.

Coding has obviously played a major role in the development of society over the past century. This, in turn, led to the increased reliability we, as humans, have on technology and computing systems. Everything we do, such as travel, communication, and entertainment, revolves around the technology we have available to us. During the late 20th century, this reliance on technology has grown to the benefit of mankind.

However, there was a major problem arising that could cause catastrophic damage to all nations and corporations worldwide. At the time of the 90s, only a few were aware of this problem. During the 20th century, when the first computers were brought to fruition, there were expectations that the code that these machines run on will be updated and revised in the future. However, these updates were not dramatic enough for the upcoming complication.

Additionally, as computers were made commercially available, memory for these devices was getting rarer which led to major price increases. With the price of memory increasing, programmers decided to only have the last two digits of the year variable. This allowed them to save money on memory and future generations were expected to update computing generations for this to not result in a complication with dates.

However, as the end of the century was closing in, more and more people became aware of this devastating situation. People soon realized that at the turn of the century, all computers worldwide would reset to the year 1900. On the surface, this may not seem like such a major problem, however, many algorithms were reliant on the comparisons of dates, such as banking records, the stock market, and even personal files. This would lead to the worldwide panic of the Y2K Scare. Many were afraid of economies crashing and corporations crumbling, forcing programmers around the globe to scramble as solve this impending problem. Many started working just three years before the upcoming century figuring which software actually relied on the year. They would have to go back through the algorithms that were written since the dawn of computers and allow the dates to contain four digits rather than two. This was possible since memory was cheaper and more available than before.

In 1999, as the world was watching their clocks preparing for the change of the century, programmers were preparing for a worldwide crisis. As the clock hit midnight, half the world was celebrating a new century, while the other half was patiently waiting for the worst. Though there were a few problems that rose, most of the major complications were prevented. The Y2K Problem demonstrated that an immense amount of responsibility is needed to manage the growing power of technology.


Shlok Bhattacharya

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