County Voice

County Voice 2019: Issue 5

20 years ago .........


It's twenty years since the Y2K 'bug' threatened all things technological.  Peter Daniels, on behalf of Ruthin Civic Association, looks back in time …….

As December 31st 1999 approached, the potential damage caused by a two- rather than four-digit computer system year field was thought to result in computers resetting 01-01-00 not as January 2000 but January 1900.

This had potentially serious consequences. In the autumn of 1999, press adverts began to appear to try to motivate a sceptical general public at the time by no means au fait with computers. In order to try to convince us, the UK government, via Action 2000, would spend £10m. Was all this a waste of effort? Or did it avert disaster?

In one campaign, they said, “In the last few years, a very powerful little creature has emerged that, according to media reports, is capable of causing planes to fall out of the sky while simultaneously creating havoc with our financial records and including the humble microwave”.

The UK government expected all public organisations to prepare. Preparations for this so-called “millennium bug” on what were then called “microchip-linked systems” had started in 1997. All councils took the bug seriously. So, for example, during 1999, County Hall staff here in Ruthin were testing over 1,300 desktop PCs in offices and schools; 300 computer systems; over 2,500 other pieces of equipment, including heating systems, alarms, traffic lights, lifts and CCTV; and contacting over 7,000 suppliers to ensure they would continue to provide services.

The then Head of Finance warned county councillors that there was no perfect solution. “You would have to close all your schools and services to achieve that”, said Nigel Thomas.

Credit: Ruthin and District Civic Association


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