Millennium Madness

By: Angela Gillaspie Copyright © August 1999

1999 has arrived and Chicken Little has set up web sites and e-mail, faxes, post office boxes, and glossy full-page ads with the message that the year 2000 will be the end of civilization, as we know it. He claims we should withdraw all of our money from the bank, purchase gold bars, get a food dehydrator, store water, and move to Montana among other things. Come January of 2000, there will be no water, no power, no telephone service, and no Vienna sausages and squirt cheese.

The horror.

As you have heard, some programmers back in the seventies and eighties wanted to save space (disk space was expensive back then) by making the date two bytes instead of four bytes, totally ignoring the logic for the century portion of the date. The popular programmer credo being invoked is: "I won't be programming by the year 2000, so why bother?" (I can say this, because I'm guilty of the same.) Much to our dismay, the year 2000 is coming just as sure as your fax machine is going to jam and your toast will fall on the linoleum floor butter side down.

The bad news is that this little 'bug' is going to cause some interesting problems other than technology-related failures. Many people have already begun withdrawing their savings, cashing in their CDs, and cleaning out their checking accounts. The majority of banks are Y2K compliant technologically, but they are going to have a hard time keeping up with the demand of cold hard cash in the coming months.

It is predicted that the stockpiling of loads of cash in homes is going to result in the increase of home robberies. Mail order firms are already peddling hollowed out books in which consumers can stash their money. Think about it, most thieves read magazines just as you do and they know all about the places to stash cash.

There is a scam already happening where a caller claiming to be a government employee tells senior citizens they will not get their Social Security checks after the first of the year, and their paper money will be no good. The scammer tells senior citizens to turn all assets into paper money and mail it to him so he can convert it into gold and mail it back. Yeah, right; don't buy it folks. Don't let anyone know your social security number, credit card number, or checking/savings account number. Use common sense and contact the Better Business Bureau in your area.

Many companies have already dealt with the Y2K problem years ago and many others are currently implementing code changes and testing as I type this essay. Being a technical writer and programmer for the past ten years, I can truthfully say that I was coding on the Y2K glitch right when I graduated from college in 1990. There might be small chance that the telephone, power, gas, and water may stop. If they do, those services should be back on within HOURS not WEEKS allowing you to logon to the Internet in the wee hours of 1/1/2000 and post on message boards that you survived Y2K.

I'm sure you are wondering what I am personally going to do for my own family. I am going to prepare for January just as I always do. There will be extra wood for the fireplace, extra bread in the freezer, spare jars of jelly and peanut butter, a case of Vienna sausages, squirt cheese, and about four gallon jugs of water. Oh, and there will be a five-pound bag of M&Ms -- for emergencies only, of course.

It will be rougher for businesses than individuals during the transition between 1999 and 2000. Businesses are creating contingency plans that layout what to do when/if a Y2K failure occurs. As an author of a contingency plan for a very large manufacturing firm, I know that the failure worries are not about utilities ceasing, but the possibility of other smaller businesses failing to supply their services. Companies rely heavily on raw materials, advertisers, transportation, and communications to earn their revenue.

The bottom line is this: the sky won't fall. Businesses have to rely on the services of other businesses to survive, and we individuals only have to rely on our Creator and ourselves. The most important thing for surviving this Y2K bug is to not panic. What an exciting time to be alive! You are witnessing the beginning of the end of the twentieth century and the pre-dawn of the twenty-first century and new millennium (remember, the twenty-first century doesn't start until January 1, 2001).

Have faith in yourselves for making the right decisions and faith in your Creator for giving you the right decisions. You can do it! Now get out there and make me proud. Just don't buy all the cans of squirt cheese, though.

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Copyright © 2000, Angela Gillaspie
Revised - 01/14/01