Thursday, March 23, 2006

What has software engineering learned from the Y2K problem?

In my lectures I mention the y2k problem and year by year more and more students have not heard about it.

Back in 1999 I was certain that the y2k event and all the media it was generating would be important to the dissemination of software engineering. I am not certain that this was the case.

I remember listening to a talk by Ed Yourdon where he mentioned that cars could have problems, elevators, … and so on. I remember a page at Vassar College where students were advised to have flash-lights, cash and food! Anyway, the hype about the problem had generated massive media, as well as huge investments on avoiding the crisis.

The 2000 started and no big event did happen regarding the y2k. Was it a victory of software engineering? I doubt it. I strongly recommend the reading of a report by Prof. Finkelstein. He was one of the few, at the time, that were questioning all the hype about the y2k.

Anyway, back to 2006. In trying to remember what did happen I decided to use my “memory”. I could not find the page at Vassar, but found a page at NC State where there was a list of y2k links. I decided to follow two links that I had visited last century: the U.S. President's Council on Y2k and the U.S. Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem. Both of them were unreachable. However, the way back machine (as suggested by Finkelstein) did come handy.

The archive on the U.S. President Council has a list of lessons learned, but, using the last entrance on the archive, there are several missing links. Fortunately the U.S. DOD report is still available.

Well … we should think about it: what have software engineering learned from the y2k?

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