Y2K Time Capsule

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For anyone who finds this forum and wonder what the hell is going on...

Prior to the year 2000, there was a rancorous online debate about the "Y2K problem." Y2K was used to describe a multitude of potential date-related glitches in hardware, software and embedded systems.

The online debate was very small. There are over 6 billion people in the world. About 300 million are Internet users. At best, a few hundred actively participated in the online debate.

Arguably, the most active Y2K forum was Time Bomb 2000--a space created by IT author Ed Yourdon. From late 1997 to early 2000, TB 2000 generated over 350,000 "posts." The 15 most active authors generated over 10% of the posts.

As a forum, Time Bomb 2000 generally leaned towards predictions of serious Y2K-related problems. Other fora (those dominated by "debunkers" and much smaller) generally predicted a modest impact if any.

As the debate progressed, the participants began to use an acrimonious shorthand. The "doomers" were pessimistic. The "pollies" (short for pollyannas") were optimistic. The pessimists referred to themselves as "GIs" for "getting it" about Y2K. As noted, the optimists referred to themselves as "debunkers."

Each camp had "experts" and spokespersons." The pessimists featured Ed Yourdon, economist Ed Yardeni, IT expert Peter de Jager (before he decided we had "broken the back" of the Y2K problem) and an odd assortment of "fringe" characters. The optimists quoted Y2K "czar" John Koskinen, Fed Chair Alan Greenspan, the IT trade press and agencies reporting on Y2K readiness like the FDIC, NERC, etc.

Most of the participants in the online Y2K debate were NOT subject area experts. Many seemed simply "average" folks concerned about the potential impact of a widespread computer problem OR "average" people convinced the Y2K problem was overstated. Due to the fixed deadline and alleged "stakes," the debate was intense, heated and often personal. The Y2K debate also seemed to catalyze individuals with other issues including fears of government, concerns about technology and anger and/or resentment about modern culture.

The debate largely ended in January/February 2000. Y2K came and essentially nothing happened. TB 2000 closed and Yourdon moved his forum to a password-protected site on EZBoard.


This forum was started shortly thereafter, partly because some long time TB 2000 posters were denied access to EZB.

For those who did not participate, it is difficult to imagine the tension of the Y2K debate. While a tempest in a teapot, the arguments were taken quite seriously. A diverse group of people fought madly over a difficult, complex issue.

If you read this today... realize that EZB and this forum are but echoes of an earlier debate.

-- Ken Decker (kcdecker@att.net), July 25, 2000



I would correct your last statement to read that, "Threads in EZB and this forum from time to time revive this earlier debate."

Any such confusion (as you imply) amongst folks who wander into this forum, as well as EZ, is simply that the fora names no longer reflect the content of the discussions, as most posters have lost interest and moved on from this issue.

That Y2K is but one of a great many topics here (and at EZ) nowadays is, IMO, a wonderful thing.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), July 25, 2000.


Why do you ingore GICC?
While many posts are not Y2K related, there
are many which refute your claim that "Y2K
came and essentially nothing happened."

Software upgrades to remedy non-compliant
programs have hit many government and private
organizations so hard that they have yet to
recover. One of the many examples can be seen

I'm sure that you are capable of an objective
analysis in spite of your commitment to believing
"Y2K came and essentially nothing happened."


-- spider (spider0@usa.net), July 25, 2000.

The older, now inactive TB2000 forum with 300,000+ plus messages is at...

http://hv.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a.tcl?topic=TimeBomb%202000%20% 28Y2000%29

-- (Where@it.is), July 25, 2000.


And I would retort that this forum and EZB occasionally flog a dead horse. There is nothing left to debate about Y2K... at least from my perspective. The confusion I imagine is for a stranger to wander in and wonder why people are so acrimonious towards one another. As for the conversations here (and at EZB), I find them far less interesting than Y2K... or chat with compadres at the local watering hole. I rarely post here anymore, but thought this little time capsule might help a few souls.


Y2K was a mosquito on the back of an elephant. The impact of Y2K has been zero on a macroeconomic level. Y2K did not increase inflation or unemployment. Rollover problems did not cause shortages or "break" any links in the supply chain. Talking about Y2K problems is like focusing on casualties during the Desert Storm. Yes, we suffered losses during Desert Storm. Hell, we would have lost troops on an unopposed field exercise of that magnitude. Focusing on an individual computer failure is like focusing on the death of single soldier during the conflict. Soldiers die. Computers fail. The undisputed fact is that very, very few systems suffered signficant problems. Like with Desert Storm, we won the war against Y2K in a very big way.

Let's stretch our analogy. If you transpose the pessimist's Y2K predictions onto Desert Storm, the "doomers" would have been selling sniper rifles and ammo to repel Sadam's armies. They would have told the "pollies" to start learning arabic. (chuckle)

Were there Y2K-related problems? Yes. Did they have any noticeable impact on the functioning of modern civilization? No.

-- Ken Decker (kcdecker@att.net), July 25, 2000.

Spider, You are an asshole first class.

FYI, the head of the New Mexico Y2k Advisory Council was one Ed YourToas-Toast-Ed. How come you cite a N.M. problem? Are you trying to em-bare-ass your Doom Zombie Cult Leader?

-- Bad Ass Dude Hates Doomers (BadAss@tb2k.com), July 25, 2000.

mosquito! SWAT!!

Ken, I do not dispute that it was a minor event.
I only disagree with the scope that you portray.
I am not an apologist for those that took an
extreme position, so don't expect me to respond
to those charges.

"Rollover problems did not cause shortages or
"break" any links in the supply chain."

That is definitely not true and I will discuss this
with you through private email if you are interested.
The insect infestation around here is anoying. peace

-- spider (spider0@usa.net), July 25, 2000.


