Follow TV Tropes


Millennium Bug
aka: Y 2 K

Go To
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"note  (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.

Here's the background: in the early days of computing, computer memory and disk space was extremely expensive. By comparison, a gigabyte of RAM (roughly 1.4 million kilobytes) for your computer is maybe $15 today, 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 back in 1970, one kilobyte of RAM was about a thousand dollars, a 100-megabyte hard drive (about the size of a dishwasher) might have 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 computer programmers needed to find ways to use less internal RAM and disk space in storing information on a computer. One way to save money was to store dates in short form; so all dates were typically stored internally in six digits (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. However, if you have a date of November 15, 1992 (111592) and 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 not read it as 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 that 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 especially considered 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 potential 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 no AC means heatstroke in many places). There were also other potential scenarios, all worst case. 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 about actual insects (groan-worthy as 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. Aside from a few glitches here and there, not much happened — certainly nothing that could be called "apocalyptic". Nowadays there's a retrospective debate on whether Y2K was blown out of proportion by people looking for an excuse to panic, by the computer industry that was 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,note  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 companies purchasing new hardware sooner than they otherwise would have, leading to a tech boom followed by a bursting tech bubble in the early 2000s. A lot of work in the late 90s went into reprogramming retrograde systems worldwide so that they no longer depended on two-digit years in their dates, meaning there was an extent to which Y2K was as much quietly prevented by coders and developers as it was overhyped by mass media. Regardless of the aftermath, Y2K nonetheless provided an interesting look into the mindset of people who are faced with an oncoming problem of global proportions.

The Millennium Bug is one of the more famous examples of an Overflow Error. 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. 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, refer to the Year 10000 problem, as clocks aren't used to handling five digit year numerals.


    open/close all folders 

  • 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. Turns out 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 commercial 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) and claiming they had been told that pineapple flavor was not Y2K compliant. Consumers were told to vote on changing it to watermelon or strawberry or keeping pineapple, despite the warning. The winner was pineapple, overwhelmingly; clearly, people 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 and passing a reporter announcing that 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 that 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 that Okabe sees.

