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December 13, 2007


New Year’s Eve has never been very important to me except for one occasion. The turn of the Millennium was an event much anticipated and even feared. Dire predictions of Y2K when all sorts of problems were expected to occur caused companies to expend vast sums of money in order to prevent catastrophes of the computer kind. Such problems, if they happened, would have affected our lifestyles and even the economy in general, not only in Canada but across the world. A serious threat indeed!
Wikipedia explained the Y2K factor as the Year 2000 problem. It was also described as a “ticking time bomb for all major computer applications.” It became a catch-phrase for all 2000 bug-related problems. One quote illustrating the general worry follows, “No one quite knows what will happen as the computer clock ticks over to the year 2000. Could this be the end of life as we know it or is it all over-blown paranoia?”
As early as 1971 and again in 1979 warnings appeared that there might be a problem. However those warnings were ignored and it was not until the 1990’s as the end of the century was approaching, that serious concerns became addressed. When computer clocks were devised, two digits were allocated for the day, month and year – thus six digits in all. This was to save costly memory space. Thus when the clocks would turn to 2000, it would read 00 for the year. It was stated this could mean 1900 and lead to malfunctions, miscalculations and network shutdown. Therefore plans were developed to address these problems.

The fateful night arrived. My husband and I drove to the home of Floyd and Jeanette Laughren, our long-time friends, with whom it had become traditional to spend New Year’s Eve. Some other friends were there as well and an air of excitement was evident. Even though none of us was really concerned that the “world as we knew it would come to an end”, questions and comments arose as to the possibilities. It made for lively conversation! Floyd turned on the radio as well as the television and we watched 2000 arrive in Sydney, Australia – spectacular! No problems! Relief! Then we were treated to wonderful shows in Europe – I particularly remember the Eiffel Tower in Paris seemingly exploding with brilliant fireworks! We were shown celebrations in London, Amsterdam, Prague, Moscow – all welcoming in the new century in grand and fitting style. Thousands of people had gathered together on the streets and squares throughout the world. Close to midnight we watched the glittering ball descend slowly in Times Square in New York City and all of us counted down along with Dick Clark. “Three, two, one…HAPPY NEW YEAR and WELCOME to the 21ST CENTURY!!” The year 2000 had arrived and - no catastrophes! Life and its vagaries would continue on as it always had. One could almost hear the sighs of relief in computer labs and boardrooms all across the world.


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