Originally Published: Sunday, 2 January 2000 Author: Jerry Hatchett
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

What, The Sky Didn't Fall?

As I sit here in the year 2000, it occurs to me that the strangest, most bizarre thing happened last night at the various strokes of midnight across the nation and across the world: nothing out of the ordinary. My Linux box kept ticking away just fine and dandy, thank you very much. Heck, even Windows boxes kept clunking along as they normally do, only crashing here and there as they normally do. From a logistical standpoint, it was just another New Year's Eve....

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As I sit here in the year 2000, it occurs to me that the strangest, most bizarre thing happened last night at the various strokes of midnight across the nation and across the world: nothing out of the ordinary. My Linux box kept ticking away just fine and dandy, thank you very much. Heck, even Windows boxes kept clunking along as they normally do, only crashing here and there as they normally do. From a logistical standpoint, it was just another New Year's Eve.

But despite the obvious good news of a smooth transition, there is no doubt that there is a group of depressed people out there on this New Year's Day. They are the ones, bless their hearts, who fully expected a wholesale disaster. I work with one of these folks on a daily basis. He's a nice fellow, but for a solid year he's been preparing for nothing. I screamed for that same year that Y2K was an overblown bunch of hype and nonsense, but he wasn't listening. He stockpiled food and firewood. He filled barrels with gasoline. And just in case his supply of gas should run out and render his generator useless, he put 12-volt DC light fixtures throughout his house so he could squeeze a few more hours of light from the batteries in his cars. He was a Y2K zealot, and I'm sure he's a bit disappointed today that all his work was for naught.

On the bright side for my friend, he's probably not as disappointed as his aunt he told me about. She ripped out sheetrock walls, built shelves inside the walls, filled the shelves with canned goods, then put new sheetrock back in place. I'm not sure, but I think the logic was to thwart the legions of food burglars that were sure to storm her home in starvation-induced desperation. I have no idea how she planned to use the food for her own consumption without making its presence obvious to would-be intruders, nor do I know what her plan is now for the food-filled walls, but I sincerely wish her and all the others only the best.

Lest you think I'm making fun of Y2K zealots, let me assure you that I'm not. At first glance, it's easy to chuckle. But when we're through with that and peer a bit deeper, we must wonder how on earth so very many people had the wool pulled so snugly over their eyes. After all, the two people I described above were certainly not alone. They merely served as a couple of examples from my own little corner of the world. Chances are that each person reading this knows someone who believed that the sky would fall last night. Lots of shelves in lots of grocery stores went bare yesterday as millions stocked up on the staples. Many gasoline stations enjoyed record sales on this New Year's Eve.

Lots of people took the bait. Why? My personal theory is that people rely far too heavily on an uninformed and ignorant media. Some reporter who hasn't the foggiest clue about how computers work stands in front of the camera and declares that there's a huge problem in our computer infrastructure. The people watching, knowing even less than he does, see it and soak it up like a sponge. Repeat this scenario a bazillion times, and there you have it: Y2K is the end of civilization as we know it. Will the media now come back and apologize for creating a needless frenzy? Don't hold your breath. Breathe normally, look ahead, and do what you can to educate those around you. After all, ignorance is a natural state. It's the way we all come into this world, and we stay that way until someone takes the time to fill the void with information. Let's do our part to dispel the hype and fill the heads of those around us with correct information concerning computers as they continue to change the way in which we live.

At the risk of being labeled a quibbling nerd, I must go slightly off-topic and point out one more aspect of all this that irritated me to no end. In my mind, nothing exemplified the media misinformation more than the constant and never-ending reference to the new millennium. This is not the new millennium! This is not even a new century, for heaven's sake! 2000 is the final year of the century and the final year of this millennium. The new century and the new millennium both begin one year from now. Whew! I feel better to have publicly gotten that off my chest.

With the Y2K Hype behind us, and looking forward, 2000 should be an exciting year within our community. The word "Linux" enjoys unprecedented recognition. The mysterious Crusoe chip from Transmeta is just around the corner. Business is booming at Linux-related companies. Broadband access to the Internet will become increasingly prevalent, helping to streamline the process as thousands of open source developers continue to work together. Linux servers will become even more dominant in the Internet space, and I even hold out a glimmer of hope that this is the year that Linux becomes a viable desktop for my old friend Joe. It's shaping up to be a lot of fun!

Jerry Hatchett, hatchett@linux.com.





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