Normally, a New Year’s Eve observance means nighttime partying, silly hats, and cautious expectations about hangovers at dawn’s early light. But many citizens getting ready for the year 2000 were hoping there would be no massive ramifications to humanity’s reliable companion: technology.
By today’s date in 2000, there was relief that the world’s technology had not collapsed. The scare of the calendar change was the millennium bug, with the nickname Y2K. It was born of the idea that computers might fail, unable to adjust their programming because may systems calculated the year with only two digits. What would happen they the computers went from 99 to double zero? There was real concern of a mammoth failure.
The setting of a new year and a new century arriving with disaster was a science fiction fan’s fascination … or nightmare. Warnings of the potential effects included the loss of power, computer systems run amok, or even world-wide blackouts.
But, on New Year’s Day, life went on with passion and joy. New York’s Times Square teamed with over a million revelers. Their participation of was echoed by teems of people across the world at their appropriate times.
Potential problems with the century change had been undermined by contemporary technology itself that helped lights stay on, computers without blow-outs, and weapons systems intact.
In London, Big Ben’s bell pealed at midnight preceding a glorious fireworks display.
Two million people crammed the streets in Central Berlin. Queen Elizabeth kissed husband Prince Phillip after toasting the new year with champagne.
Don Jones, head of Y2K troubleshooting for Microsoft said, “Literally, you can count the number of Y2K-related calls we’ve received around the world on one hand.”
In North Dakota, the potentially spooky evening passed with no major problems. The new millennium had arrived and its big, bad, boogieman of fright faded from memory.
Dakota Datebook written by Steve Stark
Fargo Forum January 7, 2000
The Atlantic, January 2000