In June 1999 a yellow and purple leaflet was produced by the British Government and compiled by Action 2000, a trading name of action, not too surprisingly, for the year 2000. Its sole aim was to provide free of charge information to help businesses and the general populous as they prepared for the much anticipated and dreaded millennium bug. They’d set up a help line too, along with a website, http://www.bug2000.co.uk, should any further assistance be needed. All of that along with the booklet must surely have been one of the greatest examples of ‘what if’ and ‘what to do’ produced to allay fear from something that may or may not happen or exist. This said, the cover of the 14 page booklet suggest that someone in government knew exactly what was about to happen stating, ‘The Millennium Bug…..Facts not Fiction’. There was undoubtedly an understandable widespread concern, not only in this country, that computers and electronic devices that were date sensitive would simply not recognise the year 2000 and would therefore begin to act or perform in strange and potentially dangerous ways. The yellow and purple leaflet told us that although there had been many stories about what could happen when the date changed only a few were true, with others being considered wild speculation and others simply absurd.
By the end of 1998 most of our essential services in the shape of OFGAS, OFWAT, OFFER, OFTEL and OFREG had begun testing their networks and systems, ensuring to the best of their ability that nothing could be affected by the ‘bug’. The worry was of course that as no one knew if the bug actually existed it would be difficult to defend against. My booklet tells me to keep it somewhere safe for reference: just in case. Well, as we all know, it was actually a song and dance about absolutely nothing, yet all governments had to be seen to be providing a comforting still small voice of calm.