2000 FAQs to Know


So, you’ve got less than two days before the new millennium hits and you’ve suddenly realized that, beyond purchasing a pair of 62-kilowatt diesel generators, you haven’t done a thing to prepare yourself. Is it too late? What is everyone else doing? And most important, will Mr. Coffee still be capable of brewing his magic elixir on Jan. 1?

I don’t pretend to know the answers to any of these Frequently Asked Questions, but I was asked to weigh in, having researched and written about the Y2K problem for more than two years, and having watched 6 1/2 minutes of the NBC movie “Y2K,” starring Ken Olin.

I borrowed heavily from existing FAQs, like those written by the fan club of Turkish freelance journalist and cyber hunk Mahir (“I kiss you!!!”) Cagri, as well as the newsgroup.


What are the roots of the Y2K problem?

Contrary to media reports, the mainframe programmers of the 1960s were not shortsighted in using just two digits to represent the year (99 instead of 1999, for example); they were actually quite forward-thinking. Anticipating a depressing state of datelessness on the biggest Friday night of their lives, they devised the millennium bug to provide a plausible reason to spend New Year’s Eve 1999 in front of a monitor, watching for system anomalies and purchasing collectibles on EBay.

How should I prepare for Dec. 31?

Experts recommend assembling the same amount of food and supplies you’d have on hand for a blizzard, hurricane or other serious storm. Stockpiling a year’s supply of grits is probably overkill.

What if my plans for welcoming in the new millennium involve love in an elevator?

You may be out of luck, Sparky. Many high-rise buildings will take elevators out of service during the transition. In New York, one building-management company reports that at about 11:50 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, its elevators will all descend to the ground floors and remain there for 20 or 30 minutes with their doors open. “We’re not trying to be alarmist,” the company’s president told the New York Post, “but we don’t want anyone ringing in the New Year stuck in an elevator.” Stuck?

Should I be concerned about accidents at nuclear power plants?

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission reports that safety-related systems in all 103 U.S. nuclear plants are ready for 2000. Even Chernobyl, the notorious nuclear plant in Ukraine, purports to be Y2K-ready. “We have conducted tests and are certain now the main computer will pass the changeover,” Chernobyl’s Y2K expert, Anatoliy Iliichev, told the Associated Press. Asked about the backup computer, Iliichev held up his forearm, pointed to his digital calculator watch and said, “Brand new batteries.”

Is my savings account Y2K-compliant or should I take all my money out of the bank?

Most U.S. banks have upgraded their systems and tested them for months to be sure they won’t fall victim to the millennium bug. Many even plan to open their doors on Saturday to show that they are engaging in “business as usual” and to discourage mass withdrawals. Unruly mobs of passbook-waving citizens will be welcomed with free lollipops and circuitous, imperceptibly moving queues.

Is my Furby Y2K-compliant?

Tiger Electronics, Furby’s manufacturer, cautions that some Furbies may turn feral at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and begin gorging on household pets and small children. Tiger stresses that there is no cause for alarm, but the company strongly recommends letting your Furby sleep through the New Year, preferably in a locked metal box buried at least 16 feet underground.


What if I choose to spend the New Year’s holiday engaging in my favorite pastime? Hacking, that is.

John Koskinen, chairman of the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion, asks that you kindly refrain. He suggested to a group of reporters earlier this month that hackers seeking to make a point about the need for increased security should make it the following weekend, when the Y2K frenzy will presumably have waned. He also beseeched anyone planning to hack into Hotmail’s servers to please retrieve his password, which he had written down on a scrap of paper that has apparently disappeared from his wallet.

What about Y2K problems in countries outside the U.S.?

Many nations were late to start identifying and eliminating Y2K bugs. In a statement released in July, the State Department cautioned, “All U.S. citizens planning to be abroad in late 1999 or early 2000 should take the potential for temporary disruptions related to Y2K into account when making their travel plans.” As an example, half of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa have done little or nothing to get ready for the new millennium, according to the International Y2K Cooperation Center, an agency of the World Bank. The other half, reassuringly, have already gone straight to their local Kia dealer for great deals on the 2000 Sportage and Sephia.

What’s this I hear about Champagne shortages?

In some parts of the world, true French-made champagne will be scarce, usually because of parsimonious party planners. Revelers will be plied with domestic sparkling wine and, in some situations, ginger ale chilled with floating scoops of store-brand sherbet. Do not panic. The situation can be remedied by uttering cutting comments about your hosts to anyone within earshot.

How can I differentiate everyday glitches from serious Y2K problems?

Here are some clues to help you distinguish Y2K-induced traumas from the ordinary variety: Pieces of airplane fuselage plummeting into your living room may be an indicator of a Y2K problem. Being unable to find the remote during a crucial bowl game is, in most cases, not an indicator of a Y2K problem.