EMBEDDED DANGERS: THE HISTORY OF THE YEAR 2000 PROBLEM AND THE POLITICS OF TECHNOLOGICAL REPAIR

Dylan Wesley Mulvin

Abstract


This paper draws on archival research to revisit the Year 2000 Problem as an episode of recent technological history. I argue that the ways Y2K was addressed set the groundwork for the large-scale infrastructural management of technological contingency in the early 21st century. I approach the organized response to the perceived threat of the Y2K bug as one of the greatest, public-facing attempts to educate and train individuals and organizations to manage the unforeseen, and potentially devastating, effects old computer code can have on contemporary computerized infrastructures.

This paper examines three key effects of the crisis: 1) the massive resource investment and funding expenditures on computerized infrastructures that few other crises have compelled; 2) the changes in insurance and tort law developed as a dimension of the crisis’ legal repair; and 3) the proliferation of risk management training around computerized infrastructures. By studying these three effects, this paper reconfigures the role of Y2K in the history of computers, infrastructure, and information systems by placing the bug within the larger contexts of infrastructure renewal, public works, and technological literacy.

Keywords


Infrastructure; technological literacy; Y2K bug; repair and maintenance; computer history

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