Tag Archive | New Year’s Eve

Y2K

The Apocalypse That Wasn’t

December 29, 2020

By the spring and summer of 1999, the world had turned their full attention to the impending turn of the calendar to the year 2000. Or, as it was familiarly known, Y2K.

Signs and stickers like this one warned us for months of impending doom.

It was truly a global phenomenon and there was no shortage of doomsday predictions as to what would occur when at midnight, on December 31, 1999, the digits all changed.

As it turned out, it was a nothing burger. The year 2020, however, was a whole lot closer to what people expected the year 2000 to be.

Y2K was originally an abbreviation assigned to a problem dubbed the Millennium Bug. The challenge they envisioned was that computers everywhere would not be up to the task of functioning properly when the year 2000 started. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The acronym Y2K has been attributed to Massachusetts programmer David Eddy in an e-mail sent on 12 June 1995. He later said, ‘People were calling it CDC (Century Date Change), FADL (Faulty Date Logic). There were other contenders. Y2K just came off my fingertips.’

The problem started because on both mainframe computers and later personal computers, storage was expensive, from as low as $10 per kilobyte, to in many cases as much as or even more than US$100 per kilobyte. It was therefore very important for programmers to reduce usage. Since programs could simply prefix ‘19’ to the year of a date, most programs internally used, or stored on disc or tape, data files where the date format was six digits, in the form DDMMYY, DD as two digits for the day, MM as two digits for the month, and YY as two digits for the year. As space on disc and tape was also expensive, this also saved money by reducing the size of stored data files and data bases. (snip)

Special committees were set up by governments to monitor remedial work and contingency planning, particularly by crucial infrastructures such as telecommunications, utilities and the like, to ensure that the most critical services had fixed their own problems and were prepared for problems with others. While some commentators and experts argued that the coverage of the problem largely amounted to scaremongering, it was only the safe passing of the main ‘event horizon’ itself, 1 January 2000, that fully quelled public fears.”

Newspaper and magazine articles on the topic bombarded readers; books were written; the nightly news was full of stories which promoted fear in the public mind. Doomsday preppers encouraged people to keep months of supplies in their pantry since at 12:01 on January 1, 2000, the world, as we knew it, was going to end.

TP shortage and electrical grid shutdowns were but two of the predicted problems.

The Infallible Wikipedia continues:

“Y2K was also exploited by some fundamentalist and charismatic Christian leaders throughout the Western world, particularly in North America and Australia. Their promotion of the perceived risks of Y2K was combined with end times thinking and apocalyptic prophecies in an attempt to influence followers. The New York Times reported in late 1999, ‘The Rev. Jerry Falwell suggested that Y2K would be the confirmation of Christian prophecy — God’s instrument to shake this nation, to humble this nation. (snip) Along with many survivalists, Mr. Falwell advised stocking up on food and guns’. Adherents in these movements were encouraged to engage in food hoarding, take lessons in self-sufficiency, and the more extreme elements planned for a total collapse of modern society.”

A whole lot of hype!

Of course we all know what happened: nothing. The resources which were poured into fixing the bug were enormous and the switch was mostly seamless. A whole lot of people no doubt had enough food and TP to survive for a year. My own parents eventually donated a case of green beans purchased ‘just in case’ to the food bank.

I personally never bought in to all the hype, instead believing that human ingenuity would find a way. In fact, my sister and I hatched a plan to spend New Year’s Eve 1999 in Leavenworth, Washington. We booked several rooms nearly a year in advance and arrived to a winter wonderland a day before the big event. Despite their trepidation, even our parents joined the party. Our two sets of kids – ages 10, 9, 7, and 6 – had a blast. We went sledding, indoor swimming, shopping, eating and explored the town. We all eagerly anticipated staying up to welcome in the new Millennium. About 10 minutes before midnight we bundled up in our coats and hats and walked to the corner of a nearby intersection, noise makers in our mittened hands. It was snowing lightly and all the Christmas lights cast an enchanted glow of red, blue, green, and gold over the entire scene.

As the moment ticked closer my six year old daughter became distraught.

“What’s wrong?” I asked her.

“Is the world going to end?” she said, her lower lip quivering.

“No, of course not,” I tried to reassure her.

Even so she snuggled close to me as the final countdown began… ten, nine, eight…

When it reached Zero we all shouted Happy New Year and blew our horns.

The countdown to Y2K in Leavenworth. I’d never noticed before my Dad checking his watch…
I snapped this shot less than a minute before midnight.

And then it happened. Off to the right a red glowing orb appeared in the dark sky and was headed our direction. My daughter started to cry, certain that some bad thing was going to happen. Turns out it was a hot air balloon of some sort and when she was brave enough to look began to understand that it was just part of the celebration.

The next week the kids were back in school and her first grade teacher assigned the class the typical ‘draw a picture and write a sentence describing your winter break’ project.

Me and my daughter in front of one of Leavenworth’s many wonderful murals before the poor child’s anxiety took over.

My daughter drew a picture of stick people drinking out of gigantic wine glasses and wrote that we drank ‘champan’. I got asked about it. I explained that we really had sparkling cider. I think the teacher thought we had a problem. I looked for that paper but it appears it was kept by the teacher so as to keep an eye on me.

Soon the anxiety over Y2K was forgotten. Then one day about a year and half ago I made a random comment to my daughter about Y2K . She got a funny look on her face and there was dead silence before she said, “Wait. Does Y2K stand for the Year 2000?” I might have burst out laughing.

