Archive for Thursday, December 17, 2009

Remembering Y2K

December 17, 2009

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.


Frank Bryant 8 years, 5 months ago

Nice article Clausie. I do remember the Chicken Little's who warned us of impending doom. Those are the same folks who are now telling us manmade global warming will soon melt the icebergs and foul our planet.

Some people just need a crisis to feel valuable.


Jason Bailey 8 years, 5 months ago

ftb5211: Oh, you just made Clausie's blood boil with that global warming statement. As a good liberal, he's completely on that ship and you just fired a torpedo.

Clausie: I am a professional programmer so I can speak to the Y2K issue with a level of expertise. The reason Y2K did not happen is because of the billions of dollars that governments around the world (and private businesses) spent to rewrite key algorithms which used the two digit year. COBOL programmers made huge paychecks fro 1997-2000 but the reason this was a non-event was because important and super-critical programs were reviewed and corrected. Not because it wasn't an issue.

There were computer program failures which were widespread. These didn't make the news because they were in programs which didn't threaten public safety or utilities, etc. Those programs got fixed but less-critical programs like year-end financial reporting, calculating annuity payouts for insurance policies, etc. failed in many companies. They simply scrambled around to fix the programs after they failed and then reran the output. To the person outside looking in, everything is quiet but it certainly was not.

The reason Y2K didn't happen? Preparation and enough leadtime to correct.

We are not going to be ok just because, as you op-ed alludes to. Sticking out heads in the sand will not prevent a tsunami from smacking us and our progeny. The spending in our government, reckless handing out of money, and social programs that will consume even more money for decades to come are like Texas-sized meteors barreling down on us from above. They will hit and they will cause permanent, insurmountable damage.

How will these record deficits be funded? Printing money (huge inflation), raising taxes (guaranteed way to lose power), or selling T-Bills to other govts. China is buying T-Bills like they're candy but are wanting to get into direct investing now. That means they want to buy up American companies which will allow them to even further directly influence our economy.

If we keep going with this pattern of spending, increasing entitlements, and lunacy in Washington, we will lose our sovereignty to China because of the infrastructure we will have sold to them or through the huge promissory notes they hold.

Wake up and begin to realize that preparation solves/prevents crises -- not sticking you head in the sand, assuming all will be well, and going to a Chiefs game on January 2nd.


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