Dutch town insulated from Y2k woes

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Story Filed: Friday, December 17, 1999 3:01 PM EST

TINALLINGE, Netherlands (AP) -- Plaster crumbles from mossy walls and the musty smell of damp stone fills the air in this remote, northern Dutch village -- a place where time stands still.

While the modern world is desperately doctoring computers to ward off the Y2K bug and stocking up on emergency supplies, this desolate, deeply religious Dutch village has made no preparations at all.

In Tinallinge, villagers have resisted technology so effectively they're sure they'll slide as quietly into 2000 as if it were any other year.

Nestled in the flat, forlorn countryside of the devoutly Calvinist Dutch province of Groningen, about 120 miles north of Amsterdam, Tinallinge's decaying church will hold its ordinary, uneventful New Year's Eve service for about half the village's 80 citizens.

``It's been the same here for three millennia,'' said livestock farmer Frans Schreiber as he cleared manure from his cow stable. ``Why would it change now?''

In Tinallinge, there is no crisis squad to deal with problems arising from the so-called millennium bug -- a programming glitch that could cause uncorrected computers to read the last two digits of 2000 as 1900 -- because no one uses computers.

There are no traffic signals -- many villagers don't drive cars -- or mobile communication towers to test for compliance.

In fact, things are almost the same as when the village was founded some 1,000 years ago, except for electricity and telephone service. And if the power goes out, there are plenty of candles and firewood. And who really needs a phone when a shout over the fence will do?

Schreiber, 43, hasn't spent much time thinking about the possibility of computer failure on the eve of the next millennium, and he doesn't expect to miss any sleep over it, either.

``It will be the same as all other years: I'll have a drink with my parents and maybe set off some fireworks with my kids,'' he said, leaning on his shovel. ``Then the world will go on as before.''

Others in the village say they, too, expect a quiet changeover on Dec. 31.

``There's nothing special about this New Year,'' said Marten Bootsman, the caretaker of Tinallinge's Reformed Church. ``The village will come together in the church at midnight, a prayer will be said, and the bell will be sounded for half an hour.''

``The only difference is that we may hand out refreshments this year,'' Bootsman said. ``That will be new.''

For nearly four decades, Bootsman has looked after the brick church erected in 1250. On New Year's Eve, he'll push open the creaky doors once again and welcome the devoted flock just like any other year.

``Every new year is a struggle,'' said Hendrick-Jan Vogel, an elderly man who lives two houses from the church. ``Nothing has changed. We will all go into the next millennium as sinners.''

Isolated hamlets like Tinallinge are exceptions in the Netherlands, where businesses and government are among the world's leaders in millennium preparedness and have spent an estimated $11.2 billion testing and fixing computer systems.

A few miles from Tinallinge, the village of Oudeschip -- the name means ``Old Ship,'' after a shipwreck at the site several hundred years ago -- shop owner Luit Kap has a clear idea about what the next 1,000 years will bring.

``People say big things will happen everywhere,'' he said from behind the counter. ``But nothing at all will happen here.''

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), December 17, 1999



Amish.com? Horse, buggy lifestyle not immune from Y2k

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), December 17, 1999.

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