Today's budget for application improvements is brought to you by the letters "Y", "K" and the number "2"
Slipping in the enhancements while everyone else is watching the calendar
Y2K Welcome to Y2K, a series of tales from Register readers who found themselves at the sharp, pointy end of the turn of the century IT panic of two decades ago.
Today's tale comes from Stephen, a chap who modestly lays claim to nearly 40 years of commercial PC experience. He clearly must have been very naughty in a previous life.
His first dalliance in the PC world was in 1983 – the era of the IBM XT, replete with a mighty 128KB RAM, 360KB floppy removable storage and a colossal 10MB Seagate hard disk, all powered by a mighty Intel 8088 CPU. Graphics aficionados were catered for with either the Monochrome Display Adaptor (MDA) or Color Graphics Adaptor (CGA).
It would be another three years before Alan Sugar inflicted clones like the Amstrad PC1512 onto the world.
Skipping forward 16 years: "In 1999 I was called into a government department to Y2K certify their database application" said Stephen. Governments of the era were somewhat jumpy about the whole Y2K thing, and funds that might have been spent elsewhere were instead being spanked on an army of consultants to reassure nervous lawmakers.
Professional that he was, Stephen gave the application the scrutiny it deserved: "After examining the software for 10 minutes it became apparent that they did not actually record any dates."
Naturally, Stephen pointed this out to the department concerned – if no dates were being stored then there wasn't actually a Y2K problem to fix, ok?
"They wholeheartedly agreed," explained Stephen, "The issue was they could not get a budget for software improvements but they could get a budget for Y2K compliance." The clever mandarins had realised that pretty much anything could be quietly slipped under the radar if those magic three characters "Y", "2" and "K" were attached.
So, working under the auspices of dealing with compliance problems, "I spent the rest of the day making minor tweaks to the software to make it work more like the users wanted it to."
We can but hope he remembered to use a large enough field to store the date. ®