Remember when?

Through a telescope a decade long, Y2K still looks very silly



While many feared the potential Y2K computer time bomb countdown, a revisit to New Years past sheds light on the explosion that bombed.

Hard to imagine, isn't it, that 10 years ago today we were waiting for the world to end?

Not everyone, of course, but many were anticipating the electronic version of the apocalypse. Computers, originally programmed to recognize the last two numbers of a year, wouldn't distinguish 2000 from 1900 come the rollover at the last millisecond of 1999. Or so went the cry across the globe.

The "Year 2000 Problem" quickly earned the nickname "Y2K," and that may have been the simplest part. Disaster in nearly every sector was predicted.

If computers couldn't tell the year 2000 from a hole in the ground, why, banks would fail, airplanes would fall from the sky and tech departments around the world would implode.

Elevators would leave the ball at the stroke of midnight, their passengers stranded mid-trip. Businesses would be forced to close. Hospitals would be cranking up generators and how long that would last was anyone's guess.

Didn't happen.

In writing for Computerworld on Monday, blogger Robert Mitchell summed up that time.

"Ten years ago this week, the much-hyped Y2K crisis -- which had come in with a long, sustained roar -- went out with a whimper," he wrote.

The concept of a total paralysis of business operations resulting from cascading Y2K failures sent organizations into a frenzy, the blogger recalled.

For many technology department heads, the unprecedented scope of addressing Y2K problems was the biggest project of their careers, Mitchell said. "And then it was over. On Dec. 31, 1999, the world held its breath -- and nothing happened," he noted. "Jan. 1, 2000 came in just like any other day. There were no major failures to report anywhere."

Walla Wallans, those living here and those living elsewhere at the time, seem to have been largely immune to the hype and fear. Read on:

Paul Franzmann -- "My then-compadra and I went to a friend's house for a bit of a party. As we were the only guests NOT teetotalers, it was other than a grand affair ... no champagne toasts, no confetti, no silly hats or horns. We stuck it out 'til midnight, went outside to watch fireworks in the chilly air and then went home. It may have been the dullest New Year's Eve of my life. I was aware of the 'doomsday' hysteria, but as one who had worked with computers and networks for more than 10 years (at that time), I knew the issue was a non-issue."

Jan Corn -- "We really did nothing for Y2K. I personally thought it was silly, all the worrying. Friends, however bought a generator to run all the household electricity, were convinced cars would stop running, and family in Seattle still refer to their pantry as the Y2K room."

Eric Powell -- "As the world was doomed to be destroyed at midnight by an assortment of earthquakes, tidal waves, hurricanes and other assorted man-made disasters, a few close friends and I went to the Santa Monica pier and waited on the end to be washed away for ever. The second most anti-climactic thing that night was dropping my cell phone in a public toilet."

Connie Rogers -- "Like everyone, we were interested to see what might or might not happen, but we weren't unduly disturbed by the whole thing. I remember that we did stock up on extra water and a few supplies in case the worst (whatever that might be) happened and then proceeded to sit back and watch."

Sara Archer -- "I was working for a hospital foundation in a small town, and was elected the person to be 'on site' at midnight to monitor and then report to someone more qualified any devastating effects to our computer system and other electronics. It was snowing fiercely, but I made my way to the office at 11:30 p.m., and sat in the silence until about 12:15. Then I went home and crawled back into bed."

Don Fleming -- "I vividly remember Y2K and all global warnings! I remember checking the clocks in our home, shutting down the computers, and my wife securing the cat's box near the bed. When I awoke in the morning and realized I was alive and my wife was still breathing. I turned on the television and all the stations were on the air, including CNN who had reporters searching the globe to find anyone who could still utter the words 'Happy New Year!'"

Alison Kirby -- "Dan is an amateur radio operator. He loves to tell people that when all communications go down in hurricanes, it's the ham radio guys who can still get the emergency calls through. I had to spend the last night of the century alone so that he could be available down at the Emergency Communication Center in case there was a blackout of all telephones as the clocks turned over to Y2K. I had great fun calling him at 12:05 a.m. just to let him know the world had not ended outside the bunker."

Becky St. Claire -- "I was one of the cynics who thought the hullabaloo was all a media gimmick, so I didn't buy it. We did nothing but our usual staying up until midnight and watching the ball drop on TV, then banging pots and pans in the street and cheering, shouting, 'It's 2000! Happy New Year!' Our neighbors probably hated us, but it was only one night a year and most of them were probably up anyway. Or at least, they were after that."

Teri Hough -- "We loaded all our hunting rifles and holed up in the basement for the apocalypse that was to coming. Just kidding! We had family over and we ate and made merry until New Year's when we shot off leftover fireworks from the Fourth of July. I also kept a copy of my bank balance in case I needed to reminded them -- 'I did happen to have $212.57 in the bank.'"

There was at least one local Y2K bonus, recalls Gail McGhee, manager of Blue Mountain Action Council Food Bank. "We got lots of dried beans, lentils, split peas. In buckets ... people had bought them and put them in buckets."

Buckets upon buckets, she said. "I thought 'Oh, what are going to do?" Eventually the end-of-the-world donation was parceled out, however.

A decade after the non-event, the organization still needs donations, McGhee said. "We could use buckets. We figured out how to work it."


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