Thursday, April 29, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Y2K Bug

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Remember the madness, 21 years ago?

For the uninitiated, we are referring to the presumed computer glitch that sent the world into a tizzy in the run-up to the dawn of 2000.

The fear was that everything that is connected to a network of computers -- like banks, flight schedules, even actual flights, railway networks, all types of factory operations, telecom networks, etc. -- would grind to a halt immediately after the midnight of December 31, 1999.

The basis for this fear was that in computer programs, the year was represented by the last two digits. Like, 94 for 1994, 99 for 1999 etc. When the new millennium would dawn, after 99 it would be 00. Computers, it was feared, would read it as the year 1900. And also, 00 is not one more than 99, and that would disrupt all calendar-related operations.

There were many other software-related issues too. And all those gave rise to a huge global industry trying to reformat dates and calendar data. 

An electronic signboard in France
incorrectly displaying 2000 as 1900
Courtesy: Bug de l'an 2000 
In the late 1990s, big Indian companies like Infosys, Wipro (both Bengaluru-headquartered), TCS etc swung into action to make various systems -- of their Indian as well as their global clients -- Y2K compliant. 

A number of small companies came up in Bengaluru cashing in on the huge global opportunity. Education entrepreneurs jumped into the fray and offered 
short-term courses on this unique problem. 

Companies in the US and Europe turned to India, and in a way that set the stage for the BPO (business process outsourcing) industry. 

"Besides the war room in Bangalore, Infosys set up similar Y2K rooms in Fremont, Calif., and Boston and posted coordinators in Europe and Japan to resolve Y2K issues sent to Infosys by its clients," says this article in Computer World.

According to this paper by Devesh Kapur and Ravi Ramamurti, "By 2000, India's software sector's output had grown to $8 billion and exports had risen to $6.2billion ... The US accounted for nearly 60% of India's software exports, followed by Europe with 23.5% and Japan with just 3.5%."

Of course, nothing of those fears came true. Though there might have been a few cases of not much significance where computers miscalculated the date change.

(Tomorrow, the last post in this series)


  1. One good thing about Y2K is thousands of Indians were able to migrate to USA. (I was not one of them. I came to USA before Y2K)

  2. Most people don't realize that the reason nothing happened after Y2K was because a lot of programmers worked hard to fix it!

  3. Hari OM
    ...remember it well, but isn't it interesting how that now feels like ancient history? A whole generation has come of age since... 8~o
    YAM xx

  4. I second Jeanne's comment. We keep talking about Y2K as if it was a nothingburger, but the truth is the programmers did their job. If they hadn't, things might have been a mess. Sadly, so many of these situations have taught too many people that these things that people worry about will be "no big deal", so they're not getting the attention they need in a timely manner.

  5. I am so realizing my 52 years right now. lol

  6. Oh yes I remember...that's when using K for 1000 became popular ... there were a lot of new job opportunities....a couple of years later there was recession and engineering graduates had a difficult time finding employment

    We have reached till Y!!! Hi Fi for that :)

  7. Well written capturing the hectic times then.

  8. Yeah crazy time :-) Remember also how the world was to end 2012?

  9. Now we know nothing would happen, at least for this century ;) Yep, I remember this sign and others of the like, displaying 1900 instead of 2000!

  10. Hi Pradeep - thanks for reminding us about Y2k ... I rather switched off and decided to see what would happen ... it didn't particularly concern me and I guess I'd have been in the morass of population if things had gone drastically wrong - thankfully things carried on. Excellent Y2K and for the note about the change up ... and India's incredible opportunity that opened the world to the abilities of Bangalore and India in helping the world.
    Stay safe now and I hope India recovers very soon - Hilary