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Happy 2000: We went from Y2K to A-OK

You know who they are. You may have one as a friend or neighbor. You may even be one yourself.

I'm talking about those who fell prey to the gloom-and-doomers spouting about the end of the world, martial law, power outages, chaos and looting following the rollover to the year 2000. The dreaded Y2K bug was supposed to rip civilization apart at the seams. It didn't happen.

One guy in the Midwest spent about $20,000 on foodstuffs in his basement. He's still reluctant to admit it was overkill, saying we're not out of the woods yet.

Another Midwest family hunkered down in their canned-food-filled basement. They played Monopoly and listened to Sheryl Crow CDs all night.

Another couple buried 12 school buses, building a bombproof bunker with enough supplies to last a year. I don't know whether they're still inside or not.

Many people purchased generators. Computers were turned off. Uncle Sam printed $50 billion in extra cash for financial institutions just in case of a run on the banks. Be prepared, we were told by politicians, religious fanatics and self-appointed experts who happened to be selling Y2K survival kits. I guess we can't be blamed for getting a little excited or anxious.

But the bug that was supposed to blow apart all we hold dear didn't. Most people watched those heartwarming pictures from around the globe of people embracing the dawn of the new year. It was about revelry and spiritual renewal, not guns or prolonged darkness or cans of beef stew. The world braced for impact. And slowly people realized that there was nothing to worry about. It was OK to celebrate the new year.

The next morning, we watched Sam Donaldson search for calamities to report on. There were minor incidents, of course. But Sam seemed disappointed. He finally decided to tell us what a good job the news media did in not hyping the Y2K bug. Then he told us what could have gone wrong.

Don't get me wrong. The Y2K problem did exist, and the computer industry did rally to fix it. More than $600 billion was spent worldwide in preparation for and remediation of Y2K problems.

Was too much spent? Probably. Did we need to do all that work? For the most part, certainly. Were people over-reacting? Definitely. Was it all worth it? I think so. Some systems definitely would have failed unless changes were made.

So what about the canned peaches and chocolate pudding in unused stockpiles? Charities like food banks and shelters need this stuff. Wouldn't it be uplifting to know that someone somewhere can benefit from all the energy expended on fear?

Besides, how much Spam can you eat in a year anyway?


Alan Impink is a software engineer with more than 18 years of experience in the computing industry.