http://racerealty.com/

A no-muss, no-fuss millennium moment

Posted: Thursday, January 06, 2000

Well, so much for that millennium. The electricity is humming, the water is flowing, the computer - that designated litmus test of modern society - is up and running.

Those who were waiting for the other shoe/bomb/economy to drop can start sharing the cans of tuna and sacks of rice that Ed Yourdon, the author of ``Time Bomb 2000,'' stored in his New Mexico retreat.

As for me, I plan to use my security bottle of water for coffee. The logs that I bought, sheepishly, at Home Depot can be burned for atmosphere instead of heat, and, hey, we can always use another flashlight.

The millennium arrived, and arrived, and arrived, one time zone after another, in a sequence of fireworks and anxieties across the globe. Now several workdays into the millennium, many of the most Y2K wary have exhaled a collective ``Whew.''

The worst news so far is the $91,250 fee for a video that a store computer in Albany figured was a hundred years overdue. The Godiva chocolate company found its cash registers briefly shut down, but that was probably the result of a dieting hacker.

Of course, a number of Americans had the hubris to be disappointed. ``There was all this hype of the millennium, the talk of terrorist attacks and Y2K,'' said a Chicago waitress who felt let down. ``The media built everything up and really it was just another day.''

I suppose it's inevitable that Y2K compliance is followed by some Y2K rebellion. It's like boarding up the windows before a hurricane. You never quite know whether the work was what kept the house intact. We'll never know if the estimated $100 billion we spent to fix things kept the world running. And no one gives medals for glitches averted.

Nevertheless someone should introduce the waitress to the ancient Chinese curse, ``May you live in interesting times.'' I prefer Energy Secretary Bill Richardson's view that in this case, ``dull is good.''

The remarkable thing to me is not that the phone is working or that I put the right date on my first check. It's that the millennium fuss seems to be over as fast as the cleanup in Times Square.

Ever since I was born, the year 2000 has represented the future. Now the future is not only here, it's passe.

Remember the brand names that once held the glitter of tomorrow? Gateway 2000 has now become plain old Gateway. Shell Oil isn't even selling is SU2000 gas. The microwave popcorn, the beauty products, the air freshener, the drill bits, the woodworking tools that carried 2000 in their moniker have dropped the date. The date is already dated.

As one consultant told The Boston Globe's Ross Kerber, ``anything that says `2000' on it could seem backward-looking.''

Backward to the future? We sped through this landmark like passengers on a bullet train, eagerly peering ahead for the glimpse of the future only to get whiplash as it turned into the past.

This is the fact of the fast-forward era. It isn't just our private lives that have accelerated, it's the world.

Remember Bill Clinton? The man who talked incessantly about the next century which is the present century is already history. When he comes on the television these days, there is the aura of surprise: He's still here. With an entire year, one-eighth of his days, left in office, he's yesterday.

The campaign 2000? People have barely tuned in to the next presidential election; candidates have already come and gone. The first primary is weeks away but with politics at warp speed, it's old news by January and all over by March. Anyone for 2004?

As for old news itself, that oxymoron of journalism? In this business, there isn't even a news cycle, but a continuously dated and updated conveyer belt that rushes past the present.

Back in the ancient 20th century, we grumbled about planned obsolescence of technology. Now we have unplanned obsolescence, a race in which one ``improvement'' is biting the heels of last.

In the computer world, the state of the art is the state of the moment. In fashion and culture, a generation is compressed into a year and we recycle so quickly that the 1990s are due for a revival if not for nostalgia.

While you open the cans of tuna and bottles of distilled water, consider this. On New Year's Eve someone bid $10 million on eBay for a Web site called Year2000.com. A couple of days later the only bid for Year2000AD.com was a mere $25,000.

So, Happy New Year and make it snappy. This year is going, going, gone.

Ellen Goodman is a columnist for the Boston Globe.



CONTACT US

  • Switchboard: 907-586-3740
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-523-2295
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-586-3028
  • Business Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-523-2270
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback

ADVERTISING

SUBSCRIBER SERVICES

SOCIAL NETWORKING