The Year 2000 is Coming!

The Year 2000 is Coming!

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The Year 2000 is Coming!

Here we are close to the dawn of the millennium. An even 2000 years has passed since man has decided to start counting. That has to be significant, doesn't it? Conspiracy theorists, self- proclaimed prophets, and doomsayers can take this opportunity to spread rumors of world destruction or take ancient prophecies and interpret them to their liking.

Life must be getting boring or over stimulating for these folks. There are so many different groups spreading awareness in preparation for the millennium. One can obtain knowledge on this subject by contacting a group who call themselves TEOTWAWKI (an acronym for the end of the world as we know it), Armageddon, or on the countless Y2K websites.

There are many people involved in the frenzy surrounding Y2K. We have a Y2K coalition right here in Arkansas. The citizens of Harrison have formed a group called Y2K watch. Around one hundred people meet bimonthly to discuss strategies for getting through the millennium. They have even attracted outsiders. Jerry and Carolyn Head moved from a Dallas suburb to Harrison to escape the millennia madness. They have stocked up buying a generator, livestock, and hundreds of toilet paper rolls. They claim to just be “planners” and not part of the Y2K worriers in which "most of them are nuts".

Y2K,which stands for year 2000, is the confusion of our computer systems when the clock strikes 12:00 on January 1, 2000. When computers were first developed they were the size of small rooms and stored data on thousands of punch cards made out of cardboard. To save space, engineers used two digits to indicate the year. Now that we are approaching the year 2000, they realize the ambiguity of the year being 00 will apparently throw all of the computers off.

Many people have declared this a disaster. One family in Ohio has really gone to extremes. They have bought the usual for survivalists, a generator and food (a years supply). In addition to this, they have invested in a waterbed in case the water companies crash and are unable to distribute water. Y2K drills are frequently practiced in the house to ensure all the appliances will work with the generator. The mother has tried to raise awareness among the community and cannot understand why the Girl Scout leader turned down her offer to lecture on the subject.

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Many groups are using the Internet as an easy medium for spreading the news of the computer breakdown. (Ironic, isn’t it?) Surfing the net leads to an uncountable amount of websites on the disaster of Y2K and is a frightening example of the number of people freaking out. A website maintained by the Christian Coalition claimed that “President Clinton might use the chaos that Y2K unleashes as an opportunity to seize dictatorial powers.” Another religious website compared Y2K to Noah’s Ark. They believe we should heavily prepare and not shrug it off as the people in Noah’s time dismissed the flood. They suggest to try living without electricity, water, fuel, food, and medical attention for weeks at a time. Growing a garden and buying camping supplies is also one of their suggestions for preparing. On the 2000 retreat website, I found some people are planning to retract from society until the problem blows over. This site listed guidelines for choosing a location for your retreat: more than a gas tanks drive from any developed area, far from major highways, close to a body of water, where the soil is suitable for farming, and which is defendable. I hope all of our campsites are not over run by the insane.

Now, after learning the information of this computer glitch, the normal person would do a little research on how the problem is being looked at. I went straight to the source, the computer engineers. What I discovered is that the computer scientists had thought of this problem when designing the first computers, but the year 2000 was so far away that nobody was concerned. They would “sort it out” when the time comes. However, more than forty years ago, a young scientist wrote a program for a company that needed to have the four digits in the data base which could apply to any program. This is out there, but of course there needs to be money to fix any problem with a scope as large as the computer world. Some estimates have been set at $50 to $600 billion.

So, what is being done about it? Of course we do not have to worry about the Internal Revenue Service, they are prepared. Also, most other government agencies have either started to work on it or think they have solved the problem. The computers that are responsible for keeping our defense weapons in check have been programmed for Y2K compliance and are being tested in the deserts of Utah. Dungway Proving Ground is a 1,200 square mile field at the end of a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Here the United Stated Army Defense Department is testing what will happen when the millennium comes. This includes chemical and biological warfare electronics. John Rupp is the director of the Year 2000 Compliance and Operational Readiness Exercise. Rupp and his crew are programming computer models of the ones in question and setting the time for the 365th day, the 23rd hour, 30 minutes and no seconds and getting really far away to observe what happens when the clock reaches 12:00. So far tests have been successful and the millennia should come in safely, but the crew will be around on the day prepared just in case.

The Federal Aviation Administration officials say the air traffic control systems will be ready. During tests already conducted, 88% of the computers have passed and the remaining must be working by March 31st according to official Ray Long. However, he also cautioned individual airports to test to be certain the baggage handling systems are compliant. Another concern of the Federal Aviation Administration is for the air control of other countries. Officials are said to be working on it during meetings with International Aviation Systems.

The United States has a committee for almost anything you can think of and probably has enough year 2000 committees to tackle the Y2K problem. What about other countries? If they have problems, we have problems. According to CNN sources, 200-300 representatives from top international organizations such as the World Bank and World Trade Organization are scheduled to meet in Singapore next month to discuss the year 2000’s impact around the globe. Our 2000 Commission chairman will be attending the discussions the impact on financial services, telecommunications, transport, energy, and small to medium businesses.

News of the Y2K problem is well distributed, and computer programmers are on the problem. The question is are they really ready? That is the scary thing. Those whose choose to panic over the situation obviously don’t think so or don’t want to think so. They believe there is no way to fix this problem. However, if other humans can develop a box that contains silicon chips that can store and compute mass amounts of information, I have confidence programmers can switch the worlds computers to a 2000 compliant state and our level of government certainly has the ability and the motive to do this.

But, throughout history many people have used unusual events or distinctive time points as signals of huge events (think of the frenzy Haley’s Comet produced in the 1800s and the Hale Bop Comet in the 1990s). I don’ t think the millennium will bring any major disaster with it. People have survived tragedies like the depression and the civil war. We can handle a few days without electricity or using our credit cards if worse comes to worse. The citizens of a rural Montana town actually welcome a breakdown. They will dust off their old adding machines and live like the old days for a while. “This Y2K thing might show people how they’ve been babied.”

A few experts say the real threat is not in the worldwide breakdown of computers but the safeguards everyone will be taking. If worried about their funds, people will be inclined to withdraw all their money from the bank, and the mass selling of stocks may send the stock market into a great decline. The Federal Reserve is actual planning to print an excess of money to prepare for this.

I am sure there will a few glitches when the millennium comes around, but I suspect nothing world threatening. However, I might be buying a few extra ramen noodles in December and making sure I have my funds on paper. Just in case.
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