Millennium Quirk

Jan 01, 2023Heike Felber

If there was a seismograph for perceived hysteria, it would probably have exploded in 1999. Shortly before the end of the millennium, all reason was once again abandoned in order to say goodbye to the technical age with a degree of nonsense that was previously unknown. However, the fears were not completely unfounded, because the designers of the calculating machines, without which nothing works today, from love letters to nuclear power plants, had forgotten one place in the date display in their belief in the present: the one for the millennium. But what would happen if all clocks suddenly jumped to zero?

According to expert estimates, Germany alone spent around 150 billion euros to prevent the J., better known as the millennium bug or Y2K bug (=year 2 kilos).

In 1999, social security in the United States sent thousands of letters threatening the end of their benefits on January 1, 1999. Deutsche Bank announced that it would stop all 500 trains just before midnight on New Year's Eve to prevent mass derailments. Consumer centers gave advice to prevent all alarm systems with a date chip going off at once. Security experts reassured the population with the confident assessment that the danger of an "accidental nuclear war" was virtually impossible.

However, skeptics fear that the Russian early warning systems in particular could "go crazy" on New Year's Eve. In other words: All signs pointed to the fact that there would be a New Year's Eve fireworks display the likes of which the world had never seen before - and then, for lack of continuity, probably wouldn't see again either.

Then at zero o'clock, zero minutes and zero seconds happened: zero. Even the ominous millennium virus, which was supposed to crash all computers at the same time, turned out to be gross nonsense on the stroke of twelve.

At the beginning of the millennium, after its prognosticated downfall, the world was doing just as well or badly as before. Suddenly there was an embarrassing silence about the action that had taken place beforehand. The J., retrospectively seen as a synonym for global mass hysteria, quickly fell into oblivion. Chances are she won't be heard from again any time soon - at least until the year 2999.

Source: Lexicon of Endangered Words | Bodo Mrozek

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