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Happy New Year! You pick up the phone to wish your mom well when you discover the phone line is dead. Then you notice your kitchen light and TV seem to be flickering; perhaps there’s some kind of power trouble? No problem. You’ll just step out for a bit of fresh air, but you have to take the elevator first, and that isn’t working either. Now you start to get a little edgy. To make matters worse, your neighbor is grumbling because she can’t get into her apartment. It seems her computer-operated security system has started playing tricks on her. Have you been dropped into The Twilight Zone? Of course not. These are just a few of the year 2000 pests that could infest your life.
By now you’re probably familiar with the phrase “Y2K bug.” It’s the term used to describe the mayhem that could arise after the clock strikes midnight on December 31. Typically, computers have been programmed to recognize the last two digits of any given year: 1999 is recorded as 99, for example. Computer systems that haven’t been properly debugged could read the year 2000 as 1900-setting digital calendars back 100 years.
But this issue just concerns computer professionals, right? Wrong. Even though the beginning of the new year is expected to be pretty anticlimactic, advises Bruce Webster, author of The Y2K Survival Guide (Prentice Hall, $19.99) and co-founder/co-chair of the Washington, D.C., Year 2000 Group, experts do identify a few Y2K glitches that could bug you. In fact, any computer-operated system or any mechanism that requires the accuracy of the year for proper operation could be affected. And while you shouldn’t buy into the panic perpetuated by extremists and scam artists, you should take some measures to protect yourself from the millennium sting.
Since home is where your heart is and may be the center of much media hype, we’ll start there.
Y2K BUGS AROUND THE HOME
Good news! You’ll still be able to make your morning coffee and pop in your favorite video on January 1. According to Ann Seybolt, spokeswoman for the Consumer Electronics Association, even those electronic devices that have a date function-coffeemakers, microwaves, clock radios, televisions and fax machines, for example-won’t need the correct date to operate properly because they depend on a clock as opposed to a calendar. VCRs and camcorders that are purchased after 1987 should be problem-free. If your systems are older than that, you may need to buy new ones anyway.
Although Webster doesn’t predict massive power outages, he says there may be some disruptions because of utility companies that are behind on their Y2K efforts. So, keep working flashlights, candles and extra batteries on hand in case of any power trouble. Also, make sure your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working condition and have battery-operated backups.
As far as your health is concerned, you should have an ample supply of prescription and nonprescription drugs. If possible, get your doctor to write you up an extra prescription if your condition