Everybody 25 or older probably remembers the big Y2K computer panic. This past New Year’s Day was the 15th anniversary of Y2K.
Y2K is slang for “Year 2000.” The “Y” stands for “Year.” The “K” comes from “kilo” as in kilometer and stands for “Thousand.” I can’t believe 15 years have passed since that first day of Year-Two-Thousand.
During the previous year, 1999, we had worried ourselves into a panic. We worried that the coming new year would make all computers fail or at least go haywire. We feared our computers would think the new year was 1900 instead of 2000.
That was because people who programmed computers had used only the last two digits of any year, and the last two digits of 1900 and 2000 are the same.
I think there were other calendar difficulties that I don’t have room to explain and don’t fully understand. Anyhow, many people, including government officials, feared we’d have chaos when Y2K arrived.
Fifteen years ago, computers already did vital work for businesses and most levels of government. We were convinced computers were essential for our water systems, banks, gas and electric utilities, gasoline stations, almost everything.
So by Dec. 30, 1999, I had 26 gallons of water in plastic jerry cans and jugs in my garage. I also bought a camp stove that could burn unleaded gas. I didn’t want to have to eat cold soup. I’d also had extra soup and other canned goods. And I bought extra batteries, but I didn’t buy a generator, empty our bank account or buy a gun.
Later we were told somebody had noticed the computer date problem before Jan. 1, 2000. Between $300 billion and $600 billion were then reportedly spent worldwide on hurried fixes.
As far as I know, the fixes worked. Somebody did the right thing, or probably lots of somebodies did many right things. And on New Year’s Day for the Year 2000, the whole, huge, would-be disaster deflated. The Y2K news story quickly disappeared. “Business continuing as usual” isn’t news.
And we soon had more important things to think about. On Sept. 11, 2001, four passenger jet planes, hijacked by terrorists, crashed into buildings in New York City and Washington, D.C., and in a field in Pennsylvania, killing 2,996 people. And on Dec. 22, 2003, an earthquake wrecked or damaged 40 buildings in the North County and killed two women.
Y2K never did anything to me but make me a year older. I still have water in plastic containers in the garage. In case of emergency, I might use it to flush toilets. And I’ve never fired up the camp stove.