Y2K precautions: successful or excessive?
January 2, 2000
From staff and wire reports
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Y2K monitors are all but declaring victory over the millennium bug and critics are wondering if fears of widespread power outages, communication breakdowns and general havoc were overblown.
"We've made it look too easy in many ways because it has been the success it has," said John Koskinen, President Clinton's appointed Y2K chief. "Maybe we did our job too well," he said.
The United States government spent $8.8 billion dollars on Y2K fixes. Private U.S. businesses shelled out an estimated $100 billion dollars to prepare for the bug.
Worldwide, Koskinen said that a half-trillion dollars had been spent to ward off Y2K computer problems.
Some critics are now wondering if the price tag was too high.
"Can we get a refund?" asked a writer for the Sydney Morning Herald.
"We've been had," said a visitor to the online chat group alt.conspiracy.
A Cuban government-run newspaper, "Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) has gone so far as to suggest that the whole Y2K scare was a capitalist conspiracy to encourage spending money on the computer industry.
Even author Ed Yourdon, who predicted doom and gloom from Y2K glitches in his book "Time Bomb 2000," admitted that he may have been "going overboard."
U.S. spends much of worldwide Y2K fix-it funds
Private and government spending on Y2K in the United States totaled an estimated $108.8 billion, about one-fifth of the total price tag worldwide. Some observers are wondering why nations that spent so little compared to the United States passed the New Year test with so few Y2K problems.
The answer may lie in the fact that computers are in wider use in the United States than in other nations. That meant the cost to America of fixing potential glitches was much higher.
But Koskinen noted that companies and governments would realize some long-term benefits from their Y2K expenditures, over and above protection from the programming flaw itself.
"It's not a one-to-one correlation," he said, "but there are benefits, including the retirement of some old technology, resulting in increased productivity," he said.
Gates chimes in on Y2K aftermath
And Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates credited the threat with fostering a sense of teamwork.
"It ended up being a fairly minor issue because people really worked together," Gates said. "I mean if we had ignored the thing then, then we'd be seeing real impact," he said.
Koskinen reminded reporters that, as recently as a few months ago, many people were predicting the Y2K problem would not be solved in time. Some had suggested the resulting chaos would plunge the United States, and possibly the world, into recession.
Y2K attention turns to Asia as first workday of 2000 gears up
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