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Millennium Bug
aka: Y 2 K

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"They say two thousand zero-zero, party over, oops, out of time
So tonight, we're gonna party like it's nineteen ninety-nine"
Prince, "1999"

Supposedly, on January 1, 2000, the world was going to be destroyed by a computer glitch known as the "Millennium Bug" (also referred to as "Y2K" or the "Year 2000 problem"). This bug involved numerous computer systems misinterpreting the year 2000 as 1900, resulting in planes falling out of the sky, satellites going wrong and all the calculators going to silicon heaven; the most extreme fears involved an accidental nuclear war, or even machines coming to life and attacking humans like something out of The Terminator. Most of the actual problems were just cosmetic, such as programs displaying the year after "1999" as "19100," or desktop internal clocks resetting to 1981 as a crash-preventing exception.

What had happened was, computer memory and disk space was extremely expensive. By comparison, today a gigabyte of RAM (roughly 1.4 million kilobytes) for your computer is maybe $15, and a two-terabyte (about 20,000 times 100 megabytes) hard drive (about the size of two packs of playing cards) might be $100 or less. But go back to 1970, and one kilobyte of RAM is about a thousand dollars, a 100-megabyte hard drive (about the size of a dishwasher) might cost $12,000, and replacement disk packs (a foot high and the circumference of a dinner plate) were around $800 (for comparison, a brand-new VW Beetle was just under $2,000). So they needed to find ways to use less internal RAM and less disk space in storing information on a computer. One way to save money was to store dates in a short form. So, typically all dates were stored internally as six digits (and punctuation was added at display time), so November 27, 1960 was coded as 112760. Now, a month later you can get by adding 1 to the second digit. The new date is later than the original one. Now, however, say you have a date of November 15, 1992 (111592), and you add eight years to it, you get 111500 or 111600, depending on how it's stored, which, if the program wasn't prepared for it, would consider it not 2000, but 1900. Either the difference between the two is a negative amount, or instead of eight years' difference being computed, 92 years are computed. The issue here is, if you bought something and charged it to your credit card on the last week of 1999, and your bill came in a month later, you might get billed for 99 years of compound interest at 21%! It'd be like the Evil Counterpart of the Compound Interest Time Travel Gambit.


This was considered most serious in the case of process software. Say you're cooking chemicals in a plant that runs 24/7, where you have to heat a batch for exactly 37 hours at 1200 degrees, then move to the next process, when the calendar turns over, either the batch gets kicked out too soon, or it sits in too long and potentially explosions could occur, or perhaps a batch of something that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to make (and would have been sold for several million) is ruined. Or a system checks the date, realizes it's been running for 99 years with no maintenance, and shuts itself down for safety. If it happens to be the equipment that runs the electricity for your grid, you've got no power in the middle of winter (or summer in the Southern Hemisphere: which is just as bad, if not worse, since at least you can heat your house without power; air conditioning pretty much needs electricity, and in many places, no AC means heatstroke). There were also other potential scenarios, all bad. Of course, planes, satellites and calculators didn't do that, much to the joy of aviators, astronomers, and calculus students. But the bug was an opportunity for writers to come up with doomsday stories, and a few of them even wrote of actual insects (groan-worthy though that may sound). Some newspapers even had a weekly column in their tech section throughout 1999, detailing how things were going in the battle against the bug.


Finally, January 1, 2000 arrived, and aside from a few glitches here and there, not much happened. Certainly nothing that could be called "apocalyptic." Thus, there is now a retrospective debate as to whether Y2K was blown out of proportion by people looking for an excuse to panic, by the computer industry who were looking to sell people upgrades to their hardware and software with the promise of Y2K compatibility, or by people looking for an excuse to damn the demon computer, or if the disaster was indeed a possibility and was only averted by thousands of man-hours of programmers (mostly COBOL, which isn't really used for safety-critical software) working tirelessly to avoid a technological apocalypse. Although some dangers such as "planes falling out of the sky" were pretty much fabricated (the only real possibility for that is if said plane was taking off or landing and the computer crashed; if it were cruising in the air the pilots would have plenty of time to switch to manual control and fly it themselves if needed), the effects on the economy of a plausible worst-case scenario would still have been immeasurable. In addition, the Y2K preparations also had the effect of causing a lot of companies to rethink their emergency plans, helping them get back on their feet faster after events like 9/11 and the 2003 Northeast US blackout. The fears over the bug did lead to many companies purchasing new hardware before they otherwise would have, leading to a tech boom followed by a bursting tech bubble in the early 2000s. Regardless of the aftermath, Y2K nonetheless provides an interesting look into the mindset of people who are faced with an oncoming problem of global proportions.

