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1990s / Y2K Doomsday Hysteria
As the year 2000 approached, dire predictions of 'Y2K' major computer malfunctions were predicted for Monday, January 1, 2000. Why? It was feared that the majority of the world's computers--which operated with only a two-digit date to account for the year--would crash because of the double zero. The doomsday crowd predicted the infrastructures of cities would cease to function, transportation systems would come to a screeching halt, financial institutions would be rendered helpless, and chaos would generally be widespread. Businesses small and large were frantically urged to upgrade their computers by the end of 1999 to four-digit years. Companies that sold survival gear reported increased sales as some overly concerned people prepared for civilization around them to crumble. It didn't happen. Only a few minor incidents were reported on January 1, 2000 and the days that followed--which were all quickly rectified. Among the problems: The clock at the U.S. Naval Observatory claimed the date was 'January 1, 19100.' The same peculiar date was reported on computers at some Japanese government offices. About 150 slot machines would not work at a Delaware casino. A Buffalo, NY man who returned a video rental a day late was given a bill that said he owed more than $36,500. (Presumably the video store's computer calculated a 100-year late fee.) Italy and South Korea, two countries regarded as not being especially well prepared for Y2K, had as few problems as zealously prepared countries, leading many people to conclude the Y2K hand-wringing and hysteria was largely unwarranted.