Two missing digits? How about two missing employees in today's story of Y2K

Also: Shock News! Access 97 'perfectly capable' according to Reg reader

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Y2K Welcome to Y2K, The Register's trip down the memory lane of the fear generated by those two naughty digits, and the cash flung at contractors to deal with them.

Today's story comes from a reader the Y2K-anonomatic has decided to call "Liam" and is a reminder of the unexpected surprises uncovered while all those bugs got fixed.

Liam was working at "an unpopular publisher" (not Vulture Central, we hasten to add) where all manner of "small 'skunk works' projects" were being inspected as part of the company's Y2K preparedness campaign.

"They weren't officially supported," remembered Liam, "but had been discovered running old versions of dBase and needed to be brought on board to support." In the process of doing so, any Y2K bugs could be ironed out.

We were happy to learn that 40 years after its release in 1979, dBASE continues to be a thing although has passed through a number of hands after its heyday in the 1980s. dBASE 2019.1 can be downloaded today, although things have moved on quite a bit from when this hack last used the platform in anger (dBASE IV, back before the Borland acquisition of Ashton-Tate.)

Liam's company had decided to switch out dBASE for something else, and told us: "Access 97 was the most suitable tool for direct replacement, and for all the bad press it got, was actually perfectly capable if used appropriately and not cobbled together by someone with no understanding of data."

"ie," he added, "most implementations."

One of Liam's tasks was to port the old dBASE internal invoice calculating system to Microsoft's new shiny. "Much," he added wearily, "to the annoyance of the department who didn't want it to be replaced."

All the legacy data was imported, and Liam left the users to their new, compliant and supported, toy.

The honeymoon was shortlived: "I was summoned with fury by the IT director and the department head who'd had his system unwillingly upgraded because 'all my invoices were wrong'."

Liam took the bollocking, although he had his doubts, and began looking into the problem.

Ah.

The new system was fine. What it had shown was that the old system had been getting its sums wrong. For years. Lines added to an invoice were only calculated on invoice creation. If things were subsequently adjusted, there was no recalculation.

Oopsie.

The initial cold sweat of fear abated, Liam then had the pleasure of explaining "to an already incandescent department head that in fact he 'had been underbilling for years to the tune of (...clickey click...) oooohhh - you could have had two extra staff for that.'"

He eventually closed the issue as a "won't fix" since making the new system work like its skunk-works predecessor would, er, have broken it.

As for any escalation, and the discovery that two members of staff-worth of money had been frittered away in a pre-Y2K fix, Liam "left it to the upper tiers and kept out of his way for the next 18 months."

As for the day itself, Liam and co were fully prepared. Nothing else crawled out of the woodwork and the team "printed out some 'millennium bugs' to hide around the office so we could fill some time on Jan 1st tracking them down, and went home at lunchtime."

Got some Y2K stories you wish you'd got off your chest? You can email us here – our Y2K column is back for a limited time. ®

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