    Comic Books 
  • The children's comic The Dandy took the concept of the Millennium Bug and anthropomorphized it into a strange insect. The comic had numerous characters interact with it; one Winker Watson story for instance 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 the term "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 after New Year's Eve.
  • A Superman crossover (collected in the "Endgame" trade) had Brainiac seizing the Y2K bug to try and take over the world.
  • An infamous Iron Man storyline 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 believes that if he went past December 31, 1999, his time machine would be destroyed because he downloaded an encyclopedia from that year into his brain; 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 two-part Batman story had him and Fate (Jared Stevens) teaming up 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 lived off the fear that mortals had of the numerous doomsday scenarios suggested by the approach of the new millennium, and would gain enough power to trigger a real apocalypse if not stopped.
  • The Authority featured a rather... different take on the Millennium Bug, with God (here represented as a massive alien superorganism) returning to Earth in the last days of 1999 and trying to reset its environment to the factory defaults, which would render the planet uninhabitable. While the Authority manages to stop it, leader Jenny Sparks succumbs to her own version of the bug - the same powers that have made her nearly god-like for the past eighty-plus years have also doomed her to die on the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2000.
  • MAD had a lot of fun with this.
    • In one Melvin & Jenkins strip, Melvin is appropriately skeptical of claims that the world will end on New Year's Day 2000, but Jenkins does a Groin Attack on a police officer and tells the officer's partner that he can't be arrested, since he was never born.
    • The panic over the Y2K bug was listed as the stupidest event of the year 1999. A brief paragraph mocked the people worrying what will happen, while an illustration shows Times Square descending into chaos during the New Year's Eve celebration.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • In Turning Red, Mei has a sticker on her flute case that says "Y2K-A'OK" in reference to this given that the film takes place in 2002.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Office Space mentions the Y2K bug as one of the reasons that 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 rather than 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 out of 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.
  • And yet another one Y 2 K Terminal Countdown, in which a nuclear missile silo threatens to launch, and the only person with the cancellation code is a long dead Richard Nixon. Oh, and for some reason the silo is completely automated (including defenses) and was built in the middle of the Columbian jungle.
  • An independent horror film called The Millennium Bug (Warning! Screamer Trailer!) is set on the night before Y2K and centers on a family seeking shelter in the mountains from the hypothetical Millennium Bug. The good news is the computer one doesn't seem to be true. Bad news? They end up in a Hillbilly Horrors situation. Worse news? A literal (and gigantic) Millennium Bug awakens from underground to go on a carnage-filled rampage.
  • Entrapment is set on New Year's Eve 1999. A sizeable part of the heist involves computers, so yes, the Y2K bug is mentioned.
  • At the end of the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, the government spies on Bond with an infrared scanner while he's having sex. The newly appointed Q (John Cleese) tactfully kills the feed and says, "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, 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 and informs them that 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 that there really is a God, and the bad news is the world will end next week. Gates returns to Microsoft and holds an employee conference, saying he has good news and great news: the good news is that 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 of their programs. So they announce that with two weeks to go before 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?
  • There was a joke about a response from 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 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 1994 short story "Ship of Fools". 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 novel where all magic in the universe is 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 decides 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 communications in The Dire Saga. It's actually engineered by a group of artificial intelligences 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, 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 in the book, 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."
  • Mentioned in the second chapter of Unimaa to establish quickly that the "present day" is December 1999 - in fact, another similar problem is mentioned as well:
    Lumi: So you're telling me that Dad told you that the real problem to worry about will happen in the year 2038?
    Sami: Yeah. I'm not sure what he meant by that at all. It doesn't make any sense.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A flashback episode of Star Trek: Voyager ("11:59", which premiered 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 aftermath 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 about the villains using this to their advantage.
  • The NCIS episode "Enemies: Domestic" featured a "flashback" to 1999,note  when Vance talks 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, and are subsequently scolded for being too stereotypical.
  • In the first episode of 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 and somehow created a virus (of both the technological and biological kind) capable of bring video games to life. The villains since have spent years 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!
  • An episode of Millennium (1996) managed to combine Y2K and the Columbine incident. Somehow it worked.
  • An episode of Mad About You, had Paul dreaming that Einstein gave him a mathematical formula which he is eventually convinced will solve the Y2K problem.
  • Sid from The Cool Kids mentions that he came out as gay to his wife on New Years' Eve 1999, when he freaked out over Y2K and blurted it out.
  • Oscar in Corner Gas thinks the Millennium Bug could still happen, despite the show airing from 2004 to 2009 and taking place during those years.
  • On a #TBT episode of Life in Pieces, the Short family gathers around for a New Year's Eve party while John, like many people, was under the impression that the Y2K bug would hit at 12:00 AM.
  • In the Cold Case episode "Resolutions", the Victim of the Week and his friends discuss their fears over the Y2K bug before he is killed on New Year's Day 2000.
  • In 1999, Leonard Nimoy presented "The Y2K Family Survival Guide", a documentary/public service announcement/TV special on the bug.
  • The season 2 finale of The Worst Witch (1998 series of course) was titled "The Millennium Bug". While the episode in fact had nothing to do with computer systems, it does involve the head of governors trying to transform the school from a fantasy castle into a Magitek academy. The theme of tradition versus technology was very much feeling the influence of the panic surrounding Y2K.
  • FUBAR: Episode 6 the protagonists end up lockd in a Cold War-era bunker, with the ventilation system also failing so they only have a few hours to escape before they suffocate. They escape by exploiting the fact that the computer that runs the bunker's systems was not booted up since 1989 and thus was never upgraded to deal with the Millennium Bug, causing it to crash once they set the computer's calendar to December 31, 1999 and have it count down to midnight.

