Welcome to Auntie Em’s Y2K kickoff celebration.


Welcome to Auntie Em’s Y2K kickoff celebration.

I’ve got a little secret for those of you not on the inside of the glamorous, jet-setting world of computer media. I don’t want everyone to hear, so lean in close while I whisper. Ready? Here it is: Every (shhhh... I’m whispering now) computer magazine—and most non-computer magazines as well—printed in 1999 will have an article about the Y2K bug. Just as every other news story in 1998 was about Bubba and the intern, in 1999, Y2K will be the defining issue. So, don’t expect to hear about much besides Y2K for the next 12 months. To start the year on the right foot, and before you get completely sick of hearing about it, welcome to Auntie Em’s Y2K kickoff celebration.


Over the last couple of months, I’m sure you’ve heard so much misinformation and irresponsible hype about the millenium bug that I feel an ethical obligation to spread some misinformation and irresponsible hype of my own. For example, someone handed me a copy of the novel Y2K: It’s Already Too Late (by Jason Kelly, Jk Pr, ISBN 0-96643-870-1), in which pacemakers cease to function and car brakes lock up at 70 mph because of the Y2K bug. Absurd! As every technically informed person knows, pacemakers will just function erratically, and brakes won’t lock up until cars reach 75 mph.

At one of my client companies—and I swear I’m not making this up—one of the otherwise rational engineers has been trying to convince me that our government plans to use Y2K as an excuse to institute the “new world order.” In the draconian future he describes, we’ll all be required to have an identification chip implanted in the palm of our hand, and the millenium will usher in a new era of military rule.

My favorite newspaper, the Weekly World News, recently proclaimed on its front cover, “All Banks Will Fail” and “Food Supplies Will Be Depleted.”

I realize that the Y2K bug is serious and not something to be made fun of or taken lightly.1 There are much better things to make fun of and take lightly, such as Hanson and the Internal Revenue Service. Nevertheless, hearing this kind of horrendously stupid nonsense makes me want to laugh and vomit at the same time (well, maybe not at exactly the same time, but you get the point).


I’m very much of the opinion that the worst damage will be inflicted not by the Y2K bug itself but by us folks here in the glamorous, jet-setting world of the media. You see, it’s the job of the media to attract readers and viewers (“to harvest eyeballs,” as we say in “the biz”). One easy way to do this is by asking dramatic questions like, “Will your family survive?” or “How will you listen to Hanson with no electricity?”

By preying on people’s worst fears and reporting things that make no technical sense, the media may actually make things much worse than they otherwise would be. Already I’ve been hearing about people selling their family homes to buy cabins in northern Idaho in the hope of escaping this terrible event. All we need now is a couple of sensationalist reports on Hard Copy to have people running for the hills like monkeys on fire.2

14U,14ME,24U,124ME, 34U,1234ME

I may be wrong, but I’m of the opinion that we, as technical professionals, have an important responsibility here. I believe we should: a) do everything we can to ensure that our companies, vendors, and customers are Y2K compliant, b) advise our friends and families to take a level-headed approach to their Y2K preparations, and c) act like nothing’s wrong.


As for me, I’m nearly finished stockpiling Snackwells and ammunition. I plan to spend the eve of the millenium watching "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" on DVD while the rest of society crumbles around us like stale Sara Lee pound cake. Unless, of course, there’s no electricity, in which case you’ll find me studying a non-CBT version of the Windows 2000 for the Data Center exam prep guide by the glow of my non-virtual fireplace.

1 Unless, of course, you feel like it.
2 No monkeys were actually harmed during the writing of this column.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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