New year 2000 looks to new millennium regardless of whatever Y2K may bring

By Mary Zielinski (free-lance)
Posted 12/30/99

The countdown is underway. Within two days, the nineties, the nineteens and the 20th century leaves. Of course, the earth and human society are much older than 2,000 years with the planet’s age in …

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New year 2000 looks to new millennium regardless of whatever Y2K may bring


The countdown is underway. Within two days, the nineties, the nineteens and the 20th century leaves. Of course, the earth and human society are much older than 2,000 years with the planet’s age in billions and Homo Sapiens at approximately two million. By comparison, the calendar is quite young, only maybe 13,000 years old, and the version we use today, not quite 400 years old. In fact, the American colonies did not accept the Gregorian calendar until 1752. And, the Greek Orthodox Church still hues to the Augustian one. It’s a wonder we know what year it is, let alone what century.

However, for the computer, 2000 could conceivably mean time to turnoff, start over with a 1900 count (as it did for the water billing department for the City of West Des Moines, notifying customers that a penalty would attach for bills not paid by January 3, 1900), or just plain rollover.


The great concern is that computer shutdowns will affect everything from schedules (there’s that calendar again) to energy delivery systems and every other thing handled by computers.

Throughout the United States, business and government have, for the last two years, undertaken a massive effort to make their systems Y2K compatible. Most believe they have been successful.

At the local level, the City of Kalona obtain a generator for its water plant; a unit large enough to keep the water system running without other energy sources. In the process, they also obtained sufficient fuel storage to keep the generator operating for a considerable period of time.

The move was not done so much for Y2K fears, but in the sure and certain knowledge that wind storms and tornadoes blow through here regularly.

County officials say they have addressed the problem and are confident that systems will be operational January 1 and will keep on going.

Of course, no one can guarantee the complete success of anything because no one is sure exactly what will happen, if anything.

Throughout this year, there has been everything from simple advice to expect, at most, the equivalent of a bad storm, to dire predictions of the collapse of the stock market, airplanes falling from the sky and bank accounts vanishing into a locked up computer system.


Repeatedly, there has been the admonition that panic and people are far greater problems than a computer glitch. Equally important to remember is that every computer system is not date sensitive. Many run on a clock (24 hours), not a calendar.

Banks, nationwide and locally, have been required to start updating for Y2K compatibility for two years. Even more, all banks have backup systems and all print out hard copy. No account is suddenly going to vanish without a trace.

The federal government has given assurances all Social Security checks will be sent out on time as usual. As have other agencies who send out monthly payments.

Of course, because no one knows exactly what will happen (has there really ever been any time one did?) all Alliant Energy crews will be either working or on immediate call the night of December 31 and morning of January 1.

The same is true in municipality after municipality, all of it geared to being prepared.


Ironically, Y2K has achieved another thing: keeping people home New Year’s Eve. A great many celebrations have been canceled because of insufficient ticket sales due to people being uncertain what, besides a sunrise, may greet them New Year’s Day.

There have been heavy, heavy sales of generators (gasoline and diesel operated), oil lamps, camp stoves, and lots and lots of canned food.

Personally, I encountered people who have hoarded all kinds of supplies, including firearms and ammunition, to those who tell me “it’s a great non-event. Nothing is going to happen.”

I also have talked with some officials who fear that those who really want something to happen would seriously entertain committing “sabotage” to achieve it. The same also have told me that “just an ordinary problem can easily be blown out of proportion.”

An Alliant official said “what we don’t want is an ice storm the night of December 31 that takes things down and everybody panics, believing it’s Y2K.”

Some officials have indicated that the Y2K factor or millennium bug will not come all at once, but there will be a series of things, glitches, that will cause annoyances and delays, but will not irrevocably shut down anything.

A co-op department head in Keota said, “We have had bad storms, electrical shutdowns for days, even weeks, and everyone pulled together on it. What makes Y2K different? Why wouldn’t people help each other again?”

Like 1950s

A local elected official likened the Y2K fears to “the 1950s when a lot of people went out and built bomb shelters. In some ways, that was a more realistic fear.”

Nationwide, a number of clergymen have related the Y2K fears to the combination of a change of century and, most of all, to the arrival to a new millennium.

For the record, though, our 2000 is the year 6,236 according to the ancient Egyptian calendar, 5,119 in the current Maya Great Cycle and 2,544 by the Buddhist calendar. There are a number of other variants, depending on how far back you care you go, including all the way to the Dordogne Valley in Central France where the finding of a 13,000 year old incised eagle bone has led a number of archeologist to consider it a possible very first calendar. There’s an even older one, dated at 30,000 years, that anthropologists believe charts the course of the moon.

Of course, the computer doesn’t care what year it is, only that two zeroes are showing up that could, maybe, possibly tell it it’s time to quit. One good thing about this, however, is that the problem should be solved when our year 3000 arrives in 365,243 days. Then again, there could be Y3K just waiting out there.