Toward the end of 1999 the local free rag was looking for a series of short articles about
what I thought the Y2K thing would turn into. During a single evening I hammered these out.

December 15, 2000

Dear Marta,

Here it is just 10 days before Christmas and they're just now announcing the results from the elections in November! Who would have ever thought that Elizabeth Dole and Al Gore would take such a beating from an unknown! So now it's going to be President and Mrs. Saunders for the next 4 years. I never thought a Socialist would be the President. My, how things have changed! Though, I suppose I should not be surprised. A lot has changed for all of us.

There is so much to for me tell you. After the troubles things looked pretty grim until the Federal Recovery Team showed up in February. Do you remember how cold it was? They brought food and warm clothing and firewood for as many as they could though it was never enough and people still went hungry. We were losing about 100 people a week to hunger and the cold. What a sad, sad pity. Everyone in town was dreadfully touched by that horrible winter.

With the electricity out the factories and offices weren't running and so no one had work or money. I'll tell you, it has been lean around here. Jack and I didn't know what to do. We weren't allowed to visit with Katie and Marc in Florida. And, though we understood why the Recovery Team wouldn't allow travel we still very badly wanted to see if our kids were all right. We've heard nothing from them yet and can only hope for the best.

The news reports have been slightly better lately, when we can get anything at all on the radio. Jack has that battery powered shortwave set I bought for him just after we got married and we use it sparingly since we can't get new batteries.

Last night we heard a broadcast from Canada saying that power had been restored to hospitals in almost all their big cities, but that the recovery operations were slower here in the States where the damage from the troubles was greater. We still have no phones and the mail just started to move again a few weeks ago. Otherwise we've been isolated here with only rumors and the Recovery Team handouts keeping us informed.

Oh, I did hear one good story from the outside! Steve McDougal, my neighbor's son, managed to sneak back here from New York City last July. He said that there was nothing wrong with any of the computers, that they didn't just stop working as everyone said they would on January 1!

Steve said that last New Year's Eve everyone was expecting that Year 2000 bug thing to happen and that all the computers would just stop working or some such silly thing. Well, he said that during the celebrations a billboard came down in Times Square, right at midnight, and it caused a small blackout in the area. When people saw that they thought that the power stations had stopped generating and so they began to riot in the streets! He said there was looting everywhere and that hundreds of people were killed.

Steve relayed how rioting exploded across the city in a matter of hours and that eventually rumors spread that the telecommunications systems weren't working either. Apparently so many people were calling to say "Happy New Year!" that the system overloaded! So, when you went to pick up the phone to make a call you couldn't. People everywhere thought that all those computers had been hit by that computer bug! Can you believe it? How silly of them.

So with all the rioting and with no telephones working rumors spread that all the computer systems were down everywhere! Even here in Auburn there was some trouble, if you can believe it. But Chief Sullivan got everyone quiet right quick when he fired his gun into the air on Main Street. What a funny thing for him to be firing a gun! And it looked like it was going to be fine - until the lights went out - then everyone went crazy!

Marta, I'll tell you that Jack and I locked all the doors and closed all the curtains and hid in that basement until we thought it was over. We were so afraid! There was no one we could call or go to for help.

Outside we could hear rioters marauding through the streets breaking into people's houses and smashing everything, especially their computers! Ours was completely destroyed. Jack thinks that we'll never get our records back even after the power comes back on. Damn those Luddites! We heard that the Recovery Teams located the leaders of the riots here and took them away - hopefully to jail! I don't know what we're going to do.

We had a quiet summer anyway and though we were cut off from the rest of the world the weather was good and our garden did fine. I've canned up about everything I could and had enough to give away to those who couldn't garden on their own. I think the food situation will be better this winter than last. At least we've had all summer to prepare. But still, it's cold and dark and there is little to do but wait and wait. The Recovery Teams sometimes run movies at the Town Hall with a generator they've got on a truck and they hand out a weekly bulletin that has some news - but it's never enough.

