Looking Back: Y2K and the end of the world

Bridget Janis, Staff Reporter

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We use electronics everyday. We make phone calls, send texts and surf the internet. However, toward the end of the last millennial, there were conspiracies and theories of a Y2K bug, also known as the Year 2000 bug, and an “expected” nuclear end of the world.

There were rumors of a computer bug that was going to create a crashing of computers that would also result in incorrect data throughout the machines. It was how computers read the dates. They would recognize the coding of “98” as 1998 but it would not be able to know that “00” means “2000” instead it would believe it means “1900.” The main concerns were that misreading the date would result in software and hardware problems.

“Everything is going to go down, we’re gonna be in the dark,” said Oakland University sophomore LaShawn Gainey at the time. “I’m prepared for the worst.” 

Students on OU’s campus were aware of what Y2K was and what was suppose to happen. In a poll conducted involving 82 students, 82 percent of students believed there would be problems but only 20 percent were actually preparing for it.

“I don’t know, it might be society that intensifies things to be worse,” said sophomore Ann Tipe at the time, when asked what she thought would happen in the new year. “Different people might make certain things happen.” 

People were told to start creating survival kits and to think about taking shelter. Some cities were dealing with the situations in different ways; some were just updating their computer systems and others were affording full-scale shelters.

“(You will need) propane heat, something to cook with, (food) and a good amount of drinkable water,” said Doug Haliczer, then manager at Joe’s Army, a hunting/camping gear store.

While some people were taking this new year a little less serious, they were humored by and laughing at all the Millenium hoopla. One satirist, Matthew Woeld, a self-proclaimed doctor of stuffed animal psychology, claimed the only way to survive the Y2K was to use sock monkeys.

Other news outlets such as the New York Post believed the Y2K was going to have serious effects on the community. There were talks about computers crashing and markets plummeting. In an article written by Scott Schuster, he said that “1,500 people will die in hospitals due to the computer bugs.”

As the 2000s rolled in there were two campus wide power outages at Oakland University, that were coincidentally at the start of the new year and were unrelated to the Y2K bug entirely. An article written by Brent Chrismark, a reporter for The Oakland Post said, “Mechanical failure in a high-voltage switching cabinet and the subsequent repairs caused the two separate incidents.”

OU hired a high-voltage specialist and his assistant to find the root of the problem that caused the power outages.

The ironic timing of this event caused multiple people to believe this was caused by the Y2K bug, but it ended up just being a rumor.