By and large, a good summary, but I would certainly take issue with your considering all "optimists" to be "de-bunkers". For example, Flint was certainly not a "de-bunker", since he fully believed that Y2K woud bring significant problems (e.g., sporadic power outages), yet was clearly an "optimist" who did not see such problems as resulting in anything approaching TEOTWAWKI.

-- WD-40 (wd40@squeak.not), July 25, 2000.


I am not suggesting you were an extremist. I will suggest other problems (like computer virii) have been more impactful than the Y2K "bug." Furthermore, I think it somewhat pointless to discuss a handful of examples where individual firms suffered some computer problem where "rollover" was blamed. Computers fail every day. I imagine a few failed due to "Y2K" (although I can imagine Y2K proved a handy excuse much as it did when IT departments were padding their budgets in 1998-9).

Moving back to my Desert Storm analogy... if you can prove the death of a few dozen troops in combat, so what? The outcome of the "war" is undisputed.

-- Ken Decker (kcdecker@att.net), July 25, 2000.


It was not my intent to paint all optimists as "debunkers." The debunkers were mostly the usual crowd at places like "Gary North is a Big Fat Idiot" (BFI) or Poole's "Debunking Y2K." In general, the debunkers saw Y2K doomsayers in a more sinister light.

I consider Flint a rationalist with a cautious streak. He seemed to feel the impact would be slight, however, he hedged his bet. This made him one of the more reviled "optimists." Oh, the optimists (and pessimists) came in many varieties. It would take a long essay to describe them all.

-- Ken Decker (kcdecker@att.net), July 25, 2000.

I read every congessional testimony, all the industries presented. They could not guarantee squat. A bunch of baffons. I have all their testimony in paper print. These were our leaders? The best of best? Maybe through this forum, we can eliminate, one by one, those political morons, who knew nothing, or had not the guts to stand up. BTW, my Father was a Prisioner of War in WWII, ate rats, and whatever. His blood courses through my veins, for truth, I pursue.

-- I stand (for@history.com), July 25, 2000.


Only a fool guarantees the future.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), July 25, 2000.

I always wondered how "doomers" travel. Do you think they demand a "guarantee" from the bus driver that he or she will not crash? Life is an inherently risky business... particularly for the living. If you "stand" for history, you might want to read a bit as well.

-- Ken Decker (kcdecker@att.net), July 25, 2000.

Seriously Ken, do you believe anybody new ever comes to this website? Seems to me this one here is populated by the same idiots (me included) who ever posted on TB2K classic pre-2000. Same ol' goofy bunch, different handles.

-- Longtime Lurker (still.stopping.by.after@ll.these.years), July 25, 2000.

Personally, I miss the Y2k debate. I've never seen anything like it, and will never experience anything like it again. The impending sense of doom pushed otherwise rational people to make extraordinary predictions. I remember myself in August of 1998, when I first learned of Y2k, and how it all seemed so otherworldly and frightful. I felt a strange sense of doom myself. I think even very rational people wondered what the hell would happen.

As the debate progressed in 1999, I grew to respect those people who limned the big historical picture (like Mr. Decker), those who repeatedly pointed out the fact that real-life failures did not shut down society (like Hoffmeister and Dan the Power Man), and those contributors who patiently and persistently tried to keep the elements of the debate rational (Flint). Along the way, there were admirable and amusing personal characters who stepped in, like Gilda, Wolverine, CD, and, uh, well, many others ... then there were unforgettable characters who made fools of themselves by engaging in unbridled speculation, like Invar, Big Dog, Andy, Ed Yourdon, and that guy who was always attacking Ken in long bloated essays interspersed with red type to make his points, and a whole host of others. I thought Cory Hamasaki was kind of off his rocker, but I liked his style all the same.

It was a drama, a huge drama with readymade live characters who possessed predictable flaws and quirks, and it just kept building all year long to this terrific crescendo. Even the most rational Microsoft types I knew were secretly keeping an eye on the news to see what would happen with Y2k. The truth was, nobody really knew for certain what would happen ... and that's what made it compelling.

Looking back, I find the progression truly extraordinary. I think the WTO event here in Seattle was much more materially catastrophic than anything that could have happened at the New Year, but I couldn't have known that at the time for sure. I think I really lived through the "revolution" that day in November without knowing it until well after the New Year had passed.

Then after New Year had passed, there was the bitter recriminations and personal insults, and the unforgettable "outting" and stripping of personas and masks. Real names were revealed. False apologies were hazarded. Fingers pointed and waved, and Ed Yourdon took the whole band of Intolerants over to a censored board.

Anyway, I rather bemoan the fact that this sort of event will never occur again in my lifetime, and that instead we shall be subject to breaking, unpredicted news, and that the world will continue on in its messy course with no "historical event" looming ahead of us until we hit it. I guess it's something to be grateful for, that I saw it all played out here in vivid color on TB2000.

I still turn here for repose of a sort. I come here to take a break, relax, keep up on strange and quirky news, note populist trends.... It's still like something like a cyber home. Maybe something similar to Y2k will build here before the elections, but even that could never ever match the intensity of ...

The Unknown.

-- Celia Thaxter (celiathaxter@yahoo.com), July 26, 2000.

The outcome of the "war" is undisputed.

Like Desert Storm, Ken, the outcome of Y2k is so undisputed that some optimists are now saying in retrospect that a quick, easy victory was always guaranteed, and that we knew ahead of time that risks were minimal.

To continue the analogy using a somewhat different angle, some really, really optimistic folks are so confident the U.S. economy doesn't depend on oil anymore that they argue we could have skipped fighting the war altogether.

-- Y2k was real enough to merit (some@serious.planning), July 26, 2000.

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