If you were alive back in 1999, the term Y2K brings about snickers of recollection ... or, perhaps, repressed memories of sitting in cold basement eating equally cold spam. As for younger readers, who probably feel like this is some weird old person's inside joke nobody wants to talk about, here's the deal: back in the sixties, according to National Geographic, early programmers inputted dates into computer systems using only the last two digits: I.E., 66, 84, et cetera. So, when the big ol' year 2000 came around — or put simply, Y2K — lots of people grew concerned it might wreak havoc with every computer on the planet, since the year would be interpreted as 1900, rather than 2000. To be clear, this was a real big deal, because the so-called Y2K bug would've caused genuine problems for industries like banks, airlines, and power plants, which depend on being programmed with accurate dates.
The United States spent millions of dollars to fix all their software. Obviously, things worked out fine ... but down on the streets, "Millennium Bug" anxiety reached fever pitch, as people were concerned unforeseen hazards might erupt. Some people thought all computers would go kaput. Others feared nuclear missiles would launch. That's why, as Time Magazine recalls, people stockpiled canned goods, holed up in bunkers, bought generators, trained at wilderness survival boot camps, and hunkered down with the aforementioned cold spam.
You think this sounds ridiculous? Well, as old-timers always say, you had to be there.