Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Y2K plus ten

Ten years ago this fall we were in the midst of intense preparations for Y2K and all of the possible communications, computer and technology problems associated with it. In the future, those who didn’t live through it AND understand it will be tempted to belittle all the effort we expended on Y2K preparations, but the reality is that the work was necessary and beneficial. Back in 1999 this office was still using a Wang minicomputer that was running land management software that was not Y2K compatible. Written in the early 1980s when computer memory and storage were still scarce commodities, our LandTrac software only used six digits for dates, not eight. So a date such as October 13, 2009 would be entered in the system as 101209 making it indistinguishable from October 13, 1909 or 1809 or 1709. To fix this problem, we hired a half dozen contractors at great expense, but all was fixed and tested well in advance of New Years Day.

Y2K preparations had many ancillary benefits. In state government, at least, substantial funds were appropriated and spent on technological upgrades of all types. Having limped through the last few years of county government and transitioned to part of state government only in the summer of 1997, we were still using aged and obsolete computers and electronic equipment in 1999. Unlike the Wang software which we judged to be “repairable”, almost all of our other equipment was replaced. This action not only prepared us for the Y2K transition, it also gave us the information technology infrastructure we needed to make the paperless registry we have today a reality.

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