Remembering Y2K

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I remember as a child doing the math to figure out how old I would be in the year 2000. That millennial milestone was such a far off phenomenon to my young self. But as it loomed closer, people around the world started losing their minds.

The reason for this anxiety stemmed from a so-called Y2K (i.e. Year 2000) bug in the systems of computers that it was thought would cause massive malfunctions when the year 2000 arrived. Back in the 70s when I was calculating what an old lady I would be in the Year 2K, we could scarcely dream of how many essential systems would be impacted by the computer revolution. Computers back then were giant, unwieldy machines held in university labs. My business school friends were always wandering around campus in a haze with computer programming punch cards spilling from their backpacks.

But the acceleration of technological progress meant that by the year 1999, computers were running utilities, telecommunications systems, military weaponry, and all manner of operations that affected day-to-day life. Therefore, when news of the Y2K bug appeared, people started planning for Armageddon. We stocked our basements with water, batteries, and nonperishable foods. Most people I knew made plans to stay close to home with their families rather than go to lavish New Years Eve parties out on the town. The widespread panic gave new meaning to the famous Prince lyrics, “Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1999.”

Y2K fears proved to be largely unfounded. Other than minor glitches, most systems sailed through the New Year without a problem. People woke up on New Years Day to the dried up Christmas trees and other remnants of holiday revelry that they had on previous New Years. Life went on.

It’s important to remember in tumultuous times that there were many events in the past which caused people anxiety and worry. In some ways, our country has always been on the brink of conflict or disaster of one kind or another. Our politics have always been fraught. Our young people have always been criticized for not being exactly like us old fogeys  seasoned veterans.

As 2019 approaches, let’s remember Y2K and, as my husband likes to say, “Don’t panic. There will be plenty of time to panic later.”

Happy New Year!

 

Hand-Written

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While on a recent family vacation, I rediscovered the joys of writing in my personal journal. I had been given the lovely book by a friend years ago and had made entries into it very sporadically over the years. But on my trip, I started getting up early, tiptoeing out of my hotel room, grabbing a cup of coffee and a chair facing the sunrise, and chronicling our vacation adventures in my journal.

It was surprisingly difficult – physically – to write in my journal. My thoughts tumbled forth, but my muscles began cramping up with the unaccustomed exertion of writing by hand. Such has been the fate of handwriting in the age of computers. I am, at this moment, typing this post on my laptop while waiting for my daughter at the dentist’s office. Convenient, right? And what’s more, I am using an online publishing website so that with the tap of a few keys, I can post it for Facebook friends and other blog followers to read.

But I think we’ve lost something through the decline in handwriting. Nowadays most college students type their lecture notes on their computers. And increasingly, elementary schools are phasing out lessons in cursive writing, citing its lack of use in modern communication. Yet studies are finding that students retain information better when they hand write their notes in class. And because cursive writing has been de-emphasized, my own children can’t even read it. What will happen in a generation or two when no one can read old documents because they’re written in cursive?

Writing by hand in my journal makes the process more meditative and connected to me. My documentation of our vacation led to more thoughtful examinations of my life, my family, and what might be coming down the road for us. Writing in my journal can be cathartic after an emotional episode. And there’s something quite beautiful about rereading my words in my own very personal and individual handwriting.

Computers are wonderful tools that make it easy to write and edit one’s work. Email makes it convenient to stay in touch in a timely fashion. But the art of writing by hand is one that I think should be resurrected in this age of internet. Imagine getting a handwritten letter by a loved one from far away. Sure, the information might not be up to the minute. But the personal nature of a letter and its relative permanence compared to email, text, or phone call make it an ideal way to make a personal and lasting connection.

I plan to fill up my journal quickly as the days and months go on. No doubt my hand muscles will adjust to the practice. I may get a little callous on my left hand ring finger the way I used to in my teaching days from grading papers. And who knows? If you’re my friend or family member, you just might be receiving a missive from me on some pretty stationery one of these days.

The Password Is . . .

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When I was a kid, one of my favorite game shows was “Password.” In the game, partners would face each other. The announcer would quietly intone, “The password is” for the audience’s ears only. Then one of the pair would use single word clues trying to get their partner to guess the password as quickly as possible.

Nowadays, the sight of the word password fills me with dread. It tells me I am going to have to dredge up some relatively meaningless collection of letters, numbers, and symbols in order to access something electronic.

I used to have a fairly small number of uses for a password, and I’m embarrassed to say that I always used the same one, cyber security be damned. I just couldn’t count on remembering such random items. Ironically, I can remember phone numbers with uncanny accuracy. I even know my kids’ current and former high school ID numbers, as well as my drivers license number, and even the account and routing numbers on my checking account.

But passwords have me stymied. First of all, sites started adding requirements for their passwords, such as case sensitivity and the need for both numbers and letters, sometimes even symbols. So my passwords have become much more complicated, and I can’t remember which I used for which login.

I also have a much bigger list of them, but I have a hard time finding a secure place to keep them. Thus when confronted by the need to log in to something, I have to search for my password. I can’t count how many times I have had to click, “Forgot my password,” at a login site in order to have the password retrieved or reset. I always feel like a bad student who wasn’t paying attention in class.

The need for privacy and security in our electronic world is very real and important. With online banking and bill payments, student grades, health records, and other sensitive information, it’s imperative that our accounts remain for our eyes only. And God forbid someone should be able to access my Facebook Timeline!

I just wish there were an easier alternative to the user name/password combination, such as voice recognition, fingerprints, or DNA testing of my hair. Anything but asking me to remember those pesky passwords.