Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Let’s remember the quaint apocalyptic hysteria of the Y2K bug

Photo: Jcrosemann / Getty
Photo: Jcrosemann / Getty

Humans have pretty much always thought the end is nigh, although the dawn of this millennium provided a great focal point for that sentiment, seemingly indicating a cosmic transition that may as well have also included the apocalypse. We were particularly focused, at the time, on the Y2K computer bug, which is, at this point, almost a shorthand for quaint Clinton-era fears.

At the time, though, people were terrified! A new video from Freethink explores this hysteria and questions if the measures taken to avert it were worth their cost. After all, some $300 billion was spent in preparation for the event, with the U.S. accounting for a full third of that tally. The bug was touted not just by fringe conspiracy theorists but also political leaders and technology moguls, although, for his part, Bill Gates only thought of it as “minor inconvenience.” Its roots lie in computer history and the advancement of memory storage; in the early days, a single 5 megabyte hard drive was the size of a piano, so storing the present year as two simple digits (i.e., “99” instead of “1999”) made good economic sense. The simple flip to the year 2000—and, thus, the year “00”—was linked to global collapse and nuclear war, not to mention hospital and airplane failure worldwide, although it ended up not causing much beyond some guy getting charged 100 years of late fees at his video store. (Remember those? Sigh.)


The question of whether or not this non-disaster was because of all the money we spent or because it was never a big deal at all will have to remain purely speculative, but this video makes the case that we were, perhaps, a touch more hysterical than we needed to be. However, it did all net us this great NBC movie:

And a terrific hour-long Leonard Nimoy “family survival guide”:

If even Spock was scared, perhaps we were all right to be a little freaked out.

[via Digg]

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