Funnily enough, just when people started to relax when the transition from 1999 to 2000 came to pass and nothing really major happened to computers across the globe, something actually did come along and wreak havoc on computers worldwide: the ILOVEYOU virus, or the "Love Bug", as it came to be misremembered.

For the sequel to the Bug itself, watch for the Year 2038 problem (when the UNIX system time integer exhausts its 32 bits). Fortunately, by that point, we'll certainly be using 64-bit time;note  however, many embedded systems still use 32-bit time as of now. However due to increasingly rapid change of digital technology, especially on embedded systems, they tend to be replaced for low prices (or in the case of offline museum material, have the time rewinded). And if you're willing to wait much longer, see the Year 10000 problem, as clocks aren't used to handling five digit year numerals.


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  • Kia motors took advantage of the hype by turning the acronym into their "Say Yes to Kia" event, in one commercial stressing how much more sense it made to invest in a new car instead of an underground bunker to survive Y2K. They were right.
  • A "This is SportsCenter" promo on ESPN features a Y2K test. Mayhem ensues.
    Charley Steiner: "Follow me! Follow me to FREEDOM!"
  • Raid, marketed itself as "the official killer of the Millennium Bug".
  • A Nike ad had a jogger calmly going on his morning jog on January 1, 2001 as chaos reigns around him — everything from escaped zoo animals to a rogue missile.
  • In 1999, Nabisco held a commercial with an online poll, proposing a new flavor for Life Savers for the first time in the candy’s 65-year history, claiming they had been told that pineapple was "not Y2K compliant". Consumers were told to vote whether to change it to watermelon or strawberry, or keep pineapple, despite the warning. The winner was pineapple, overwhelmingly; clearly, folks who liked Life Savers the way it was weren't impressed by doomsayers.
  • A commercial for Polaroid's PopShots instant camera shows a man running through Times Square seconds before midnight on December 31, 1999, looking for an ATM while passing a reporter announcing the Y2K bug still threatens bank disruptions and computer failure. He takes a picture of his balance of $342.63 just before the bug hits and cuts power to the machine. At the end of the commercial, the ATM comes back on and shows the balance has now become $46,674,942.63. After a second of shock, he takes another picture and walks away with a large grin.

    Anime And Manga 
  • In Yami No Aegis, Koumoto Youji was originally hired to prevent damage from it.
  • Steins;Gate has this happen in some of the timelines Okabe sees.

    Comic Books 
  • The children's comic The Dandy took the concept of the 'Millennium Bug' and anthropomorphised it as a strange insect. The comic had numerous characters interact with it — one story involved a robotic teacher being destroyed by a student handing in a photocopy of the bug as homework.
  • Promethea has one of these, with the added bonus that the bug affects a very popular intelligent material called Elastagel, which is used in everything including clothing. It gives a whole new meaning to "fashion victim" when your own pants turn on you.
  • The DCU had a massive in-universe effort to make all of their cyborg and robotic superheroes "Y2K Compliant". Unfortunately, they forgot Robotman, whose WWII-era robotic body went on a rampage just after New Year's.
  • A crossover in Superman (collected in the "Endgame" trade) had Brainiac seizing the Y2K bug to try to take over the world.
  • An infamous storyline in Iron Man has one of the eponymous heroes' armors gaining sentience partly due to the Y2K bug, and going on a rampage of sorts. It was later RetConned into his armor being infected by Ultron.
  • In the "Temporal Insanity" issue of PS238, time traveling superhero Captain Chronos believed that if he went past December 31, 1999, his time machine would be destroyed because he downloaded a 1999 encyclopedia into his brain, and apparently, it didn't explain the Y2K bug very well. He did note that Tyler (from 2005 or so) did not look particularly post-apocalyptic.
  • One Batman two-part story had him and Fate (Jared Stevens), teaming to fight the insane false prophet Malochia, who had been possessed by an Eldritch Abomination that Fate called "the Spirit of 2000." According to Fate, this being fed off the fear mortals had of the numerous doomsday scenarios suggested by the coming of the new millennium, and if not stopped, would gain enough power to trigger a real apocalypse.

