I cheated and kept this piece from the
screaming sub-editors until after the turn of the (pseudo)
millennium, because I write this on the second day back after
the big event, and there seems to be rather less trouble than
anticipated. Much to the disappointment of TV pundits like the
BBC’s Peter Snow who spent his millennium day standing in
front of a video wall, praying for doom and disaster to turn
his boring old grey map of the world into vibrant red.
So, on the one hand are those £100 an
hour consultants smugly claiming the credit for having got it
right, and on the other we have the cynical customers,
wondering aloud if there was actually anything to get so
excited about. And the answer is, we shall probably never
But even the smug Unix folks have been
caught out with simple PERL script errors giving dates on web
sites like 01/01/19100. Without work, the millennium effect
(let’s not call it a bug) would certainly have been rampant
in systems, and causing all sorts of mayhem, but was it really
worth the alleged £300bn that the UK has paid..?
I share the view that it will be several
months before everything is flushed through all the systems,
and that there will be oddities arising for years to come, but
the most awkward fact of the matter that seems inescapable is
that countries that took a cavalier attitude to the bug
“we’ll fix them as they crop up” have fared no worse
than the UK with it’s £300bn investment in avoiding any bug
manifestations. Incidentally, £300bn seems like an awful lot.
I think that’s actually about 101p in the pound on income
tax if it was taken as a government revenue item. So can that
really be true..? I guess that includes the costs of upgrading
complete systems that were due to be revamped anyway.
So there is about to be a flood of
Millennium consultants back on the contractor market after
their year in tax exile on a beach somewhere in the West
Indies. And just you wait for the hype that will be built up
to celebrate the “real millennium”; I’m certain the IT
industry will have another go at scare mongering – how could
it resist after the startling success of the Y2K bonanza..?
The only millennium bug that got me (like
many others) was the flu, and I suspect that if 30% of the
alleged amount of money the world spent on the Y2K issue was
invested in medical research, we would probably have a viable
flu remedy and a cure for much else besides. So here we are,
just a year away from a new millennium, and we still seem to
have very little sense of proportion in the real world.
Imagine the cost benefits of controlling
something like influenza; something that is extremely
predictable in its deleterious effects (both in cash and
lives), that turns up every year – not just once in a
thousand. In other words, it’s business as usual for the
And now to top it all, the government is funding a task force
to go and do some meteor and comet spotting. Imagine what
would it be worth to the aerospace industry to have this lot
“discover” that there is a one in a thousand chance of
some lump of rock bashing into us, that might be deflected by
the fruits of a space development programme costing, say, £300bn..?
Send for Bruce Willis!