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Special Event

Millennium 2000: A Look at Massive Amounts Spent Preparing for Y2K Bug; Thoughts on Y2K Worries That Didn't Happen

Aired January 3, 2000 - 8:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: On this Monday, when the world financial markets opened without a hitch and after a largely uneventful weekend, you could forgive people who now wonder what those Y2K worries were all about. But before dismissing the huge amounts of cash spent to upgrade computers around the world, consider the technological benefits which are left behind.

Our coverage begins with CNN technology correspondent Rick Lockridge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICK LOCKRIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We spent like there was no tomorrow, because we feared there wouldn't be. Inoculating the world against Y2K costs somewhere around $500 billion. In the U.S. alone, the tab came to $360 for every man, woman and child. But experts say, that huge payout bought out us not only protection, but an across-the-board upgrade that might have taken years if not for the Y2K threat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most companies tell you there have been lots of silver linings.

LOCKRIDGE: And not just new computers, though companies bought plenty of those, but complete technology overhauls. Many firms trashed their old machines and buggy software, and replaced them with modern systems that were not only more efficient but easier to use. Those companies just bought themselves a big competitive advantage, according to tech-industry lobbyist Harris Miller.

HARRIS MILLER, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ASSOCIATION OF TOMORROW: They're going to be much more effective using their information technology going forward.

LOCKRIDGE: Does this mean we can expect more efficient government, too? After all, Uncle Sam spent more than $8 billion on the problem, feeding technologically undernourished agencies like the FAA, whose decades-old computers were starving for an upgrade.

MONTE BELGER, ACTING FAA DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR: It forced us, quite frankly, to look very, very closely at the software that operates our system and that's good. JOHN KOSKINEN, PRESIDENT'S Y2K COUNCIL: We have in the course of this gotten rid of a lot of old systems that were antiquated, and it was more sensible to upgrade the system and replace it with a new, more modern productive system than to try to fix it.

LOCKRIDGE (on camera): But some question whether the same benefits could have been had at a lower cost. Chat room critics are using words like "fraud" and "extortion." And one Australian writer asked, pointedly, "Can we get a refund?"

(voice-over): Refunds, no. Unanticipated benefits, yes -- streamlined systems, better use of the Internet, which analysts already say increases productivity and profitability. And, finally, relief, the relief of knowing that what's been called the biggest management challenge in history is all but behind us.

BRUCE MCCONNELL, INTERNATIONAL Y2K COOPERATION CENTER: The world's information systems have had a complete workover, and they are now passing the physical. We are in good shape for the new century.

LOCKRIDGE: Is it unseemly, then, to complain about the doctor bill?

Rick Lockridge, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: One more discovery made during the Y2K computer housecleaning: The federal government in Washington found one out of every five of its computer systems were either outdated or redundant.

JIM MORET, CNN ANCHOR: It wasn't just business and government bracing for a Y2K disaster, thousands of Americans stockpiled food and water just in case.

CNN's Don Knapp went in search of those who went the extra mile to find out what they're thinking now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DON KNAPP, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New Year's Eve, Jennifer Rienks' (ph) Fairfax, California home was ready for Y2K, with batteries, candles, flashlights and a radio right here on the kitchen table. Three days into the New Year, the table is bare. The emergency supplies back on the shelf.

JENNIFER RIENKS: I'm really relieved. I'm not sure we're out of the woods yet.

KNAPP: There's still a big supply of fire wood, bottled water under the sink and extra food on the shelves, but the Rienks' preparedness level has dropped from critical to cautious. Still, she says, having a deadline to get ready for the Y2K bug got people to stop procrastinating.

RIENKS: For us in Marin, it was really important for us to do what we did, it was probably the best disaster-preparedness effort the county's ever seen, and we're all better prepared for the next earthquake, because of it.

KALI GROSBERG, COMMUNITY WORKER: I couldn't quite believe it.

KNAPP: Kali Grosberg was relieved when Y2K arrived, uneventful, in San Francisco's tough Tenderloin district. She'd been working for more than a year to get residents ready, an effort that got the district's big free-meal programs to stockpile food, and prompted one huge low-income housing group to put emergency supplies in all 15 of its apartment buildings.

GROSBERG: One of the intangibles is that people are preparing themselves, they are thinking that they can take care of themselves to some extent, and that there is a safety net out there.

KNAPP: Neither Grosberg in San Francisco nor Rienks in Marin County regret working to get their communities ready for Y2K.

RIENKS: If something had gone wrong, and we weren't ready, that would have been much worse. Its like buying earthquake insurance, or medical insurance, you hope you never have to use it.

KNAPP: And unlike Y2K problems, in California, there's no avoiding earthquakes.

Don Knapp, CNN, Fairfax, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MORET: This footnote: Sears plans to charge customers who return power generators bought in anticipation of year 2000 problems. The nation's second-largest retailer says it will levy a 20 percent restocking fee. Other major retailers say they will follow regular return procedures.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Some thoughts now on the Y2K worries and what didn't happen.

On that, here's CNN's Bruce Morton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the TV broadcast, "Y2K: The Movie, " they talked about what might happen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "Y2K: THE MOVIE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: So what is your worst-case scenario?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Worst-case scenario. My worst-case scenario is that we won't even know what's going wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MORTON: But now we do know what didn't. No airplanes fell from the sky. In fact, Jane Garvey, head of the Federal Aviation Administration, went for a cross country Y2K flight, declined the onboard toast, but landed safely. No cities exploded.

This is in a Nike commercial view of Y2K.

We didn't even lose a nuclear bomb, like the one Slim Pickens rode to earth in "Dr. Strangelove." Mostly, normality broke out. ATMs worked, nobody got rich like the guy in this Polaroid commercial. The government printed a whole lot of money in case of emergencies. Didn't need it. People went to work on the first business day of the new century. Traffic lights did what they were supposed to. So did cash registers.

In fact, if you look back at the weekend, what mostly happened was that the whole world had a party. They partied even in places that used different calendars -- partied in Asia; partied in some Muslim countries, where it isn't 2000; in Israel, where it isn't 2000 either; in Cuba, where dictator Fidel Castro noted, correctly, that the real millennium is next year. Lots of parties, no awful emergencies. Lots of people celebrating here -- some pun intended -- a good time.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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