  • Office Space mentions the Y2K bug as one of the reasons the company won't be looking close enough at their finances to notice the protagonists' plan taking place. Based on one of his conversations with Joana, Y2K preparedness was apparently a big part of Peter's job at Initech. The movie was filmed before all the hysteria set in, so Y2K is portrayed as a boring bit of minutiae, not a global catastrophe.
  • There was a made-for-TV movie about it. The first hint of trouble comes when an airliner crosses the international date line on December 31, and promptly falls from the sky.
  • There was also Y2K Year to Kill, an After the End movie that goes back and forth between So Bad, It's Good and utterly awful.
  • An independent horror film called The Millennium Bug (Warning! Screamer Trailer!) is set the night before Y2K and centers around a family seeking shelter in the mountains from the hypothetical Millennium Bug. Well, good news is the computer one doesn't seem to be true. Bad news? Turns out a literal (and gigantic) Millennium Bug awakens from underground to go on a carnage-filled rampage.
  • Entrapment is set on New Year's Eve in 1999. A sizeable part of the heist involves computers, so yes, this is mentioned.
  • In the final scene of the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, the government looks in on Bond with an infrared scanner that reveals he's having sex. The newly appointed Q (John Cleese) tactfully kills the feed and comments, "It must be a premature form of the millennium bug."
  • A Walk Among the Tombstones is updated from the early Nineties in the novel, to 1999 in the film with the attendant Y2K apocalyptic hype, perhaps to show the World Half Empty of the Anti-Hero isn't so bad as he thinks.

  • God calls Bill Gates, Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton for an urgent message. He informs them the world will end next week and they are to relay a message to their people. Yeltsin goes back to Russia and says there is bad news and terrible news — the bad news is there really is a God, and the terrible news is the world will end next week. Clinton holds a press conference in Washington and says there is good news and bad news — the good news is there really is a God, and the bad news is the world will end next week. Bill Gates returns to Microsoft and holds an full employee conference, saying he has good news and great news. The good news is God knows what a wonderful, important person he is, and the great news is they don't have to worry about fixing the millennium bug!
  • Programming staff at a large company is told that they need to implement the Y2K fix for the calendar in all their programs. So, they announce that with two weeks to go before January 1, 2000, all of the programs have had the change made, and now when any program prints out the first month of the year, it will print out "Januark", "Februark", etc. And by the way, is the company going to fix the problem of all the improperly formatted six digit dates in the programs it's running?

  • The subject of the Doctor Who Past Doctor Adventures novel Millennium Shock. Of course, in this case, there are aliens involved.
  • Arthur C. Clarke's The Ghost from the Grand Banks, set 20 Minutes into the Future, features a protagonist who made a fortune writing and selling anti-Y2K software to everyone. The book was published in 1990, years before any popular scrutiny of the phenomenon. (It's termed "century syndrome" as the name "Y2K" hadn't been coined yet.)
  • Charles Stross, having been employed in various sectors of the IT industry before making it big as a writer, was another early pioneer of this trope with the short story "Ship of Fools" from 1994. He also correctly predicted that the problem would get blown totally out of proportion in the popular press and end up being an anticlimax.
  • There was a Sabrina the Teenage Witch tie-in novel where all magic in the universe was on the verge of disappearing because a giant clock in the Other Realm would stop working at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Day 2000. After hearing about how computer programmers were getting around the Y2K bug by writing new code, Sabrina decided to build a new clock by gathering several artifacts from famous people throughout history.
  • This is thought to be the cause of worldwide loss of broadcast power and thereby communications in The Dire Saga. It's actually engineered by a group of artificial intelligences who were attempting to pin down a separate set of artificial intelligences to be killed.
  • For those interested, as of 2017, one can still buy Y2K survival guides from Regnery Publishing.
  • Dave Barry's History of the Millenium parodies this with the Y1K bug: the bottom falling out of a peasant's dung bucket.
  • In 1998, author Jason Kelly published ''Y2K: It's Already Too Late," a novel positing that the impending catastrophe was real and there was nothing we could do to stop it. At one point, the American military invades and captures a heroic IT company that had managed to find a workaround for their own systems.
  • In Sisterland, Kate is worried about this, but Vi tells her, "That Y2K stuff is bullshit. My meditation group was talking about it, and we've all gotten messages that the transition will be peaceful."

