Frankly Speaking: Feeling Cheated?

Are you feeling cheated by the Y2K bug yet? Don't worry - if you're an information technology professional, you will. After all that Y2K work, all the late nights and bleary eyes, the repairing and replacing and testing of things that could have broken when 1999 turned into 2000 - after all that, what you're getting at the end of the road is ... nothing.

Though you won't read this until 10 days after the fact, I'm writing this at just past zero hour. I've watched midnight crawl its way around the globe since New Zealand. What have I got to report? Nothing, not a doggone thing - no real problems to speak of any-where. All the places we thought would have big trouble - Russia, China, all over the Third World - are reporting, well, nothing worth reporting.

No airplanes fell out of the sky. No missiles launched themselves. A few power plants had glitches, but none that weren't spotted and fixed by sharp-eyed technicians.

Civilization didn't end. We didn't plunge into a new Dark Ages. The payoff for the biggest IT challenge in history is a lot of nothing.

OK, maybe that doesn't make you feel cheated. Maybe that makes you feel pretty good, in fact.

But by the time you read this, you've probably already heard a lot of chatter about how all this Y2K hoohah was much ado about nothing.

Some of it will be ribbing from people who know how hard you worked. Maybe they don't think it was all necessary. Maybe they figure you went overboard worrying about what might have gone wrong. But at least it's good-natured.

Some of it won't be so good-natured, though. There are going to be some hard questions from corporate executives who still don't get it. They'll figure you bet wrong. You said the Y2K bug was real, a serious threat. Now that bug turns out to have no bite - and the brass will want to know why you guessed so wrong and threw so much of your company's resources into fighting something that turned out to be a lot of nothing.

That's when you'll feel cheated. Cheated out of the credit you deserve, cheated out of the respect you've earned. Because you got it right - because IT people around the world, and the people who use IT to get the job done, did their jobs so well - nothing went wrong anywhere. And as a result, these clowns will give you credit for exactly ... nothing.

So here's your next assignment: drilling it through those thick executive skulls that not a nickel or a minute of all that money and work to fix this mess was wasted.

We didn't gamble on a catastrophe. We didn't make the wrong bet in choosing between two possible outcomes.

We created this outcome.

All the no-news good news, all the electricity and water and oil that kept flowing, all the systems that didn't collapse - that's what we created. It cost a trillion dollars in cash and maybe twice that in lost opportunities. It took a huge amount of work. And what we've created is a nonevent - so far, at least.

No, it's not over yet. But we've turned zero hour into a lot of Y2K nothing. No fireworks, no explosions, no big deal. And we're going to keep cranking out Y2K nothing, day after day.

So when the know-nothings try telling you it wasn't necessary, it was all a big waste of time and money, don't feel cheated by Y2K.

We're the ones who cheated the bug.

Hayes, Computerworld's staff columnist, has covered IT for more than 20 years.

His e-mail address is

IT didn't lose a bet. IT created the Y2K nonevent.

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