The Looming Y2K20 Bug, and How to Protect Your System.

It was 20 years ago that the entire world was bracing for what was supposed to be one of the biggest disasters in the history of the world.  Now we face another bug that could bring your Mac to its knees.


Y2K (Year 2000) was the most hyped computer bug of the last part of the 20th Century.  Basically the bug caused computers to think it was the year 1900 instead of 2000 when the clock ticked from 12/31/99 23:59:59 to 1/1/00 00:00:00.

Why would this happen?  Well, many computer programs in the early years were written to assume that the first two digits of any year were 19, followed by last two digits of the year.  This was done in an effort to save memory, as RAM was very expensive in the early years of personal computing.  

Many people thought that this date glitch was going to cause the world to end, that Planes would fall from the sky and Nuclear Missiles would launch themselves as a result of the Y2K bug.  In reality even if the worst had occurred very little would have happened.  Some financial programs may have had issues accurately calculating certain figures based on time scales, and the fact that 1900 wasn’t a leap year would have caused date issues starting on February 29th, 2000.  But aside from that, the computers themselves and the software written on them certainly wouldn’t have melted down.

While it is somewhat amusing to look back on Y2K 20 years later and chuckle at how insane the entire thing really was, and how we liked to poke fun at our PC using friends for using such limited hardware, it also reminded me of how many of us Mac users exclaimed that all of our Macs were compatible until well into the new millennium.  But just because our beloved Macs were compatible into the new millennium doesn’t mean that they will stay that way forever.

The Y2K20 Bug

Back in the late 90s many of us on the Mac web wrote about how our Macs were Y2K compatible, and that there wasn’t any need to worry because even the oldest Macs are capable of keeping time until February 6, 2040 at 6:28:15 AM.  The biggest problem that we have is that the Date & Time Control Panel will not let you set dates past 12/31/2019.  But fear not, there is good news.  Thanks to a wonderful developer out there known as bbraun, there is a utility that will allow you to set the date and time on your Classic Mac all the way up until the last second: SetDate.

SetDate is an incredibly simple program.  Simply type in the date and time (in military format), click “set”, and you’re done!  This is a utility that I am very happy to know exists, and I’d like to take the time to thank bbraun from the bottom of my heart for making it available to everyone on the internet who loves making use of their old Macs.

I think the hardest thing for me is going to be not being able to set the date or time anymore in the Date & Time Control Panel.  I have been using these applications for decades, and it is going to feel a little strange not being able to type in the correct date and time into my old friends using the conventional method.