    Live-Action TV 
  • One flashback episode of Star Trek: Voyager ("11:59", which aired in 1999) has Janeway's ancestor quip that the bug didn't even turn off a light bulb.
  • The My Name Is Earl episode "Y2K" has the characters reminiscing about their experience directly after the millennium, where they lived in the local supermarket believing themselves to be the only survivors of the millennium bug.
  • Referenced in Torchwood during a flashback to 1999, as Jack talks about encountering one that had "18 legs stacked with poison!"
  • One of the modern day episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess reveals that the bug was yet another plot by Ares to get Xena back on his side. With the world in ruins, a hero like her would be needed again, so she'd want to be as strong as possible.
  • The Famous Jett Jackson's Show Within a Show Silverstone had an episode revolving around the villains using this to their advantage.
  • The NCIS episode "Enemies: Domestic" featured a "flashback" to 1999note  of Vance talking about getting the office computers ready for Y2K.
  • Referenced in Alias when Sydney and Vaughn go undercover as Russian spies preparing for a mission as Deep Cover Agents in America. During a party, they make small-talk and reference the Y2K bug. They are subsequently scolded for being too stereotypical.
  • In the first episode of Fox's Opposite Sex, there's an announcement at a school assembly that the school is now "Y2K Compliant." This would have been just a passing reference if the show had debuted in the fall of 1999 as planned; but since it was delayed until the summer of 2000, it became instantly Hilarious in Hindsight.
  • One episode of Sports Night had Jeremy crash the studio's computer system during a Y2K compliance test.
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid manages to make Y2K a plot point in 2017, nearly two decades after the scare. When the subject is brought up, the protagonists comment that nothing really happened, only to be informed that it's actually the cause of the current threat: it affected a server at a video game company, somehow creating a virus (of both the computer and biological kind) that can bring video games to life. The villains have spent the years since experimenting with this virus and its Reality Warping capabilities, including infecting a Patient Zero to have it incubate for a decade.
  • One episode of Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego took this even further when Dr. Belljar was worrying over this:
    Dr. Belljar: Bad news, Carmen: My processors think 1999 will be followed by the year 0!
  • A Season Three episode of Millennium managed to combine Y2K and the Columbine incident. Somehow, it worked.
  • In Mad About You, an episode had Paul dreaming that Einstein gave him a mathematical formula, which he is eventually convinced that will solve the Y2K problem.
  • Sid from The Cool Kids mentions that he came out as gay to his wife on New Years 1999. He freaked out over Y2K and blurted it out.
  • Oscar from Corner Gas thinks the Millennium Bug could still happen, despite the show running from 2004 to 2009 and taking place during those years.
  • In a #TBT episode of Life in Pieces the Short family gathers around for a New Year's Eve party while John, like so many people, was under the impression that the Y2K bug was going to hit at 12:00 AM.
  • On the Cold Case episode "Resolutions", the Victim of the Week and his friends discussed their fears over the Y2K bug before he was killed on New Year's Day 2000.

  • The Capitol Steps song "Why Must I Be The Millennium Bug?"
  • In late 1999, Hank Williams Jr. rewrote his Signature Song "A Country Boy Can Survive" and got Chad Brock and George Jones to help him sing it. It was actually titled "A Country Boy Can Survive (Y2K Version)", and it naturally plummeted from the singles charts in January 2000.
  • "Meanwhile Back at the Ranch" by The Clark Family Experience, which came out in 2000, contains the line "Big computers on the blink / Y2K, what a stink / It'll bring the city to the brink, but not out here…"
  • Idioteque by Radiohead.
  • Y2K is referenced in the Deltron 3030 song "Virus":
    I want to develop a super virus
    better by far than the old Y2K.
    This 3030 the time of global unification.
  • Prince's megahit "1999," quoted above, capitalized on Y2K thirteen years before it happened. Apparently, he wanted the people to be ready with something to dance to as the world came to an end.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's 1999 single "All About the Pentiums" references the Y2K bug in one line: "I ain't afraid of Y2K."
  • The original lyrics to "Blank File" by Sonata Arctica refer to the Y2K bug: "You're a slave among the slaves, waiting for Y2K with a fear". For the Ecliptica album remake, the word was changed to the more general "future".

