Featured Post

Castro and the Nazis: Makes Perfect Sense

As we come up on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, we see newly declassified German intelligence documents reporting that Fi...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Y2K and The Great Sequester Panic of 2013!

And they say that other generation was "The Greatest."

Harrumph! I beg your pardon!

That other generation only had to deal with fascism, nazism, and Japanese imperialism. Do you know how many apocalypses I have seen and had to handle in my sixty years? Why it's, uh . . . well . . . at least . . . well, it's a helluva lot, that's how many! I don't have enough fingers and toes to count them all.

Here are a few, and just a few, of the many apocalypses I have encountered and overcome. One of my earliest memories of an impending apocalypse was the strontium 90 (90Sr) crisis of the late 1950s and early 1960s. We were all getting massive doses of 90Sr in our milk and water because of above ground nuclear testing; our teeth and hair were going to fall out; we were all going to end up looking like a cross of James Carville, Alan Cranston, and Pete Postlethwaite. I managed to survive. And I haven't even mentioned how I handled and survived the constant threat of nuclear war for some forty or fifity years: I spent my early youth diving under school desks in anticipation of Soviet nukes. Those desks were very well built back then as evidenced by the fact that I survived (or maybe it was because . . . nah, it was the desks). Then we were told that pollution was going to kill us all; we would have to survive a massive global cooling caused by the particles in the air blocking the sunlight. Then, in no particular order, I had to deal with race riots, SARS, AIDS, anthrax, and global warming. All of them were going to destroy us all! I have handled them all--don't worry about those any more.

My favorite all-time panic, however, wasn't any of those. I loved, absolutely loved the Y2K panic. It was my favorite--did I mention that? You remember that crisis right? As the calendar clicked over from 1999 to 2000 all of modern civilization would come to a halt. The presence of "00" was going to prove too much, just way too much for our poor computerized society. Our machines would crash! Our robot slaves would collapse or go berserk! The only solution was massive government spending! All those FORTRAN developers were yanked out of their rest homes and brought back to fix this disaster.

I remember being in the State Department and the panic was palpable. State, along with all sorts of other government agencies, got millions from Congress to help us deal with the dreaded "00" apocalypse. That crisis cost me my New Year's party for 1999-2000. I was forced to work that night along with others monitoring the collapse of Western society. There was no "party like it is 1999" for me. We had big charts with "red," "yellow," and "green" columns for different stages of preparedness for different aspects of society. We had spent millions developing these charts, and we had to be up all night ensuring that our money had been well-spent. I spent that night in the Embassy in Panama, monitoring the impending collapse of the Canal--this despite assurances from the engineers that the Canal operated on late 19th century technology and that back then engineers did not fear "00" or any other numbers.

The evening was a bust. The sun rose on the year 2000. The birds sang. The ocean waves waved. We had nothing to report back to anxious Washington DC--assuming DC had survived that horrid and dangerous night. We had to report something. So being the Diplomad, I reported as though it were April 1. I had noticed that my car had gathered an exceptional amount of dust overnight; I attributed it to the horrors of "00." I also noted that the omelets at a local five star hotel had been overdone--"00," obviously. And so on. I rediscovered that DC has no sense of humor. The anxious apocalypse watchers did not appreciate levity, or a reminder of the millions they had spent on nonsense.

You know, on second thought, despite having declared Y2K my favorite panic, I might be in the process of changing my mind. The Great Sequester Panic of 2013 is rapidly moving up the charts. It seems that because the government cuts a tiny percentage from its projected growth in spending, it's all over for us. I never realized how we all lived on the razor's edge! A slightly less robust growth in deficit spending means that my children will be eating fish loaded with mercury, airplanes will be flying without air traffic controllers, every illegal alien ever detained will have to be released, the US military will have to stand down, McDonald's will be serving donkey burgers, all children will get left behind, seniors will fight for scraps of offal, and on and on and on. This all goes to show how incredibly efficient the government is; it can do all these things with about $82 billion! Without that sum, all must come to a halt. Never mind the other $3 plus trillion--I guess those don't count.

