John’s Story

Image by Markus Spiske, from Unsplash
Base image by Markus Spiske – Unsplash

It only seems a few years ago when the world was awash with how the all the IT systems, PC’s and Game Consoles were all going to stop on the 1st of January 2000.

Companies were expecting to spend millions on testing and fixing their systems, Government were preparing for everything from nuclear reactors to our water systems just stopping and the world ending.

Harbingers of doom were everywhere.

I was primarily working for a large insurance company that supplied quotation systems to high street Independent Financial Advisors (IFA’s). I was managing a household insurance quotation system that interfaced to a early CRM system which we also wrote, we also had a Motor Insurance system and a Business Insurance system, managed by different teams within the company.

So one day in early 1999, I was asked to assess what was required to be done to make the systems Year 2000 compliant and implement the changes and get it tested. I was given six months to do this.

As I looked at 10’s of thousands of code written in COBOL, I realised this would be a very big job, then I had an idea, the code effectively all in text files, which I could read in code.

So I wrote a program to read through all the source code files, find likely candidates for date fields and report on them. This went very well, then I realised that I could use the same code and get it to alter much of the existing code automatically, and just list what I needed to check.

Instead of 6 months, I had all the changes done in 6 weeks, unit and system tested in another couple of weeks and out to our integration team to test. In the end, my changes were rolled out to the IFA’s in just over 4 months from starting the project.

From my own recollection, while the Y2K problem was quite a potential issue, the dedication of so many in the industry, meant that on the 1st of January 2000, pretty much everything worked without a hitch. Many people today, say it was a massive hype, but it wasn’t, it was down to a lot of people working very hard to ensure nothing went wrong.

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