As I write this, it's 08:42 on New Year's Day, and I'm sitting at my desk in the office. As yet, the Y2K bug has failed to materialise which is thanks, of course, to all the hard work and long hours put in by all of Microsoft's staff and our many colleagues in information technology worldwide over the past ye...oh, hell, who am I trying to kid? As both you and I know, the whole Y2K bug things has had everyone in the computer industry sniggering into our highly-caffeinated soft drinks over the past couple of years, and has succeeded in making us all (and particularly me) a great deal of money.
As you should already be aware, there never actually was a Y2K bug. Operation Chicken Little, as it was reverently named, began life a few years ago, with a bunch of unemployed consultants up here in Seattle. Sitting in a Starbucks, tossing around ideas for employment, they came up with an idea which was breathtakingly elegant in its simplicity: "if there aren't any problems, why don't we cook one up?" They came to me, I put the word out to our terrorist cells (as I like to refer to our overseas offices -- it freaks the Justice Department out). And lo, the Y2K bug was born, swiftly spread by word of email round the globe.
For computer programmers are noted for senses of humour which are so dry that 'Dilbert' is regarded as hideously vulgar, and we all know that computer managers are such technological Neanderthals that they'll swallow anything we tell them with a moderately straight face. Many were the meetings where we sniggered quietly, as prophecies of nuclear meltdown, Armageddon, and vending machine irregularity were bandied about. Full and profitable employment was guaranteed, for anyone who knew the right end of a mouse to push.
The great thing about it is that, like all good myths, it has a germ of plausibility in its core. Difficult it may be to believe, but there was (once upon) a time when computer memory was so scarce that writing 01/01/00 instead of 01/01/2000 was a good thing -- albeit back in the days when you could give a ZX Spectrum agoraphobia by plugging in the 16K expansion pack. However, even any entry-level PC has a mere 130,484,000 bytes or so to play with; on such a machine, no real programmer would be a) conscientious, or b) bored enough to bother faffing around with a couple of bytes here and there. We're far too busy turning Word '97 into bloatware by inserting hidden features involving Pamela Anderson and/or Scottish llamas.
So, for the past couple of years, we've been pretending to "fix" the problem: hell, they want screens to say "2000" instead of "00", it's no skin off our noses. Naturally, having made the changes, we had to document and exhaustively test them (now, that was a stretch, since we never do that normally...actually, if any of our customers bothered to read Microsoft "documentation", they'd realise we haven't done it this time either, but don't tell them that). Cue overtime! Cue weekend work! And, the piece de resistance, the millennium weekend. We sent in our most foreboding prognosticators, to stand and deliver Nostradamiacal forecasts of floods, famines and plagues of locusts. Net result: we all get two weeks wages for four hours work. Oh, how we laughed.
Now, it's important that we continue our deception: as the opening paragraph suggests, the stance we'll take to the outside world is that all our work has paid off, with the transition proving smooth and almost trouble-free. Hell, we actually had to introduce a couple of bugs, it'd have been just too suspicious otherwise. An additional bonus is that is reminds the general public that we professionals are still the masters, the high priests of high-tech, no matter how luser-friendly their Internet provider may be. But God forbid they ever find out it was all a big joke, with them the suckers. They might start buying Linux.
And if anyone has any more ideas for how to screw more cash and/or adulation out of the general public, my number's in the book.