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As 2020 Begins, We Commemorate The 20th Anniversary Of Y2K

NOEL KING, HOST:

On this New Year's Day, we are looking back 20 years to the turn of the millennium.

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SCOTT SIMON: From National Public Radio, this is Weekend Edition. Welcome to a new century. There were virtually no Y2K-related computer problems to report. Now there is still a chance that some problems will develop in the weeks and months to come.

KING: That was our colleague Scott Simon talking about Y2K.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Which was the concern that computer systems would fail to cope with the change in date from 1999 to 2000 and would malfunction leading to a global crisis. Americans at the time had been told to worry, worry a lot. And here on NPR News, we prepared for everything.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: We'll talk about Y2K nerves. What's your definition of vigilance? Do you feel prepared? We're taking your Y2K calls on Talk of the Nation.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: What's most worrisome though is that 1 out of 3 schools has no contingency plans.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: There are a growing number of doomsday or millennial groups who regard the coming of the year 2000 as a profound event.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #4: Here at the Y2K command center, things have been quiet all day, very quiet actually. The new millennium has now dawned across much of the world with few reports of problems due to Y2K computer glitches.

ANDREA TAPIA: It was inescapable.

KING: That last voice was Andrea Tapia. She studies technology and risk at Penn State University. But back then, she was a grad student writing her dissertation about Y2K. And her colleagues would ask her.

TAPIA: How scary is this? Should I actually go out and buy water and food?

INSKEEP: No, some groups were hunkering down or arming themselves for chaos, but Tapia was relatively unconcerned. She did say that Y2K was a real problem.

TAPIA: Computer professionals across many, many, many industries and disciplines and across national boundaries came together over a few years to solve a problem globally and nobody noticed. If they had not solved it, there would have been major technological disasters.

KING: Like government records could have been lost, medical records. Power plants could have gone off line.

INSKEEP: None of that happened. But there's still time for some other bit of chaos because experts say another debacle like Y2K could happen again.

TAPIA: 2038.

INSKEEP: That's because of a computer formatting issue. But Tapia says don't worry so much about that. Computer professionals are already preparing, and they've got a few years.

(SOUNDBITE OF DARUDE'S "SANDSTORM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.