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Column: Y2K and my today

Editor’s note: Shannon Casas’ column will return next week.

On Dec. 31, 1999, the world sat on the brink of destruction.

Or so we thought.

The planet had spent the prior few years wringing its hands over what might happen when the calendar rolled over to the year 2000 — or Y2K in the hip shorthand of the late last millenium. The fear was that computers, designed to code dates by two digits, would get confused and think 2000 was actually 1900, and then mayhem would ensue as every electronic brain broke, shutting down banking systems, darkening power grids and dropping planes out of the sky.

Anyone who has ever spent a day under a shade tree trying to fix a modern automobile has probably spent part of that day cussing the automotive engineer who, in designing the engine compartment on a computer, decided that putting the thing that has to be replaced frequently underneath 12 hard-to-remove parts was a good idea. I myself have many times colorfully questioned whether those guys ever turned a wrench a day in their lives.

Similarly, many of us wondered how the eggheads who were smart enough to create our modern convenience/irritant had been so dumb as to not predict what might happen in just such a scenario as Y2K.

The answer, of course, turned out to be mostly nothing happened. Everyone flushed their toilets and checked their phones for a dial tone at midnight Jan. 1, 2000, and discovering both still worked, went back to their champagne glasses and dancing to Prince’s “1999.” (At least that’s what we did at my house. I threw an epic Y2K party, but I’m not sure enough time has passed to tell you about it just yet.)

But prior to that party, I sat down at my computer and made some predictions of my own.

I wrote a little bit about what life was like at the time, and then in the style of the best television psychics I wrote down what I thought life might be like at a date in the far future. I was 28 at the time, so I picked a date that seemed eons away: my 50th birthday.

I stuck the document in an envelope, stuck the envelope in a fire safe, blinked a couple of times, and all of the sudden I turned 50 last month.

I made a video of myself opening the envelope and reading the predictions with the idea of posting it online, but it was 14 minutes long, and we all know no one is watching a video that long without a superhero, a Jedi or a Real Housewife in it. So chances are it’ll go unseen by the world.

But I thought I might share a few with you. You can decide for yourself how clairvoyant I am:

  • I’ll spare you the ones about my personal life save this one, which I’m proud to say was dead-on accurate: “I will still have all my hair.” Thanks, Granddaddy’s genes.
  • “The AIDS virus will have been cured or at least brought under control.” Judging by the number of HIV drug commercials they play on TV now, I’d say I got this one right.
  • “Man will walk on Mars.” Not yet, but he is driving a new rover there from the comfort of a NASA building, so partial credit I guess.
  • OK, one more personal one: “I will have owned a Corvette, my dream car.” No, but I’m firmly middle-aged now, so stay tuned.
  • “People will travel in space the way they fly planes now.” Not quite, but Elon Musk’s Tesla is touring around up there, so we’re getting closer.
  • “The Braves will have won another World Series.” Cue the you-just-lost sound from “The Price is Right.”
  • “The Bulldogs will have won another national championship in football.” I’d prefer not to talk about how close this one came to being true. Like my Y2K party, it’s still too soon.
  • “A woman will have been elected president.” Nope, but one is a heartbeat away.
  • “Cars will run on a fuel that is cleaner and cheaper than gasoline.” We do have a lot of electric cars, so I was sort of right. I should’ve tried to guess the number on Georgia’s roads, but I’m sure I would’ve gone too low.
  • “They will build homes with computers already installed in them.” I asked Google, Alexa and Siri about this one. Google returned 1.7 million web pages about smart homes, Alexa asked if I wanted to order three more Alexas, and Siri gave me a recipe for French onion dip.

I guess my fortune-telling skills and computers are a lot alike: They’re not quite perfect yet.

Nate McCullough is the news editor for The Times.

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