  • 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" capitalized on Y2K eighteen years before it happened. Apparently, Prince wanted people to have something to dance to if 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 of "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".
  • Referenced in the music video for Puscifer's "Conditions of My Parole", when Billy D. says he's going to party in the stolen airstream "like it's nineteen ninety... nine."
  • The video for Jennifer Lopez's "Waiting For Tonight" takes place at a New Year's Eve party (it was released in 1999). When the countdown finishes, the power briefly goes out everywhere, before coming back on and into the triumphant last chorus of the song.

  • 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 time travelling from the year 2000 to 1900 because of the Y2K bug.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • A 1996 Dilbert strip featured Dogbert offering to make the company's computers Y2K compliant. It was a scam, as 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 and 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, with Peter drinking from a milk bottle rather than a can of soda and 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 Raw is War, the Countdown appeared on the screen during the Rock's promo on The Big Show. 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, EVER be the same again!"note 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The GURPS supplement GURPS Y2K covers millennial disasters in general (not just the Y2K bug), but was deliberately released with that title as a cash-in in late 1999.
  • 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.
  • A story hook in Demon: The Descent puts forward the idea that the reason the Internet and the global economy didn't collapse is because the God-Machine installed an Angel (called "Y2K") that is constantly adjusting and correcting. Player characters can find the angel and extract some favors from it, but at the risk of distracting from its work.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • 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 features 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 this, 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.
  • DanceDanceRevolution 3rdMIX (1999) gave us End of the Century, complete with lines 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".
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 by freeing violent convicts from jail.
  • Guilty Gear Xrd reveals that the event that led to the banning of technology as we currently know it (known in-universe as "Black Technology") and the subsequent discovery of magic took place at the end of 1999; the "Dawn of Revival" was the attempt of the Universal Will to enter Earth through our communication technologies, resulting in all electronics malfunctioning and widespread natural disasters followed by a period of societal instability until the global adoption of magic.
  • Discussed on the radio in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, which is set in 1998.
  • Hypnospace Outlaw takes place in a simulacra of late 1990s 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 Year's 2000 nonetheless.
  • Math Blaster: 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.
  • Referenced by Max Payne in his unique manner:
    Max: "After Y2K, the end of the world had become a cliché."
  • 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 around the world.
  • In No Umbrellas Allowed, the "Real 20th Century Poster" features Y2K. As it was made before 2000, it's considered to have Archaeological Value in 2080, tripling its base price.
  • The ending of the arcade version of Fatal Fury has the screen display text reading that Geese Howard dies on the date the player beat the game, except that the first two digits for the year are always 19, as showcased in the two playthrough videos from 2008 and 2013.

  • 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 of their nervous systems being 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 that the programmers were forced to skip in order 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 is 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 referenced 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.
  • Since Schlock Mercenary 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, and 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 asks 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 or 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.

  • RinkWorks' Computer 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.

    Web Videos 
  • The Quinton Reviews episode "That Time the World Ended" brings up the Y2K problem, which was fairly well-defined ("computers think it's 1900 and go haywire"), to contrast it with the numerous contradictory Mayan Doomsday predictions.
  • A video by LGR about the Millenium Bug says Y2K was no laughing matter. It was first predicted in 1958 by Bob Bemer, who first ran into the problem doing a geneology program (which had to differentiate between centuries). Peter de Jager wrote an article called Doomsday 2000 in 1993, having brought up the issue since 1980. Finally, companies around the world began to realize that there might be a problem. In 2010, Mr. de Jager said, "The public perception perpetrated by the media that this was a hoax has done a great disservice to the industry. Organizations did not spend $300 billion dollars worldwide because someone 'said' there was a problem. Nobody is that gullible. They spent $300 billion because they tested their systems with '00' dates. And the systems stopped working."

