Just a decade ago we were all in a dither. As we moved toward the end of the 20th century, we weren’t sure what was going to happen. Now, just 10 years later, there are many who have completely forgotten about the great Y2K scare. If you remember, we weren’t exactly sure what would happen, and there were many who predicted our technology-based society would be rushing back toward the dark ages as computers failed.
Of course, that didn’t happen and caused one area newspaper to use a headline that aptly summed up the situation: “Y2 Nothing.” The problem caused worldwide apprehension, and after Jan. 1, 2000 passed with no problems, it was quickly forgotten. In fact, it is a good example of how quickly some problems and fears are relegated to the dust bin of history.
I remember one news story in December that predicted that the failure of computers would result in chaotic situations, and it would take until March or April before life returned to normal.
Looking through old newspapers, I was reminded of how much had gone into the preparations for Y2K. The city of Bonner Springs had set up a command center at the fire station and arrangements had been made for temporary shelters. One of the concerns was that massive computer failure would shut down utilities, and there would be no electricity or natural gas service. Banks and other financial institutions had gone through major transferring of data just in case their computers went down.
The problem was that computers would not recognize “00” at midnight and would shutdown, creating chaos. There had been tremendous work to counteract any problems throughout the world. Yet there were many fears as New Year’s Eve neared.
I was probably typical of many in that I really believed nothing would happen yet we had done whatever we could to protect the computers at the Chieftain. I even wrote in this column that I didn’t think anything would happen and that I planned to attend the Kansas City Chiefs football game on Sunday, Jan. 2. Despite my bravado, I had a nagging fear that the computerized world we all lived in was about to crumble.
New Year’s Eve was on Friday, and the Chieftain office was closed. Early in the morning, I was anxiously watching as the new century was ushered in around the world. First, Australia welcomed in 2000, and there were reports that nothing had happened to computer systems. As I continued following progress, I was particularly relieved when the New Year arrived in Russia with no glitches.
We attended a party at the home of friends and everyone kept a wary eye on the TV, and there was a sense of relief as time zone after time zone welcomed in a new century with no problems. I was at the Chieftain office early the next morning and was overjoyed when there were no problems.
Maybe Y2K is a good reminder of the truth of a statement made by President Franklin Roosevelt, who pointed out that all we have to fear is fear itself. Often we spend far too much time worrying about something that might happen but rarely does. Yes, we still need optimism.
There were problems lurking when the century turned, but we weren’t aware of them. Who would have thought that 10 years later, we would be involved in two wars and face the threat of terrorism every day? Who could have imagined it would take a Supreme Court decision to settle a presidential election? I doubt anyone would have imagined we would have a recession with double-digit unemployment.
Yes, there are a variety of problems, but I firmly believe the United States will be able to solve them, although it will take time. The future remains bright for our world.