We all remember Y2K, right? That was when Earth was supposed to fly off its axis, the sun would rise in the west, hell would freeze over and the world we knew would come to an end.
It didn’t happen. Planet Earth is still spinning around the sun, which continues to rise in the east; hell is still hotter’n hell and the world — with all its troubles — continues to keep on.
I was on duty at the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas when we entered the 21st century, but in the run-up to that big event, I was afraid for the worst. What’s more, so was my boss, G-N Publisher Garet von Netzer.
Happily, the worst never happened. However, von Netzer — a cautious, deeply conservative and hard-driving man — wasn’t about to take any chances. Yes, he hoped for the best and prepared for the worst.
We weren’t the only business in the world to go through that kind of pre-Y2K preparation. Man, it was a hell of a ride.
Our day prior the dawn of The Year 2000 unfolded quite differently than other days. We started producing pages for print before we put the afternoon Globe-Times to bed around noon on Dec. 31, 1999.
Von Netzer feared that computer systems worldwide would lock up, they would vaporize, they wouldn’t know how to log the next day’s arrival. He was concerned about whether they would even recognize “2000” as a year.
So, he decided we would button up the next morning’s Daily News early that evening. There would be no breaking news in the first edition of the Daily News to mark the new century. There would be what we called “time copy,” feature stories with no time element attached to them.
Our sports pages would have no game-day coverage. They, too, would be full of feature material.
The editorial page, which I was in charge of publishing, wasn’t affected quite so dramatically. We had plenty of appropriate commentary that didn’t depend on any time element. Our editorial for the next morning’s newspaper heralded the arrival of the 21st century and gave appropriate recognition to its importance in the history of humankind.
But by golly, we shut it all down early. I cannot recall the precise time, but I believe it was around 8 p.m.
After producing our final pages for the next day, von Netzer ordered all the computers shut down, powered off, unplugged from the wall sockets. Every computer terminal in our business went dark.
What happened when the clock struck midnight was, well, a serious non-event. Electronic calendars logged the correct year. Time didn’t stand still. The sun rose the next morning.
We went to work. Flipped the switches back to the “on” position. We were in business once again, per usual.
The frenetic pace of the previous day proved to be all for naught. Then again, what if the worst had happened?