  • Some newspapers milked this for all they could by having a weekly "Countdown to Y2K" column in the tech section.
  • During The '90s, a popular science magazine published an article about this issue, that started with a short joke history about a modern man being TimeTravelled from the year 2000 to 1900 because of the Y2K bug.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One Dilbert strip from 1996 featured Dogbert offering to make the company's computers Y2K compliant. It was a scam: he outright told the Pointy-Haired Boss that the fix was only guaranteed for one year. The PHB still turned him down: "Why should I care? The year 00 is before I was born."
    • Bob the Dinosaur was introduced as a COBOL programmer brought out of retirement to fix the Y2K bug.
    • Also came up when Dogbert posed as a doomsday prophet. He told people that 2000 would be the end of the world because It's big and round!
    • The Animated Adaptation had an entire episode on the subject, as listed below.
  • FoxTrot, written by a tech-savvy author, had a lot of fun with this. One strip in particular has Jason and Peter discussing it, and Peter remarks "What's the worst that could happen in a comic strip?"; in the last panel, everything's shifted to 1900 (Peter drinking from a milk bottle rather than a can of soda, Jason reading an article about the Wright Brothers).
    • Rose is Rose had a similar sequence where Rose's mind briefly shifted everything to 1900.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In the summer of 1999, WWE started airing vignettes featuring a "Countdown to the Millennium". On the August 9 episode of WWF Raw is War, during the Rock's promo on The Big Show, the Countdown appeared on the screen. When it ended, pyro went off and Chris Jericho debuted. In Jericho's promo, he called himself the "new millennium for the WWF", and ended by saying, "The new millennium has arrived in the WWF and now that the Y2J problem is here, this company, from the front office idiots to all the amateurs in the dressing room, including this one [pointing at The Rock], to everybody watching tonight will never, E-E-EVER be the same again!" "Y2J problem" was later simplified to "Y2J".

    Tabletop Games 
  • The GURPS supplement GURPS Y2K covers millennial disasters in general, not just the Y2K bug — but it was deliberately released as a cash-in, late in 1999, with that title.
  • Palladium Books produced Systems Failure, yet ANOTHER post-apocalypse game in the late-90s, which dealt with both the software and literal versions of bugs appearing and wreaking havoc.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Digimon:
    • Apparently, the vaguely-insectoid character Millenniummon (a time-traveling being with the power to destroy time) is supposed to be a personification of the bug. This is likely, as the game which introduced the character was released in December 1999.
    • Diaboromon, who was created by Millenniummon, also fits.
  • Referenced by Max Payne in his unique manner:
    Max: "After Y2K, the end of the world had become a cliche."
  • In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, the bug was used as an excuse for the Patriots to implant a secret code into major computing systems all over the world.
  • The "plot" of Fighting Force actually plays with this: The Mad Scientist Big Bad is pissed when the clock rolls over on New Year's and nothing happens, so he decides to make something happen by instigating anarchy in the streets via freeing violent convicts from jail.
  • Discussed on the radio in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, set in 1998.
  • Math Blaster Episode I: In Search of Spot actually has the Y2K bug in it. The printable certificate you receive at the end of your mission gives the date, which will be "1912" if you completed it in 2012. Considering the game was made in 1994, making the decade digit changeable was a total waste of effort.
  • The original Backyard Baseball also contains a Y2K bug. Upon beating the game, your name will be entered into the Hall of Fame with a date on the achievement as well, with the date written in a MM/DD/YY format. If an award is obtained and your computer's internal clock is any day past 1999, it will instead read as MM/DD/(Year-1900). So, if you won it on, say, January 15, 2003, it would read as 1/15/103. Curiously, the team photo doesn't suffer from any such bug, correctly displaying the year as "20XX Team Photo". Even more oddly, the record book also doesn't have this problem, despite using the exact same date format as the Hall of Fame!
  • The plot of Fading Hearts makes reference to the Y2K bug having actually wreaked chaos and destruction around the world, to the point that the main character is one of many Y2K orphans. Despite that, it seems to have had no effect on society or technology, serving more as a Hand Wave for why the characters don't have any parents.
  • Dance Dance Revolution 3rdMIX gave us End of the Century, complete with line such as, "Some people think the Year 2G is so [scary], let's wait and see/The World will [shut] down, most won't admit".
    • Yes, DDR 3rdMIX was released in 1999.
  • Fallout 76 has an example that straddles the line between being a Video Game example and a Real Life example. When 2019 rolled around, the nuke silos locked up with a countdown timer of 9,999 hours (over a year) along with some other bugs related to the nuclear silos. The nuclear silos normally lock after use and then unlock after a set period of time. However, there was a problem within the programming of the game where it wasn't prepared for the new calendar year, causing the silos to be locked indefinitely. This problem has since been patched out of the game.
  • Hypnospace Outlaw takes place in a simulacra of late 1999's internet, so this eventually comes up as a plot point; a late chapter of the game takes place on New Year's Eve. The date bug isn't a problem at all, but other dire issues make themselves clear on New Years 2000 nonetheless.

