The Virus That Never Was!
Splitting time between West Virginia and Los Angeles in 1999 was not all fun and games. It required a huge amount of time and travel and stress. The forecast for the Y2K Bug Seemed Like a Joke. However, it had to be taken serious. As each day drew closer the panic increased. It was a different kind of virus from what we face today, but the potential difficulties facing the world were very much the same and could not be taken lightly.
As I pondered what could soon be a decimated world I took every precaution to protect my family. Should I remain in West Virginia where we could be cut off from all communication including the food chain or should we head out to our home in L.A?
I had just undergone a heart procedure with a stent put in the LAD vein. You know the one called the widow maker. It was only two weeks prior to the turn of the century and tensions were running high.
I decided to make the move, so we loaded up my van and headed west. We arrived in California on Christmas eve and enjoyed a few great days with family. The unknown however was still on the horizon. We had stocked up on food and water as the great technology virus was predicted to hit the world in a few days. While many were preparing for the worst, others were getting ready to celebrate the turn of another century. We were ready for anything, or so we thought!
In the hours leading up to the big time change, circumstances beyond our control (fire) left me, my wife and grand daughter with no where to stay, in a city of over 5 million people. With everything booked up solid we had decided to spend the night in the van. We turned onto a dimly lit road off Wilshire Blvd., heading into Hollywood, drove a short distance and saw a sign that said vacancy.
We pulled in to this odd looking place with a bunch of younger people walking around. Not sure if we were on a small college campus or what, we asked a couple kids if there were any rooms available.
We soon found out we could spend the night for 20 dollars, plus we had our own restroom and shower. We checked in and unloaded around 10 p.m. Still nervous about what could be as the clock drew closer to midnight.
Bill Clinton was President and he had been trying to prove to a jittery public and scrutinizing press that after an extensive, multi-year effort, the country was ready for the new millennium.
The term Y2K had become shorthand for a problem stemming from the clash of the upcoming Year 2000 and the two-digit year format utilized by early coders to minimize use of computer memory. If computers interpreted the “00” in 2000 as 1900, this could mean headaches ranging from wildly erroneous mortgage calculations to, some speculated, large-scale blackouts and infrastructure damage.
It was an issue that everyone was talking about 20 years earlier, but few truly understood, I see that as the most similiar issue were facing with the virus today. ‘No one truely understands it!
Our main worry was what to do if everything fails and vehicles wouldn’t even run. We had a room at the famous “Banana Bungalow” a youth Hostel in West Hollywood, L.A. It was a decent place, but at first glance it brought up memories of Charles Mansion and his followers.
President Clinton had exhorted the government in mid-1998 to “put our own house in order,” and large businesses, spurred by their own testing, responded in kind, racking up an estimated expenditure of $100 billion in the United States alone. Their preparations encompassed extensive coordination on a national and local level, as well as on a global scale.
Public awareness had peaked, and amid the uncertainty, many Americans stocked up on food, water and guns in anticipation of a computer induced apocalypse. Ominous news reports warned of possible chaos if critical systems failed, but, behind the scenes, those tasked with avoiding the problem were correctly confident the new year’s beginning would not bring disaster.
The Y2K virus crisis didn’t happen, precisely because people started preparing for it over a decade in advance. The general public who was busy stocking up on supplies and stuff just didn’t have a sense that the programmers were on the job.
After the collective sigh of relief in the first few days of January 2000, however, Y2K morphed into a punch line. It was called a big hoax and the effort to fix it a waste of time and money.
But what if no one had taken steps to address the matter? Industries and companies don’t spend a $100 billion dollars or devote these personnel resources to a problem they think is not serious. The people who knew best were the ones who were working the hardest and spending the most.
The innumerable programmers who devoted months and years to implementing fixes received scant recognition. It was a tedious, unglamorous effort, hardly the stuff conducive to an outpouring of public gratitude, even though some of the fixes put in place in 1999 are still used today to keep the world’s computer systems running smoothly.
While the Y2K Virus had a timeline for disaster, todays coronavirus hit unexpectedly with little warning to the common people. Twenty years leading up to Y2K an all out war was raged against the looming villian.
Even though the results were different and it was an uncertainty, our top technology people were hard at work preparing everything for the time change and those two double digits -00.
Our death toll, the infection rate and the damage to our economy, should send us a message. Be prepared! Anything can happen and normally does, take precaution and be prepared to address the issues as soon as they arise. If we don’t learn anything else from this, we should know that we can’t depend on the word of foriegn countries when it comes to the health and safety of our great nation.