I hope that everyone is fine on your end and that you receive this letter before the holiday. The Recovery Teams (they are such nice young boys) say that it should take only a few days to get this letter to you. Send my best to Paul and the kids. It's been so long! And, write back SOON!

My love to you,


January 1, 2000

(BBNews) New Albion, IL

With all the attention given to the potential for a world-wide computer failure this morning due to the 'Y2K bug' things are pretty peaceful here in southern Illinois.

Traffic lights still turn green, yellow then red. The neon sign in the window of Tilley's Cafe still blinks on and off and the festive holiday decorations still twinkle their greetings from each light pole, building and home.

I stopped in at the Texaco station on Rt. 8 this morning and spoke to Marty about the pending hysteria. "I don't know what everyone was crying about." Marty said, "seems to me all them computer geeks oughta be shot or somethin', getting us all riled up about nothing at all."

And it appears that the sentiments Marty expresses are pretty much universal here in New Albion. People are rather upset about all the noise computer professionals were making even up until late last night - airplanes falling out of the sky, the power grid shutting down - people trapped in elevators - a global economic disaster.

But here, in New Albion at least, the ATM machine worked just fine, the milking machines milk the cows and combines tend to the fields. Life goes on as it has always done.

Last year I worked for a high profile telecommunications firm designing and implementing an internal information center for their Year 2000 compliance project.

During the course of that work I served in the front lines of the battle to make the telecommunications industry Year 2000 compliant. This basically means that when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 1999 everything keeps working into the new year. Your call will go through. Or at least, that's the plan.

Enough has been written about just what that means and about the "why" we are having this problem and about how much it will cost to "fix" it. All around me, in the media, on the Usenet, on Web pages and in magazines from LIFE to Newsweek a cadre of programmers and computer 'professionals' is warning of impending doom.

If you listen to these 'professionals' talk you'll hear them say that airplanes will fall from the sky at midnight as their maintenance systems shut down; elevators will plunge to the basement of office buildings trapping and killing their occupants; cars and trucks will not start; the telephone system will shut down; the power grid will fail and the world will be plunged into chaos followed by global economic catastrophe which will cast the entire human race back into the stone ages.

The odds are that none of this will happen.

These stories are being bandied about by 'professionals' who are doing nothing more than trying to line their own pockets, to make as much money as they possibly can before we all find out they've been bullshitting us, big time.

Sure, there are going to be some problems but here's what I figure will be the most common situation:

Steve Adams is the manager of a small group of employees inside a much larger company. He does his weekly payroll with an Excel spreadsheet that is automatically uploaded to the corporate mainframe each week which a fellow employee, now long gone, created for him years ago. It works just fine but unknown to Steve, it uses two digit dates. So along comes the beginning of February and Steve's employees start getting paychecks that are either REALLY big or REALLY small. The accounting firm spots the error and issues correct checks. The IT staff then tracks down the problem and corrects Steve's spreadsheet.

Steve's employees had a scare and the company quickly acted to repair this minor issue.

But the larger question of entire systems coming to agrinding halt

is what everyone is afraid of. And if my tenure inside the belly of the telecommunications beast is any indication of what is happening in other major industries, you can rest easy.

Millions are being spent seeking out each and every line of code in each and every program running on each and every computer in each and every office to find any indication of two digit dating. Tests are being run on a daily basis (perhaps the most famous tests are being run by Wall Street) to look for anomalies in date/time transactions with clocks set just past the dreaded date.

Things are happening in a big way to prepare industry, and not only are the computer people involved, but the lawyers are having field day!

They've never had it so good.

So, watch out for charlatans (you can count Microsoft in on that list) who will try to sell you Year 2000 compliant 'upgrades' of their software products. And watch out for those COBOL programmers who will try to charge you US $150 an hour and more (some are boldly predicting US $400 an hour rates by the middle of 1999).

And on January 1, 2000 when nothing happens find and hold, forcibly if you must, your favorite local programmer. I'll bring the tar and you bring the feathers.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Copyright © 1996-2001
bongoboy productions
Last updated on
Friday October 19, 2001