  • In Kid Radd, the Big Bad is the Seer, a virus that was set to go off at the start of 2000 (but decided not to do so, in favor of a grander scheme). While not the same as this bug, the inspiration is clear.
    • It's subtly implied that his creator created them specifically to make the Y2K bug real, along with calling them "Cool Ragnarok".
  • After Y2K. Obviously. The world becomes a Mad Max wasteland after the Y2K bug destroys civilization, ultimately leading to the reinvention of all technology based on vacuum tubes instead of integrated circuits. The final plot arcs of the series involved the Techno-Talking Babes using Time Travel to transmit an "inoculation" against the bug to the internet of 1999, and author Arthur C Clarke taking the world hostage with his "Real Millennium Bug" — an attack which shut down all mechanical devices — in order to force the world to acknowledge that the Millennium didn't really start until 2001 (Which millennium is the "real" one has nothing to do with the Y2K bug: Clarke was just being pedantic.)
  • Sluggy Freelance
    • Torg and Zoë once tried taking a time machine into the future to see if Y2K would affect beer distribution. Unfortunately, the time machine itself was not Y2K compliant, so they ended up somewhere in the Middle Ages instead.
    • When the year 2000 began, most of the main characters fell into comas. This turned out to be because their nervous systems had been infected with otherwise harmless nanites that suffered from the Y2K bug.
  • xkcd alluded to this.
  • In General Protection Fault, the entire team was forced to spend New Year's Eve at the office in case their servers had a problem due to Y2K The arc was more about the party the programmers were forced to skip to show up and the fact that they got snowed in for a couple days afterwards than the Y2K bug itself - everything started up perfectly.
  • One of the early central plots of Kevin & Kell was that Y2K was a cover set up by the birds to disguise their intentions to reprogram the computers to run the world in their place.
  • Real Life Comics had a little fun with this. The gang was geared up for a gaming marathon on New Year's Eve to laugh at those overly worried, only for the last panel to go dark. In the next strip, it turned out the fuse just blew and they geared up to play, only for it to end with going dark again when midnight actually rolled around. Negative Continuity brought it all back to normal the next day.
  • Briefly references in Avalon when the usual New Year's Eve party goes out. Like the Real Life Comics example above, it turned out to be just an electrical error rather than the bug.
  • In The Suburban Jungle Dover arranged for Tiffany to get hired as a Y2K debugger. When she pointed out that she had no idea how to fix it he explained that the Y2K Bug is just a scam to ensure job security for programmers.
  • Penny Arcade also had some fun with this.
  • Schlock Mercenary: Since the comic takes place a thousand years in the future, the characters are missing some key details. One person says that "secret government ad agencies killed the internet;" another says that no one knows what happened, since the internet was broken. There is an actual historian who could probably set them straight, but no one asked her.
  • In Absurd Notions, Warren's boss decides to take no chances and tries to order all his employees to spend a month-long vigil around the millenium shift camped out in the office, so they can be ready to act if and when disaster strikes. Warren (being a competent sysadmin) insists that he's taken all precautions well ahead of time and that they're safe, but the boss won't budge. It's not until he threatens to resign that the boss relents.

