Blame year's glitches on Y2K bug

Posted: Thursday, December 28, 2000

What a year. The much-anticipated year 2000 -- Y2K -- might have started as a dud, but it came on strong, interestwise, at the end.

Remember this week last year -- the frantic preparations, the millennial anxiety? Would the so-called Y2K computer bug cause accidental nuclear launches in China? Crash the world's financial markets? Would we wake up on Jan. 1 to find our bank cards useless and airplanes dropping from the sky?

Or would we discover that Y2K was that very special sort of computer glitch that somehow, while causing minimal damage, managed to increase the bank accounts of computer consultants and programmers?

Well, I think we all know how that one turned out. And given the NASDAQ's performance this year, it's getting harder and harder to begrudge the tech-savvy their Y2K windfall. You can't live on stock options alone, after all.

I've been wondering, though, if we might not have written off the bug too soon. Now that we can look back at the 2000 that was, it's beginning to seem almost obvious that there was a fly in the ointment somewhere.

What better explanation, after all, for the way so many dot-coms folded like houses of cheap cards?

But the real Y2K effects seemed to kick in about midsummer.

Remember the Republican and Democratic conventions? They were actually intended to be spontaneous, freewheeling affairs ... yet Y2K somehow made them seem dull, scripted and utterly predictable. Remember George Bush's "RATS" ad? His open-mike expletives against The New York Times' Adam Clymer?

Y2K.

And what about Al Gore's convention lip lock with Tipper, or his first-debate sighs? That's right, Y2K. Bush's tongue-ties? Gore's earth tones? Yep, you guessed it. ...

The Y2K bug was in evidence all over this past presidential campaign, and boy, did it come a cropper at the end.

Gore wins Florida? Y2K. Bush wins Flo-rida? Y2K, too. The glitch ran riot over the Sunshine State in the weeks after the election: chads, butterfly ballots, flip-flopping court decisions, Gore superlawyer David Boies' knit ties. ...

Y2K even got into the Supreme Court opinion that ultimately decided the election, turning the decisions of a usually plain-spoken group of justices into a tangle of nearly incomprehensible legal babble. Word is, before the Y2K bug hit the 60-plus-page opinion, it read as clear as day.

As I review the year's events, I'm beginning to wonder if the bug was more widespread than I had imagined. Look, for example, at the year in sports. Y2K brought us the Subway Series, we can be almost certain of that, and further seems to have sparked Roger Clemens' bat-throwing meltdown.

Or entertainment: I have it on good authority from a source in California that this year's crop of Hollywood movies included some of the best-written screenplays in years, with deeply affecting performances, laughs and tears enough for the whole family ... until, that is, Y2K ran riot through all that celluloid.

And, as if all that weren't enough, I sat down for hours to write a moving, bittersweet elegy to the year just passed ... a trenchant piece that really got down deep to the heart of the human condition in these troubled modern times. I wanted to share it with all of you, dear readers, but when I tried to print it out, well, need I say more?

Crash, bug, glitch.

The world might not have come to an end this year, but plenty was amiss, all over. To the old millennium, good riddance. To the next, let's hope that practice makes perfect.

Happy New Year!

Dan Rather works for CBS News.



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