Yes, I am going to enjoy this panic.  I can handle it.

27 comments:

  1. Speaking of the State Department's lack of a sense of humor: I was working TDY at our embassy in the Dominican Republic after my retirement when State decided a public relations blitz was in order to soothe possible apprehensions in advance of the roll out of newly designed US bills. We were sent flyers to hang in the embassy halls and give to local banks, with assurances that the new, brightly-colored bills were legal tender and would circulate simultaneously with the old green tender. I reported back that we had started the educational campaign and requested several cases of samples to show to friends and acquaintances. Didn't even get a chuckle out of 'em.

    ReplyDelete
  2. ". We had big charts with "red," "yellow," and "green" columns for different stages of preparedness for different aspects of society". There is little so tragic as unneeded charts! Heh

    ReplyDelete
  3. WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    No, really. One day, next week, next year, next decade; each of us will die. Its the price we pay for being alive.
    In the meantime, pass the popcorn and enjoy the show.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The reason why nothing much happened January, 2000 was because old programs still in use were modified from a 2 digit year to a 4 digit year. Had that not been done I doubt the sky would have fallen, but it would have been a big mess.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In some cases, in others, we just told them to enter a new date first thing. Big panic over very little, but we did make a bunch of money over it.

      Delete
  5. Missed the "end of the world" Pachuco Wars in downtown LA in early WWII. A war to end all wars, some said.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "My favorite all-time panic, ... I absolutely loved the Y2K panic. It was my favorite--did I mention that? All those FORTRAN developers were yanked out of their rest homes and brought back to fix this disaster."

    Jeebers.

    I sort of thought 'cause I couldn't remember my girl-childrens as 16 year olds then I must be old and that was why I couldn't - but oh is NO!!!

    FORTRAN?

    Heck, I remember COBOL - oh sheesh - well Dip, I see you've gotten notice out in the WordPress Fields. Be nice to see you out there but I reckon you're figuring this Blogger thing is more protective or anyways gives you a sideframe of followers - thing is: Blogger holds, and if prodded by what/whomever at it's whim, can take you down. You've the option of © pretty much anywhere else. Minimal fee.

    & I hold no stock/shares in any related company so WTDD.

    Don't worry though 'bout me not reading here anymore, (which you & the regulars probably wouldn't mind anyway) I'll read regularly - you're on all the MILNETS - I just won't be commenting as

    Arkie

    *JACK? GoV [Gates of Vienna] experience might be touched upon here:

    http://billkeezer.net/billscomments/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. lol. too funny Arkie. My computer programmer hubby (who programmed the big boxes not puny mid levels like AS 400's -his words not mine) rolled his eyes over Y2k. It was kind of a hassle for him because instead of buying a package a couple of years ahead of time the very large company he worked for with many divisions not using the same programs decided that each division could write code fixes for what they had and make everything talk together. Well you can probably guess how that went. So overall and other than work much ado about nothing. our sole "getting ready" was to be a rather large generator and that's about it.

      Delete
    2. Ha, nice one Arkie. Interesting bit, I had watched with interest the switchover from the untrustworthy Google people, by GoV. Sad to happen, but it had to, with Google untrustworthy people, tracking everyone.

      Yeah, Ark, I had been lurkin' over the shoulder, until you summoned me up. Was a long day.

      Ah, errr, I think I have it over on all you kids. Ya see, I worked inside a computer, yup, card punching, powered by vacuum tubes, (solid state, transistors, what are those? Did a report on Batten, Bardeen, and Shockley around then), two floors, a team of vac. tube trouble shooters, punchers (me) operators, systems analysts, etc, keeping the old Remington Rand Sperry Univac running, more or less. One of 5 collegiate freebies of the day, to colleges, Engineering, one I was in.

