Around the world, a collective sigh
Despite dire predictions, 2000 began with barely a blip of
Oh, what a relief it was.Skip to next paragraph
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Just after the clocks rolled over in Moscow's Red Square, the revelers checked their watches, saw that the street lights were still shining, and relaxed a little.
There was reason for gratitude. Russia's nuclear plants were not blowing up, the water in the taps was still flowing, and the heat was still on to warm against the winter cold.
Much like any other new year, this one dawned with inexorable certainty. One thing we humans know for sure is that the sun always rises.
But the absence of Y2K calamities and crises gave everyone a nice warm feeling. "I am indeed very happy to be able to inform you that it appears that so far there have been no serious problems," said Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi in a brief televised address that contrasted with his earlier admonitions to stock up on food and water.
The media coverage - shifting from country to country and culture to culture along the westward drift of time zones - also gave many people a feeling of global togetherness. "What is perhaps most remarkable," said President Clinton about the celebration of the New Year, "is the way it was shared around the world."
Millions and millions of television viewers could see a white-haired Moriori elder, on New Zealand's Chatham Islands, greet the sun on 2000's chilly first daybreak. "This is a new dawn, a new millennium, and a new generation," said Bunty Preece, wearing a woolen cloak, one arm wrapped around his granddaughter.
The technological oneness was somewhat artificial, of course. Mr. Preece said his well-rehearsed words into a half-dozen television cameras at a remote clifftop site selected by broadcasting companies.
All systems go
But at least the technology worked. All around the globe, people checked their phones, their light switches, their computers - and with rare exception, everything was fine. The Paris-based Agence France-Presse news service actually ran a story headlined, "Trains and planes leave on time."
Despite, or very likely because of, the global concern about the possibility of Y2K-related computer problems, all systems seemed go, at least initially.
"It's frustrating," said Marie-Claude Picard, a software support engineer at IBM in Paris, after she showed up at the office at 6 a.m. yesterday morning.
"I don't have any work to do at all."
Oddly enough, it seemed that the most "rational" people in developed societies - computer engineers and other tech-savvy types - turned out to be misguided millenarians, predicting disaster that never struck.
But experts warned that the beginning of the business week might reveal hidden computer crises. "We do not expect in the US any significant problems," said the US government's Y2K chief, John Koskinen, but he added, "We should not be surprised if there are glitches. Monday and Tuesday will give us the final pieces of the picture."
With Y2K hype and anxiety mostly out of the way, people began to think more about just what they will do in this new year and the coming ones.