It’s all true. She didn’t know until she was 26 years old what Y2K stood for. But to make the story even funnier is that when she asked her fiancé (now husband who is the same age) if he KNEW what Y2K stood for, he didn’t either.

I’m thankful that Y2K turned out to be a joyous occasion and that the world was able to celebrate such a momentous once in a thousand years event in grand fashion. I am positive that ringing in 2021 will be more somber and that people everywhere will be eager to say ‘get lost’ to 2020.

The banner we hung in our hotel room December 31, 1999

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_2000_problem

Looking For Space

New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2019

He was the unlikeliest of stars. From his wire rimmed granny glasses, to his bowl cut hair, and his nasally voice, this introvert took the pop world by storm in the mid 1970’s. Henry John Deutschendorf Jr., however, possessed two qualities which proved to be the essential ingredients necessary for success: he could write songs and he was persistent.
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John Denver early years.jpgThe world, of course, knew him as John Denver. Born on New Year’s Eve 1943 in Roswell, New Mexico, one can wonder if some other world force was at play when he arrived in this world.
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His childhood was not an easy one. His father, being a Captain in the Air Force, was moved every two years which prevented Denver from forming strong friendships. Denver, however, found his talent and his solace in the guitar given him on his eleventh birthday from his grandmother. From the Infallible Wikipedia:
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“He learned to play well enough to perform at local clubs by the time he was in college. He adopted the surname ‘Denver’ after the capital of his favorite state, Colorado. He decided to change his name when Randy Sparks, the founder of The New Christy Minstrels, suggested that ‘Deutschendorf’ would not fit comfortably on a marquee. Denver attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock and sang in a folk-music group called ‘The Alpine Trio’ while pursuing architectural studies. He was also a member of the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity. Denver dropped out of the Texas Tech School of Engineering in 1963 and moved to Los Angeles, where he sang in folk clubs. In 1965, Denver joined the Mitchell Trio, replacing founder Chad Mitchell. After more personnel changes, the trio later became known as ‘Denver, Boise, and Johnson’ (John Denver, David Boise, and Michael Johnson).”
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In the late 1960’s Denver self produced a number of songs he’d written and gave them out as Christmas presents. Included on this record was one titled Babe I Hate To Go. When Milt Okun, Denver’s producer of his recently released RCA album Rhymes and Reason heard the song, he pitched it to the popular trio of Peter, Paul, and Mary. The song’s title was changed to Leavin’ On A Jet Plane and catapulted to number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
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220px-JohnDenversGreatestHitsBut RCA was not actively promoting Denver’s album via a tour, so the persistent Denver took matters into his own hands. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:
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“Denver himself embarked on an impromptu supporting tour throughout the Midwest, stopping at towns and cities as the fashion took him, offering to play free concerts at local venues. When he was successful in persuading a school, college, American Legion hall, or local coffee house to let him play, he would spend a day or so distributing posters in the town and could usually be counted upon to show up at the local radio station, guitar in hand, offering himself for an interview. With his foot in the door as author of ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’, he was often successful in gaining some valuable promotional airtime, usually featuring one or two songs performed live. Some venues would let him play for the ‘door’; others restricted him to selling copies of the album at intermission and after the show. After several months of this constant low-key touring schedule, however, he had sold enough albums to persuade RCA to take a chance on extending his recording contract. He had also built a sizable and solid fan base, many of whom remained loyal throughout his career.”
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It was his album, Poems, Prayers, and Promises, released in 1971 which sent his career soaring. The single Take Me Home, Country Roads proved popular and peaked at number two on the charts.
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The highlight of Denver’s career was in 1974 and 1975 with a series of number one hits, solidifying him as a superstar: Sunshine on My Shoulders, Annie’s Song, Thank God I’m a Country Boy, and I’m Sorry. Additionally, he had three number one albums in the same era, starred in a number of TV specials and performed opposite George Burns in the movie Oh, God.
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In all, Denver wrote hundreds of songs and produced more than 50 albums. Of his 44 released singles, 11 became number one hits.
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There is  much, much more to his story and I encourage my readers to visit the John Denver website and read the Wikipedia overview. (links below)
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I had heard Denver’s songs during my early teens but dismissed them as country. It was in 1973, however, that I understood how his songs had impacted the culture. I was over at my best friend Daphne’s house and she walked out of her bedroom carrying his Greatest Hits album and we listened to it together.
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From then on I was a fan and found in his music a troubadour who captured the emotions of life in his insightful lyrics and memorable tunes.
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Many of the guys I knew sported wire rimmed glasses and Denver-esque hairdos. I even made a shirt for my boyfriend in the style Denver wore.
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Of all his songs my favorite is Looking For Space. In it, Denver captures some elemental truths about the nature of people and life.
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When Daphne, a triplet, unexpectedly lost one of her two brothers in the fall of 2017, it was this song I shared with her in memory of him… and when I lost my Dad earlier this year, she evoked the emotions of that song for me by painting this picture.
Soar on Wings of Eagles
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As John Denver so poignantly wrote:
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And to find out who you are
When you’re looking to try and reach the stars
It’s a sweet, sweet, sweet dream
Sometimes I’m almost there
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
But sometimes I’m deep in despair
Sometimes I fly like an eagle, like an eagle
I go flying, flying
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None of us can know the triumphs and trials which await us in the New Year. Live each day to the fullest my friends.