      I programmed 1620's in Fortran, and an impressive big box IBM 1401, tape sys., mag core, going to 3 foot wide disc, and all.,, IN AUTOCODER, upgrading to a 360 and learning Cobol, when I left, after a couple years. Ha!

      Ahh, the stories we have seen, only vaguely remember Sr90, but remember the brown outs of WW2 as a child, in the midwest!

      Latest likely triggering apocalypse may be comets and asteroids, after that close call we all just survived, we did, didn't we?, whew! Pan Starrs to become fast visable latest comet, and they said more to come this year. Then who knows, maybe next year PS may miss Mars, and get earth. 'Course, I'm just starting a panic, as I didn't bother to see what the latest orbit guessing is programmed to be, if it misses Mars, next year. Oh Oh, Curiosity panic, on Mars, Oh woe is poor little expensive Curiosity!!!! Oh Oh, what ever will we do, send 'em up an antique school desk, maybe one of those real old ones with cast iron supports!!!!

      Or, if it drops on Curiosity, maybe it'll be the first recorded comet crash? Looking on the bright side, "of not wasting a crisis"? Again, Ha..and sarc/off
      Jack

      Delete
    3. I know Dip, The One, Chi town Jesus, will announce the sequestor is going to warp the orbit of the comet, and it will eventually crash to Earth, caused by sequestor, not into Mars, after all, and we won't have sufficient funds to repel it!!!! sarc/off

      Jack

      Delete
  7. "You know, on second thought, despite having declared Y2K my favorite panic, I might be in the process of changing my mind."

    You would be past the process of changing your mind if you'd known what was to become of Mayfair Magazine!

    Nowadays... well, I forget ... except my Colonel Granddaughter keeps reminding me "It's not like that anymore Adim-Pops!"

    ReplyDelete
  8. From the sounds of it, we're very close in age. I was a precocious young man in elementary school, military affairs were my love then as they are now. I actually mentioned to the teachers that having us cower under our desks would not protect us if Soviet nukes started going off. They wouldn't listen.

    But yes, Y2K was a helluva ride.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Reminds me of the NEO exercises in Germany in the 80s--given SS-18 flight time, they were being just a tad optimistic about getting dependents out in a timely fashion. I mean, with many weeks of warning, maybe. But I doubt that would have been the case.

      My plan was to very quickly drink some beers and smoke a cigar.

      Delete
  9. Heh. Yep, I had to huddle under the desk, too. It was the all-purpose savior of childhood. Volcanic eruption, under the desk. Nuclear war, under the desk. Hurricanes or tornadoes, under the desk. Large meteor, under the desk.

    Apparently they no longer make desks like they used to. As of last month when I was still working in the public schools, children now huddle in hallways, on the floors, head tucked, for (natural) disasters.

    Sure would like to have my old desk back to huddle under occasionally. The one I have now isn't rated to survive nuclear wars or volcanic explosions.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Ah, Y2K!
    In mid September, 2000 my wife delivered a son.
    Spent the run-up to 2000 wisely and memorably.
    V/R JWest

    ReplyDelete
  11. There was ONE notable victim of Y2K.

    At the Digital Equipment Corporation, DEC, the 2 digit year was so embedded in their software that many customers decided it was cheaper to completely swap out DEC VMS/RSX/RT systems for new and more powerful Unix based systems. Many IT groups inflated this issue as an excuse to replace old systems.

    While DEC had been struggling, Y2K essentially wiped them out of their prime markets.

    ReplyDelete
  12. RS that is total hooey, 1st off "DEC" didn't exist at the time. It was Compaq, 2nd VMS had no problems with century timelines as it's "micro fortnights" went back to the 19th century". RSTS,RSX and RT where basically 16 bit operating systems. Mostly obsolete anyway. Keep it real.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was in corporate engineering management at a Fortune 50 at the time. This WAS real.
      IT departments used Y2K to flush out older DEC systems.
      Management bought it. DEC was out.
      HP and other Unix systems came in.

