The weeks leading up to December 31, 1999 were fraught with much trepidation. The scare of Y2K had people running into grocery stores to buy bottled water and pulling money out of mutual funds to protect against loss. It was an uncertain time, in a seemingly certain world. When the clock struck midnight, many were surprised when catastrophe did NOT strike. The street lights stayed on, telephones rang, and the internet was accessible. It turned out to not be as big of a deal as everyone had thought it would be.
Why was it such a big deal?
The problem stemmed from the fact that computers would not be able to decipher between 2000 (’00) and 1900 (’00). Many people thought that this would cause interruptions in operating systems and chaos in the business/ governmental/ industrial data.
Y2K: What really happened?
On the back end, Y2K was a bit bigger of a deal. Y2K has been fondly remember by IT professionals as one of the biggest (and most stressful) make-work projects that had to be tackled. Companies spent hours working to correct the time telling capabilities of digital and non-digital situations that practiced abbreviating a four-year digit year to two digits.
Did everything get fixed? Will there be another scare like Y2K? Maybe.
Year 2038 Problem: What we know, what we don’t.
The 2038 problem will occur on March 19th 2038, at 03:14:07 (coordinated universal time). At this point computer servers will reach the largest number representable in a 32-bit integer. Which means that the systems will not be able to decipher between the year 2038 and 1970, and will go into negative counting up from -2,147,483,647 to zero. So what happens then? It’s likely that most systems will not be able to manage this change and will fail. How they will fail is unknown.
Should I be concerned?
While there will, in fact, be a Year 2038 Problem, we do have over two decades to prepare for such an event. Because of this, it is highly unlikely that there will be any serious issues. Furthermore, because it is so far away, many of these old systems will have worn out by this time and have already been replaced.
Yes, there are likely to be serious computer system malfunctions that could cause major shutdowns if not dealt with properly. However, there is no need to lose any sleep over it. Y2K educated us to think ahead of our past technology mishaps and prepare for a future full of technological innovations.