  • RinkWorksComputer Stupidities has a Y2K section. Many of the anecdotes involve someone worrying that devices with no date-related systems will somehow go haywire on January 1, 2000. There are also two stories about actual Y2K bugs that occurred in "Success! No Y2K bugs!" bulletins.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror X" has doomsday on New Year's Day 2000, but the bug was actually caused by Homer's inability to ensure everything went smoothly. It was actually portrayed fairly realistically for a few seconds, with Springfield's clock being reset to 1900. This was followed by almost everything with a computer chip (including traffic lights and a carton of milk) going wrong and attacking humans, eventually causing all of the world's brightest minds to evacuate Earth and colonize Mars (while all of the world's idiots are hurled into the Sun so the gene pool will be free of stupidity), as Earth descends into nuclear war.
  • The Family Guy episode "Da Boom" has the Griffin family getting ready to celebrate New Year's Eve, but Peter groups them all into a shelter he built, believing the Y2K stories. It turns out to be true, as the bug causes every nuclear missile in the world to launch and destroy civilization.
  • The Dilbert cartoon had an episode about the company trying to prepare for the bug.
    • Of course, despite the doomsday preparations by some characters, the episode does portray Y2K fairly realistically. The only reason it's even an issue for Dilbert's company at all is because everything is dependent on the one computer that isn't Y2K compliant, an exceedingly old, COBOL-running mainframe that, in a move that even the Pointy-Haired Boss himself admits was stupid and short-sighted, didn't get replaced when it should have been. Fixing it was merely a matter of going in and making some minor alterations on certain lines of code.
  • In Futurama, Fry's father is shown to have a degree of paranoia regarding the "Y2K" (previously he'd been obsessed with Dirty Communists).
  • An old Cartoon Network short had the cast of The Godzilla Power Hour encountering a personification of the bug. Captain Majors tries to use his signal device to summon Gozilla, but it's been rendered inoperable by the bug.
  • King of the Hill dealt with this as well in the episode "Hillennium", in which usually-sensible Hank catches Dale's paranoia and begins working with Dale and a hardcore survivalist to prepare for the event, including buying a Grandfather Clock for Peggy for Christmas instead of an iMac, because the Grandfather Clock would still be able to tell time afterwards. The Aesop of the episode is Hank learning not to fear the future.
  • On The WB in 1999, between episodes of Animaniacs, Kakko, Wakko, and Dot fixed the Y2K bug for the whole network, ensuring that you could continue to watch them every Mondak, Tuesdak, Wednesdak, Thursdak, Fridak, and Saturdak.

