What created crisis might my children face in their future?

Published 9:54 am Friday, December 27, 2019

This time 20 years ago, I was sitting in a newsroom in Selma, Ala. likely writing my 129th story about the pending disaster associated with Y2K. Simply typing that combination of two letters and one number sends a shudder down my spine.

At the time, the thought was the mere act of the clock moving from 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, 1999, to 12:00 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2000, would send the world into an apocalyptic collapse.

Years leading up to the believed end of the world, companies were spending millions upon millions to upgrade computer code and equipment to fix issues many felt would lead to chaos at the strike of midnight.

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletter

Receive daily headlines and obituaries

The core problem, you see, for those who either don’t remember the panic of 1999 and the days and weeks leading up to Y2K, was that much of the computer code written in the 20th Century included times, information and dates — specifically dates with just the last two years. Meaning a line of code would only have 99 in the line rather than the full four digits of 1999.

Some thought that once we reached 2000, computers would not know what to do with the “00.” So, patches were installed, code was rewritten and for those of us not particularly tech-savvy, we stocked up on non-perishable food items, bottled water and ammunition — in no particular order.

And that panic, that worry, that end of the world forecast is what led reporter-extraordinaire to write countless articles about what steps were being taken to avoid such calamity, banks and government agencies feverishly working to correct code, banks advising people not to take all of their money out of their accounts, and so on, and so on and so on.

Even at the newspaper, on that fateful eve of destruction, we were finishing up our Jan. 1 edition and waiting. A small television was in the corner of the newsroom, tuned to a news channel.

We watched, we listened, we waited.

In the event our newspaper lost power in the switch from one date to the next, we had plans and back-ups. We had discussed the worst-case scenarios and drawn up contingencies for how we could get copies of the newspaper to readers in the event of blackouts.

Our first sign of trouble on that Dec. 31 would come from those countries on the other side of the international dateline. If they started having troubles, we were in for it.

We watched, we listened, we waited.

Then, as the clock struck midnight in countries like New Zealand and Australia, it happened … fireworks, celebrations, the popping of champagne.

There was no catastrophe, no riots, or rolling blackouts. Shucks. All of that work, all of those millions of dollars spent and all of those stories written — most important all of those stories written — and there was nothing.

The world kept spinning, the clock kept ticking and the computers kept running. It was either crisis adverted or a crisis created that never happened.

Looking back 20 years ago, I was a lot younger, had more hair and was in better shape. It was before I was a husband and a father.

As the days move closer to another year and another decade, my questions these days do not revolve around impending doom or catastrophe, but what will become of my children, what will their stories be.

It crossed my mind on Christmas morning that I will not see the year 2100, but my daughter and sons could. What will be the things they worry about as they face the next century?

In the meantime, I will wrestle with the question of why in the world there are still toys made that require a 9-volt battery? For the love of all that is holy, why? Talk about your catastrophes.

 

Tim Reeves is editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at tim.reeves@vicksburgpost.com.

About Tim Reeves

Tim Reeves, and his wife Stephanie, are the parents of three children, Sarah Cameron, Clayton and Fin, who all attend school in the Vicksburg Warren School District. The family are members of First Baptist Church Vicksburg. Tim is involved in a number of civic and volunteer organizations including the United Way of West Central Mississippi and serves on the City of Vicksburg's Riverfront Redevelopment Committee.

email author More by Tim