In the Fall of 1999, a lot of people thought the world was about to end.
When Prince suggested we all “party like it’s 1999,” he had not anticipated what became known as the “Y2K Bug”. Instead of electronicly recording the year with four digits (“2013”), many old computer languages only used two digits (“13”) to do this. Because of this minor oversight, people became convinced that on midnight, January 1st, 2000, all computer systems would assume it was 1900. This in turn would cause airplanes to fall out of the sky, banks to lose track of our money, ATMs to fail, computer networks to stop operating, and civilization as we knew it to come to a screeching halt.
(If you think I’m kidding, I know several IT professionals who spent New Year’s Eve that year not partying like it was 1999, but rather hunched over computer monitors, hoping that things would keep working. Spoiler alert: they did.)
The Y2K bug had people convinced that, among other things, food would become scarce and people would need to revert to survival skills as the world’s infrastructure imploded. Businesses offering food rations and survival training popped up seemingly overnight. Another industry that appeared during this same time was the “Y2K Magazine Business.” An offshoot of the traditional survival magazines, these Y2K magazines were full of articles dispensing survival advice for the coming apocalyptic times and advertisements hawking every kind of survival-related gear you could imagine.
For thirty years, my Dad worked in the printing industry. The company he worked for printed everything from tiny pamphlets to giant posters and everything in between, including magazines. (To give you an idea of scale, the print shop he worked in had at least six presses capable of printing 70,000 books per hour.) As Y2K approached, so did the number of Y2K-related magazines. These are just three of the different magazines that my Dad’s company printed during that time. Each one has a “proof” sticker on the front, stating that the colors were correct and the plates were aligned and the presses were ready to ramp up and start cranking out magazines.
Like a lot of things, I didn’t think much of these magazines at the time and ended up filing them away. Last weekend while cleaning out my garage I ran across a box of old magazines, with these right on top. I had a good time flipping through them and imagining what could have been (or, according to some people, “what almost was”).