And Now, A Big, Nationwide Y2K Pat on the Back

In the Broadway musical My Fair Lady, there's a scene where Col. Pickering and Professor Higgins launch into a self-congratulatory ditty called "We Did It." In it, they extol their success in converting a common flower girl into a duchess who, just that evening, was successfully introduced into London high society.

Well, gang, year 2000 is here and so are we. The sky didn't fall, mankind continued to pretty much function as it did on Dec. 31, and Y2K was pretty much a bore.

We did it!

The Y2K conversion effort was the largest peacetime effort in U.S. history.

Estimates by Gartner Group put the global cost as high as US$600 billion to $1 trillion as millions of computer techies worked for years to do the impossible.

That helped us eclipse the "man on the moon" project of the 1960s after President Kennedy said, "Americans will pay any price ... bear any burden to put a man on the moon by the end of this decade." We did it in 1969.

In the 1990s, the IT industry paid the price in terms of dollars, hours, days, weeks and even years to ensure that the rollover on Jan. 1 was a noncataclysmic event, and we did it. Don't start pointing fingers at the doomsayers or call them idiots or fools. These people contributed by crystallizing the problem in such a fashion as to scare leaders of industry and government, and they caused lawyers to rub their hands with glee. In so doing, the financial resources and support that were crucial to our momentous success over the New Year were mobilized. Such support wouldn't have been possible otherwise.

When I was asked by the Houston Chronicle why this was a nonevent, I told the reporter that the brightest and best minds over the past 10 years had entered the IT arena, and they were the ones who fixed it. The end result of Y2K is that, unlike many other human endeavors, money and human capital were spent to see to it that nothing happened. Throughout history, these kinds of undertakings have produced significant changes in the course of mankind. As I, like many of you, sat in my data center for 19 hours on Friday, nothing happened. This was a massive effort in avoidance. We did it!

Each and every one of you who reads this column should pause and reflect on your personal effort in what has transpired and, more important, how well you did it.

I doubt that any of us will ever again take part in a common effort of this magnitude. Don't gloss over your accomplishments or lose it in the rush of day-to-day living. This is a moment in history in which each of you was an integral player.

So allow us to revel in a little self-congratulatory "We Did It!"

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