BOSTON GLOBE: "No Y2K meltdown, just a Y2K letdown, thanks to Mainers' efforts " : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


No Y2K meltdown, just a Y2K letdown, thanks to Mainers' efforts

By David Sharp, Associated Press, 1/7/2000

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) Maine governments and businesses spent millions of dollars and countless hours to prepare computers for the year 2000. People stocked up on extra water, batteries and canned foods. Vacations were canceled for state troopers and emergency workers.

At midnight, the lights didn't flicker and the phones didn't go dead. Fears of hysteria proved groundless as months of hype quickly turned to ho-hum across the state early on Jan. 1.

A joke quickly swept through state government: ''This was the biggest nonevent since Geraldo Rivera tried to open Al Capone's safe on live national TV,'' quipped Secretary of State Dan Gwadosky.

How concerns of a Y2K meltdown turned into the reality of a Y2K letdown is a lesson in preparedness and vigilance, said Bob Mayer, Maine's chief information officer in Augusta.

The state spent $15 million to make sure its computers were ready. CMP spent $4.5 million. Other companies including Bell Atlantic and Peoples Heritage Financial Group spent millions more.

Nationwide, an estimated $100 billion was spent to make sure the nation's computers were ready for the date rollover.

Y2K worries centered on what would happen if older computers misinterpreted the date Jan. 1, 2000, as Jan. 1, 1900. In Washington, officials deliberately did nothing to prepare an older computer and left it running to see what would happen on Jan. 1. It crashed.

''I don't think there was an undue amount of concern,'' Mayer said. ''The problem was real.''

And despite the complaints of an overzealous media, many Mainers felt Y2K concerns were legitimate. Some even felt that the media reports were necessary to jolt people to action.

''You have to scare the hell out of Americans to get them to do anything,'' Lucien Trahan, a Portland barber, said while cutting a customer's hair in the Old Port.

Mike Haskell, an information systems manager, agreed that companies were wise to prepare.

''It was a little hype but it had to be done,'' said Haskell, who works for Hunter Panels, a Portland-based company that manufactures roofing insulation at plants in Chicago and New York.

In the end, there were no serious problems in Maine. Utilities, hospitals and other critical services went uninterrupted; no significant problems were reported in the private sector, either.

The biggest Y2K problem may end up being a rather harmless one, the printing of about 2,000 motor vehicle titles that listed 2000-model cars and trucks as ''horseless carriages,'' the designation still used for vintage vehicles produced before 1916.

That glitch in April was the only one in the Department of Motor Vehicles, said Gwadosky, who oversees the agency. On Jan. 1, all 1,500 computer processes worked fine, he said.

Despite assurances that there would be no major problems, Mainers were advised to prepare for Y2K like a winter storm. That meant having extra food, candles and water on hand, for those who chose to stockpile.

And the Maine Emergency Management Agency's command center was fully staffed for the first time since the 1998 ice storm. The center promptly closed 12 hours into the new year when no glitches surfaced.

''We spent three years on this. There is a sense of anticlimax,'' Mayer said. ''The rollover occurred, and by Saturday noon, they had closed the command center. At that point, it was 'now what?'''

From the state's standpoint, several good things came out of its preparations, beyond the fact computers are still running, he said.

The state is now prepared to expand its emergency contingency plans over the next year by developing a full-scale recovery plan that covers not just the state's mainframe computer, but 600 to 700 file servers from Kittery to Fort Kent, Mayer said.

Also, the state has conducted its first complete inventory of computers, and hopes to use that information as a planning tool.

Rob Whitten, a Portland architect, viewed the offbeat chapter in the state's history in a positive light.

''I think it was really a healthy, cathartic experience,'' said Whitten, who noted that people's computers were updated and purged of unnecessary files, another benefit of Y2K: ''Everyone had a clean desktop on Jan. 1.''


-- John Whitley (, January 07, 2000

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