‘Y2K is a great case study’: Durham Region marks the 20-year anniversary of the Y2K scare

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Y2K 20th anniversary
WATCH: As we close the chapter on another decade and look forward to 2020, this year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Y2K scare. Aaron Streck reports. – Dec 31, 2019

As we close the chapter on another decade and look forward to 2020, this year also marks the 20-year anniversary of the Y2K scare.

While the night didn’t live up expectations, there was still a lot to take away in terms of being prepared.

Ringing in the year 2000 was full of anticipation and concern. Coined Y2K, some believed a computer bug would mean the world was going to go dark.

Jeremy Bradbury was a four-year computer science university student at the time.

“A lot of the software in Y2K, it was actually developed in the ’60s and ’70s when people were really concerned about the issue of how much memory they had in computers and storage space,” said Bradbury, now an associate professor of computer science at Ontario Tech University.

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“So they thought using two digits for the year — for example, ’99’ for ‘1999’ — was a way to save half the space.”

Twenty years later, the wold is still here and Bradbury now teaches software engineering courses. But he remembers how the issue dominated the news.

“It was something we heard from our professors, you were seeing a lot on the news, there were a lot of really big headlines in magazines,” Bradbury explained.

He says hundreds of billions of dollars was spent in banks and public sectors around the world to prevent the Y2K problem.

Click to play video: 'Y2K 20th anniversary'
Y2K 20th anniversary

Since the millennium bug scare, computers and software, he said, have come a long way.

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“Y2K is a great case study that we can use to talk about best practices for how we develop software today,” said Bradbury.

Durham resident Heather Bickle also remembers that year.

“It’s bizarre to think that 20 years have passed since that New Year’s,” Bickle said.

Scanning the internet on her phone while waiting for her bus, Bickle says she remembers being 13 years old during the Y2K scare.

“I was kind of disappointed that nothing big happened,” said Bickle. “We were all kind of waiting for some big explosion or all the computers to fry.”

While nothing happened, Y2K is still something that resonates with most people, even two decades later.

“We had a large group of people over and at midnight we all went see nothing to worry about,” said Kym Meiser, Durham Resident.

“[I] didn’t prepare for it at all but I was kind of curious [as] to what would happen,” said Durham resident Walter Dudar.
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For other Durham residents, however, memories are hazy.

“Never heard of it,” said Griffin Oliver.

As the clock ticks towards a new year and decade, Bradbury says we shouldn’t reflect on what could have happened, but instead take away the positives from the scare..

“I think the money that was spent has actually made our software industry better prepared to handle issues in the future,” said Bradbury.

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