New millennium computer concerns promise challenge, not catastrophe
Frankly, the whole scenario sounds like a bad science fiction plot. Or maybe the ramblings of a cult fanatic.
One second after midnight on Dec. 31, 1999, the world will end -- for all practical purposes. Stock portfolios will vanish, refrigerators will quit working and the paper boy will forget he already collected last week. Of course, these are all random guesses.
Americans should pause and consider this century's amazing accomplishments -- before those achievements are swallowed by a computer glitch.
Around the world, people are realizing how important computers are in their daily lives. Electronic machinery plays essential roles in fields from manufacturing to television. Computers operate with such precision that even a minor problem such as part of a date can bring entire systems crashing down. Imagine trying to register for class, only to hear that ominous voice say, "Registration for spring term 1900 is not available at this time. Enter an action code now."
While everyone else is swept up in panic, trying to figure out whether their coffeemaker is Y2K compliant, take a moment to appreciate how far America has progressed since the turn of the century.
Consider for a moment how different life would be if the world misread its digital watch and reverted 100 years. Most Texas A&M students would not be able to vote, for starters.
If the Constitution were not year 2000 compatible, the voting age would be 21, women would not be able to cast ballots and everyone else would be subject to poll taxes. On the bright side, however, there would not be a federal income tax either.
Texas A&M University would still be around, but it would be all-male, all-Corps and all different. At least students would not have to worry about missing the bus to the Bush School -- though William McKinley might be looking for a site to build his presidential library.
America has seen unparalleled progress in the last century, and not just politically or socially. The country has witnessed economic growth, advances in literature and art and increases in land and population.
The decades have been good. Technology has grown by leaps and bounds.
Technology -- and dependence upon it -- has created the millennium scare. However, the ability of innovators to create that technology means there does not need to be a scare. People got along fine without computers, then a few creative geniuses -- starting with nothing -- sparked the technological revolution.
Even if a catastrophe (like a new millennium) crippled the world's computers, humankind would overcome. The inconveniences would be only temporary until new creative geniuses resolve the problem.
If the country manages to survive the impending 4-digit crisis, there is no telling what the next 100 years will bring. Then again, those next 100 years may be spent upgrading software.
Dave Johnston is a senior mathematics major.