Y2K Doomsayers Alive and Well

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Y2K Doomsayers Alive and Well One Year After Big Letdown

Tuesday, December 26, 2000 By Patrick Riley Last year at this time, the nation's staunchest Y2K activists were hunkering down for what they expected would be a computerized calamity of cataclysmic proportions.

AP/Wide World

The date-change to 1/1/00 would cause the world's computers to crash, and that would force major utilities to fail. Life as we know it would cease to exist.

We all know what happened instead.

"I'm still surprised it wasn't more serious than it was," said Mick Winter, a Napa Valley, Calif., resident who spent more than a year hosting regular Y2K preparedness meetings. "I still haven't figured it out."

But far from wallowing in bitterness or embarrassment, many doomsayers say they are enjoying life in the ongoing world and are glad to be ready for the next disaster.

Winter said those who prepared for the worst now have the supplies to withstand more pedestrian disasters like floods, winter storms and California's recent near-blackout situation.

"I was never ready for an earthquake; we're ready now," he said. "That's a good feeling."

Turner family and the survival dome

Candace Turner, who got a lot of attention in 1998 for marketing a line of pre-fab survival domes, said she's been baking bread every day for the past year with the wheat and yeast she saved up and still has enough to keep baking until the end of 2001.

Turner, who last year predicted the world's governments would collapse and lead to "an 1800s lifestyle for years," said she is still raising the chickens she bought for the crisis. "We're still enjoying our farm fresh eggs," she said. Her family also enjoyed their new swimming pool originally installed for use as a fresh-water reservoir.

She never did sell a survival dome, however.

"A lot of people were willing to spend two or three thousand dollars on food and seeds and things, but spending seven to ten thousand dollars on a survival dome was a bigger investment most people were not up to that level of concern."

Public concern diminished even further when disaster did not strike despite occasional glitches that some Y2Kers continued to track throughout the year on the Internet.

"I still have my Y2K discussion list," said Turner. "We only post three or four articles a week, when last year we were posting that many every minute. But most of the Y2K Web sites have folded their tent and gone away."

Indeed, that seems to be the case. A well-known preparation site run by Ted Derryberry has not been updated in 2000. The site belonging to Ed Yourdon, author of Time Bomb 2000, is now devoted to other economic matters, as is the site of Ed Yardeni, who predicted an economic collapse.

SOME Y2K GLITCHES In the United States: A spy satellite system was inoperable for several hours because of problems with software used to download and process information.

The Oregon Statewide Year 2000 Project Office relied on an electronic device that stamped Jan. 1, 2000, as Dec. 32, 1999. A glitch also delayed processing of food stamps and other benefits for one day.

A Chicago-area bank couldn't make Medicare payments to some hospitals. Medicare contractors had to send disks with processed claims so that payments could be made.

A video store in upstate New York tried to charge a customer $91,250 after computers showed a rented movie was being returned 100 years late.

At the Oak Ridge nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee, Y2K disrupted a computer that tracks weight and type of nuclear material. Plant operations were unaffected.

Merchants who failed to upgrade software from CyberCash posted some credit charges multiple times.

Some caller ID and pagers displayed March 1 on Feb. 29 because they did not recognize the leap year. Overseas: In Sweden, Y2K shut down equipment used to interpret electrocardiogram data at some hospitals, though the EKG machines were not affected.

France's defense satellite system lost its ability to detect equipment failure but continued to operate.

Glitches occurred at Japanese nuclear power plants on New Year's Day, but none led to leaks of radiation or safety problems. Most involved trouble with data transmission and were quickly fixed.

Heat failed in apartments for about 900 families in Pyongchon, South Korea.

Databanks in Venice and Naples, Italy, listed prisoners due to be released Jan. 10 as having completed their terms on Jan. 10, 1900.

Eight computerized traffic lights failed in Jamaica.

Up to 30,000 older cash registers in Greece printed receipts showing the year 1900.

During leap year's extra day, weather monitoring stations in Japan reported double-digit rainfall even though no rain fell, and 1,200 automated teller machines at post offices shut down.

Passport agency computers in Greece and Bulgaria issued passports with incorrect dates on Feb. 29. Source: AP

Gary North's Web site is dormant, too. Perhaps the most hard-line Y2K alarmist of them all, North, an economist, advocated people leave urban areas for the countryside, where the fight for natural resources would be less cutthroat. His site was comprised of 6,000 documents on Y2K that he began compiling in 1997.

"He said, 'I'm really embarrassed,'" Turner explained. She said North visited her during the build-up to Y2K to learn farming techniques.

Other Y2K leaders are bitter that society seems to have gone back to sleep.

Anthony R. Cassandra, president of the Cassandra Organization, whose Web site featured a comprehensive personal preparation list, said in an e-mail, "The Y2K problem was a wasted opportunity ... The state of computer software did not change, and our reliance on this poorly understood technology continues. People have dismissed the whole episode, ignoring the lesson that was taught. A most unfortunate situation."

Indeed, many activists were left with the impression that they won a battle for survival but not the war.

"There could be some other reason to have these storage items and be prepared," said Turner. "There are lots of things that could disrupt a high-tech economy delivery system, like war or disease, dreadful weather."

Winter is starting up a Web radio station, Radio 29, which will offer information on sustainability and the environment. "Even though we made it this time and there's no problem, there is a great deal of dependency on the outside for things like energy, food, information," he said.

If he had any Y2K demons, he's buried them. "It was a great experience," Winter said. "I got a lot out of it and met some nice folks."


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), December 26, 2000

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