      Delete
    2. The fact that 2 digit years did not exist in OpenVms, and never had, is a fact. Also DEC as an entity did not exist at that time. There was lots of misinformation going around.

      Delete
  13. Pish-posh, I laugh in the face of panics, for I drove a Ford Pinto with the infamous exploding gas tank. Though I did later ditch that piece of crap. I also remember gassing it up with leaded gas.

    For some reason I was not invited to the great Y2K campout after I expressed the opinion that it was over-hyped crap that could easily be tested by changing the current time and date on any systems to 23:55hours, 31 December 1999 and watch what happened. That was not received well as the company president was insistent that a war-room and several call centres be set up to monitor all systems-this in a property management company. Sheesh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because we all know that taking an identical backup copy and subjecting it to a real-condition stress test provides no useful data.
      (that level of sarcasm is hard to maintain)

      Delete
  14. I always thought Keith Laumer's "Retief" series was fiction. Little did I know Mr. Laumer merely changed the names and places to protect the innocent.

    -Blake

    ReplyDelete
  15. Sorry.

    My Corvair rolled over last night. Somebody's apparently added something.

    Arkie

    ReplyDelete
  16. Back in 1999 I owned a retail store. In November I was contacted by the company that processed the stores credit card sales. I was told I needed to buy a new system to process credit cards because the system I had would no longer work after 12/31/99.

    The system the store has was old and it was over due to upgrade it but the guy giving me the Y2K sales pitch just came across as a slime ball so I put him off and called the manufacturer of the system I was using. I was told there was nothing to worry about that there was nothing date sensitive with the system I had and everything would work fine in 2000.

    January came and the credit card system work fine with no issues. I changed companies and purchased a new system.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Actually Y2K was quite real - especially in banking applications and even hospital systems where systems were written in the 70's and 80's (and 90's) when all those '19' characters added up to a lot of space and had a 2-digit year. And it wasn't so much FORTRAN programs (which is mostly used for scientific programming) but old COBOL programs - payroll, accounting, etc... Even some hospital systems were 'COBOL' based. A lot of time and, yes, actual coding effort was spend remediating that old software - testing and retesting.
    I spend new year 2000 at work in the office waiting for things to go bust. Didn't happen.
    So was Y2K a hoax - no. Would it have been the end of civilization? - no civilization is a lot more resilient that most realize. Was it adverted by a lot of hard work? Yes.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Oh God FORTRAN, the bane of my existance when I took civil engineering classes in the 80's. Does anyone else remember the f'ing punch cards, the humid, cold yet sweaty "computer labs" that we were forced to work in? The TA's that couldn't give a damn to isolate the one character you got wrong that continued to spit the entire mess out on you?
    Man, I just hated it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Babs, note the above comment I made, re: working inside a two story vac. tube computer, while a student, in '59 or '60, punching cards inside a Sperry Remington Rand Univac, for "management simulation" summer programs. I had soon learned FORTRAN, AUTOCODER, started on COBOL, around '63 and did a short college practice program in "machine language", which really is an experience to behold. It was difficult!

      While in two engingeering schools, I had several computer course subjects described above,and also worked applying my newfound skills, in the college and later, around '63 or '64 at a major now long gone corporation.

      Of course, back then, when infant IT was beginning to explode, the future seemed to all, to be never. Our time concept was of a different span, than it is now.

      For me, at the time, FORTRAN was a dream, a high level language that seemed naturally logical, but alas, I didn't get to play with it in a job. But the ponderous AUTOCODER was mine to play instead, then the pretty good COBOL, for which so many decided was the primary standard, in the day. After that, all manner of language variations have been implemented. And people are still needed to program legacy COBOL systems, actually. They need work on them, more than just amending the Y2K issue, believe it or not.

      Jack

      Delete