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: The "Treehouse of Horror X" segment "Life's A Glitch, Then You Die" has doomsday on New Year's Day 2000, but the bug is actually caused by Homer's inability to ensure everything went smoothly. It's actually portrayed fairly realistically for a few seconds, with Springfield's clock being reset to 1900, but is followed by almost everything with a computer chip (including traffic lights and even a carton of milk) becoming sentient and attacking humans, eventually leading the world's greatest celebrities to escape and colonize Mars (while all of the world's worst are hurled into the Sun so the gene pool will be free of mediocrity) 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. Of course, the only person capable of making those alterations is the notoriously-lazy Wally, and everyone else has to persuade him to do the upgrade.
  • In Futurama, Fry's father is shown to have a degree of paranoia regarding Y2K (he had previously been obsessed with Dirty Communists).
  • A Cartoon Network short had the cast of The Godzilla Power Hour encountering a personification of the bug as a robotic Kaiju. 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 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, and gives Peggy a grandfather clock as a Christmas present instead of an iMac, as the grandfather clock would still be able to tell time afterwards. The Aesop of the episode is Hank learning not to fear the future.
  • In between episodes of Animaniacs on The WB, Kakko, Wakko and Dot fixed the Y2K bug for the whole network, ensuring you'd still be able 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 on January 1, 2000. Most of which were found in library and movie rental databases, humorously leaving a few people with overdue fines in 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.
  • Italian air traffic control did go a bit funny on New Year's Day 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 new trucks had to be produced several months before the trucks themselves were manufactured. The Y2K upgrades were not yet complete, and the system 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 that day shows how good the upgrades were.
  • Despite what doomsayers said, 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, a number of ATMs run by post offices in Japan stopped working two months into 2000 due to a related issue, creating a minor inconvenience for those needing to withdraw money until the machines were upgraded.
  • While there were no significant problems, many systems that listed a date but didn't actually do any calculations with it just kept right on chugging. For instance, some emergency fire systems kept on going with "1900, 1901, 1902" and so on for years after 2000, because whatever year it is doesn't really factor into setting off the fire alarm when there's smoke or fire or an alarm pull being detected. It did lead to 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 2000. 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 that January 1, 2000 would hit (thanks to the location of the International Date Line) was New Zealand. There was a brief panic starting shortly after midnight NZ time, as people all over the world tried to ping New Zealand to make sure it was still online causing an overload that briefly brought down the country's internet; 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 it to instantly lock up and crash, remaining unusable until the device was hard restarted, the batteries drained, or the date set to January 1, 2009.
    • On that note, the original PlayStation 3 was hit by a similar leap year-related bug on March 1, 2010, which would have been February 29 had it been a leap year. Once again, the problem fixed itself the next day when a valid date was returned.
  • For those tempted to think that the whole thing was a panic over nothing, there were a few notable glitches while various agencies worked to fix the problem that hinted at what could have gone wrong had the problem been ignored. For instance, one community in Texas 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 1,999 years until it 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 — 17 years after Y2K came and proved to be a bust, and five years after the Mayan Doomsday came and also proved to be a bust.
  • Many government-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 utilized by the communications centres and switchboard operators. However, the system 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 it failed on January 1, 2000, processing no call data and refusing to return information or display the directory. Given that it's not humanly possible for a switchboard operator to memorize 3,000 telephone extension numbers or write them all down on paper, the system being replaced was a good thing for those concerned.
  • In an example that actually affected lives, a Y2K error in a Sheffield hospital 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.
  • This is an ongoing problem with GPS. Receivers need to know the time GPS satellites are on, as they used this to track where they are. However, GPS uses the number of weeks since January 6, 1980 as its date, and this is stored as a 10-bit value. So the maximum number of weeks since this epoch can be is 1023, which rolls over roughly every 19.6 years. For a number of technical reasons, the satellites can't be updated to fix this. Instead, the GPS receiver software has to either know to account for the rollover, or be updated to the new epoch. The first such rollover was August 21-22, 1999, the most recent one was April 6-7, 2019, and the next one will be November 20-21, 2038.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Y 2 K


Y2K from This is SportsCenter

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 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / MillenniumBug

Media sources: