Jimmy Carter is still president ... to my computer

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The headlines roll in like party favors:

"2000 arrives trouble-free in M.D."

"Preparation paid off in Idaho."

Recommended: Default

"Y2K? No problem in S.D."

The country, it seems, calmly rolled into the year 2000 with nary a computer glitch. But out here in Mudville, there's no rejoicing. I got bitten by the millennium bug.

I'm writing these words on a five-year-old laptop that's blissfully unaware that the 1900s are history.

According to the machine's internal clock, it's Jan. 4, 1980. Jimmy Carter sits in the White House. Iranian students hold Americans hostage.

My first day at this newspaper is still a year and two months into the future. (I know what you're thinking. Everything you've read suggests I should have been catapulted back to 1900, not 1980. Who knows what happened! Maybe I got attacked by a weaker millennium bug. Maybe my computer can't count back that far.)

It's embarrassing telling you all this.

If the initial reports are true, I am practically the only American who got kicked in the calendar, millennially challenged, Y2K'd.

While everybody else's machine interpreted 01/01/00 as the Year 2000, mine pushed me into the Twilight Zone.

Oh sure, Delaware had a problem with a few slot machines at the tracks.

Seven nuclear plants reported problems so minor they bordered on the trivial. The Pentagon couldn't communicate with a satellite for a few hours.

Big deal!

What about the disasters? Where were the electric grids on the fritz, the elevators that trapped people inside, the traffic signals that went dark? Was it all hype to keep us glued to the tube?

Even developing nations managed to waltz into the New Year without tripping over their computers.

China reported no glitches. Neither did Malaysia, South Korea, or Russia. Even Haiti, this hemisphere's poorest country, reportedly suffered fewer year-2000 problems than I did.

The bug was so invisible that some journalists are beginning to ask whether the campaign to stop it was worth it.

Estimates vary widely on how much the US will have spent on the problem: $21 billion or as much as $100 billion. But various officials assure us the challenge was real.

If the work hadn't been done, says John Koskinen, the federal government's Y2K chief, critical systems in power plants, banks, and military installations could have occurred.

I tend to believe him. And I'm glad the lights are still shining in Los Angeles and London, Toronto and Tuvalu.

To be honest, my computer still types the same letters and formats the same pages it always did despite the ravages of the millennium bug.

And if you're reading this story, it means I managed to send it electronically without crashing my newspaper's million-dollar system. So I'm not complaining.

It's just that I was hoping for some company. It's kinda lonely back here in 1980.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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