How the change to 2000 affected the world

The rollover to year 2000 brought about several instances of quirky behaviour, and not all of them were restricted to computers.

In an effort to increase the population of Otta, Norway, the town offered gifts worth 50,000 crowns (approximately US$6,250) for the first baby of the New Year. While many places around the world did the same, what makes Otta unique is the event was held nine months earlier — a so-called erotic week during which restaurants offered “erotic menus,” and the local cinema showed erotic movies. To allow parents to take advantage of free hotel rooms and champagne during the week, a kindergarten allowed them to leave their children at the school overnight.

Unfortunately, even by January 3, no New Year Baby had been born, although three were born in the days before January 1.

In New Zealand, the celebration of the New Year without massive problems included the shredding of money. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand reportedly printed NZ$2.6 billion extra in bank notes in anticipation of people withdrawing extra cash in fear of Y2K. Once the notes weren’t needed, the bank shredded them.

The actual timing of the date change held its own oddities: in Red Deer, Alta., people celebrated a day early, purportedly to avoid any Y2K glitches from interrupting the party. In Gwaun Valley, Wales, new year was celebrated on January 12 by “calendar rebels” who still protest the 1752 switch to the Gregorian calendar. The Julian calendar they follow is 11 days behind.

As for actual computer errors, a German man found 12,999,997 marks (about US$6.2 million) credited to his name when he logged onto his bank account from home after the date rollover. The system also claimed the date was December 30, 1899.

On the opposite side of things, a man in Colonie, NY, found he owed US$91,250 in late fees for his rental of “The General’s Daughter” from a Super Video store. The store’s computer thought the date was 1900 and was charging customers 100 years in late fees. The store owner zeroed out the late charges, gave the customer a free rental, and wished him a happy New Year.

The first baby born in Denmark in the year 2000 was registered by a hospital computer as being 100 years old at birth.

One of Brazil’s most important ports experienced an unexpected Y2K glitch: the system itself was upgraded to read 2000 correctly, but the customs registrations produced by the old system would not work with the new one. Despite reminders to have their credentials upgraded, half of the regular importers did not. Customs officials accepted the faulty credentials and updated them in a matter of minutes, so the problem caused almost no delay.

Back at home, the Toronto Stock Exchange said some investors using Netscape experienced a brief and inconsequential error related to Y2K with the year being displayed as 100.