    Real Life 
  • Despite the rampant fears, there were very few incidents of computer failure, most of which were found in library and movie rental databases, humorously leaving a few people with overdue fines in the tens of thousands of dollars. Not for lack of much blood, sweat and tears on the part of coders and sysadmins the world over as software patches were rolled out throughout the final quarter of 1999. At least the overtime must have come in handy for the Christmas shopping— Hey, wait a minute... Son of a bitch!
  • Italian air traffic control did go a bit funny on the 1st January 2000, causing cancellation of roughly 10% of flights and redirection of another 20%.
  • One of the worst problems that actually happened occurred in one state's vehicle registration system. For technical reasons, registration documents for some new trucks had to be produced several months before the actual trucks were. The Y2K upgrades were not yet complete, and the system really thought the trucks were made in 1900 and produced documents with an unusual vehicle type designation used only for vehicles made before 1914. The fact that this was one of the worst things to actually happen shows how good the upgrades were.
  • Despite the doomsayers, banks were never in any real danger. The only reason a bank wouldn't have fixed the issue in 1975, when programs to generate 25-year documents started producing garbage was because they had already fixed it when programs that generated 30-year documents started doing it in 1970. However, the other Wiki says that a number of post-office run ATMs in Japan ceased working upon rolling into the year 2000, creating a minor inconvenience for those needing to withdraw money until those machines were upgraded.
  • While there were no problems, many systems that listed a date but didn't actually do any calculations with it just kept right on chugging. For instance, some building emergency fire systems kept on going with "1900, 1901, 1902" and so on for years after 2000, because what year it is doesn't really figure into setting off the fire alarm when there is smoke or fire, or an alarm pull being detected — it did cause a few jokes about how the fire department might send a period-specific fire vehicle, like a horse-drawn pumper with a dalmatian.
  • As it would later be with the Mayan Doomsday in 2012, survival outfitters did booming business in the months leading up to it. There was a last minute run on essentials at grocery stores (people tend to freak out before snowstorms, too), but this was expected so most stores had planned for it.
  • When midnight rolled around on December 31, 1999, the first technologically advanced nation it would hit (thanks to the location of the International Date Line) was New Zealand. There was a brief panic starting shortly after midnight, New Zealand time, as people all over the world tried to ping New Zealand to make sure it was still online — causing an overload that brought down New Zealand's internet briefly. It was back up by about ten past midnight, much to everyone's relief.
  • The first generation Zune, Microsoft's competitor to the iPod, was hit by a Y2K-esque bug when the date rolled over to December 31, 2008,note  causing the music player to instantly lock up and crash, and remain unusable till the device was hard restarted, the batteries drained, or the date rolled over again.
    • On that note, the early model PlayStation 3 was hit by a similar leap year-related bug in 2010.
  • For those tempted to think the whole thing was a panic over nothing, there were a few notable glitches while various agencies worked to fix the problem that hint at what could have gone wrong had the problem been ignored. One community in Texas, for instance, had a surprise when the utilities department set its clocks ahead for a test run in 1999. Somewhere along the line, a timer controlling the sewer system's automated flow controls hadn't yet gotten the memo about the new date format, and thus sat patiently counting down the 1999 years until it next needed to open the release valves while a public park experienced a minor flood of raw sewage.
  • The US government still required that its agencies report on their Y2K preparedness as late as 2017! That is, 17 years after Y2K came and proved to be a bust, and five years after the Mayan Doomsday itself came and also proved to be a bust.
  • Many goverment-run hospitals in Western Australia used a system called T.I.M.S. (Telephone Information Management System) to - just as it says on the tin - manage their telephone systems. It allowed for monitoring, billing and directory services which were utilised by the Commmunications Centres and Switchboard operators. The systems was identified as being non-Y2K-compatible and was replaced. At least one hospital kept theirs running (in parallel with the replacement system) just to see what would happen, and on January 1, 2000, it failed, processing no call data and refusing to return information or display the directory. Since it is not humanly possible for a switchboard operator to memorise 3,000 telephone extension numbers and writing them all down on pieces of paper would have been impractical, it was a good thing for all concerned that the system was replaced.
  • In an example that actually affected lives, in a Sheffield, UK hospital, a Y2K error caused an algorithm used in estimating Down's Syndrome risk for expectant mothers to malfunction (due to miscalculating the ages of the mothers), affecting 154 pregnant women before it was caught. As a result, two abortions were undertaken that otherwise wouldn't have been, and four babies with Down's Syndrome were born to mothers that had been told they were low-risk.
  • There was a joke about a response from the conservative Republicans:
    The Republican caucus had a meeting the other day and we’ve solved the problem of the Y2K bug. You see, when the computers can’t recognize the year 2000, they flip back to 1900, and we like it better that way.
  • The July 7, 2020 outage of TV Tropes occurred thanks to a similar issue. A firmware flaw in San Disk LT 0400 MO drives resulted in servers shutting down after exactly 40,000 hours of use. This caused 6 of the 8 servers TV Tropes used at the time to fail.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Y 2 K


"Y2K" from This is SportsCente

A commercial for ESPN's SportsCenter, poking fun at the Millennium Bug and its supposed effects. ESPN tests its Y2K system compliance, only to have all of its electronics shut down. Panic ensues.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / MillenniumBug

Media sources:

Main / MillenniumBug