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Y2K: 20 Years Later

Y2K End of the World 1999

By Karlie Mickanuik

Y2K End of the World
Time

Two decades ago, computer programmers had a theory that when the 21st century begun, the world would be in grave danger. However, 20 years later, the event appeared to barely be a problem at all.

There are countless theories surrounding Y2K, an acronym for the Year 2000, ranging from the biblical reference to errors in coding. To keep a lot of computer coding terms less confusing for the general population, Y2K was essentially a problem with how computers interpret years. For example, programmers believed January 1, 2000, might be interpreted as January 1, 1900. But, why could this be a problem for the world?

Minor issues occurred around the world, like cab fare in Sweden being processed incorrectly and credit card companies cards not working until a few days past New Years Day. Airplanes were also delayed slightly around the world as baggage claims took longer because the automated system did struggle with the new millennia.

In the United States, the US Naval Observatory, which runs the master clock that keeps the country’s official time, showed the date on its website as January 1, 1900.

There were some more extreme results of the Y2K bug. In the city of Sheffield in the United Kingdom 154 pregnant women were sent inaccurate risk calculations stating their child may be born with Down Syndrome. Furthermore, four women who were told their child was low risk for the disorder were in fact born with Down Syndrome. These wrong assessments happened because of a miscalculation of the mother’s age.

Nuclear power plants in Japan were also affected by computer malfunctions on January 1, 2000. An alarm was sounded in one power plant only two minutes after midnight; however, there was no possibility of harm to the public, and the alarm was fixed a few hours later.

Another power plant stated that radiation monitoring equipment failed, but once again, the population was in no danger.

On the other end of the spectrum, many theorists believed the change of the millennia and the fear of malfunctioning technology was a sign of the rapture.

For those of you who do not know, the rapture is the second coming of Christ, which is essentially the end of the physical world and is talked about heavily in the Christian Bible. Some religious organizations, survivalists and cults used Y2K to scare the general population about the end of the world. These groups thrived off of using apocalyptic themes in their teaching and used Y2K to gain traction in their beliefs. There were reports of more people choosing to follow a survivalist path. At the same time, charismatic religious leaders claimed that now was the time to repent to escape eternal damnation as the world would soon end.

As much as the world feared the year 2000, the problems the turn of the century caused were mostly minor. The days passed as usual, and society has gone 20 whole years since then and probably will progress 20 more.

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