As we rolled out of the 1900's into 2000, I started getting a little inventive. Over the next two years I would, as I've said, create some of my favorite columns ever. I'm not sure why this happened, though, as we shall see, events would on occasion transpire to inspire something a little more interesting than the usual folklore column.

We were about to hit 2000, and Y2K hysteria was at fever pitch. I latched upon a wacky idea - what if I wrote a column summing up recent events, and making predictions for the future, and sent it off via computer just as we were entering the year 2000?

Remember, the whole Y2K scare theory was that all too many systems were still set up to read any year ending with "00" as "1900", and that, therefore, as the clock tolled out the first seconds of January 1, 2000, all too many computer systems would misread the date and plunge us all 100 years into the past, presumably erasing or at least wreaking extraordinary havoc on all files and programs in the process.

What if, I mused, as my little column of predictions was sent off into cyberspace as 1999 became 2000, it were to turn into a January 1900 column rather than a January 2000 column?

I couldn't resist . . .

Dear Mom,

Well, it's about an hour before New Year's Day as I write this.

Hope all is well, I'm certainly proposing to bring in the new year in an appropriately lively manner - although I honestly believe if I hear one more newscaster erroneously refer to 2000 as the start of the "new millenium" I'll throw a shoe at the TV! As we all (should) know, the year 2000 is the climactic final year of the 20th Century, as well as the final year of this millenium. Ah well, there is a certain magic when so many numbers change, and it's certainly a good enough reason for all the hoopla.

Actually, what really annoys me (or amuses me) is all the fuss about Y2K. As you know, computer memory and speed were so expensive prior to the '90's that every little bit helped (pun intended). Hence, most computer dates were set up for two digits only, with the computer programmed to automatically assume that the first two digits of the year would be 19..

The result, of course, is that any of those systems still in operation as of now would suddenly read tomorrow's date as January 1, 1900 instead of 2000, leading to any number of conceivable glitches.

You see, no one ever expected we'd be using any of the same equipment by the year 2000! (I seem to recall mentioning this to you back in 1986 or so).

Anyway, better late than never, and fortunately companies and government agencies have finally addressed the problem, and I don't think we have anything to worry about.

I hope you enjoy the following column - it's just a little list of predictions for the coming century.

I, of course, have a nice, modern computer, as do you, and I trust that all of our systems will make it into the new year just fine. I am, in fact, so confident, that I am going to wait and email the following column until one minute after midnight. I'm sure you'll get it with no problem.

Have a great 2000, and here it is.

"Y2K" my eye . . .

Some people get worried over the silliest things . . .


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Happy 1900!


Well, hello again, dear readers. Happy New Year, though I hope you all realize that the 20th Century will not actually begin until January 1, 1901.

Between now and then, we'll have a Presidential election, so I thought it would be appropriate to make some modest predictions for the coming new year, and century.

The last ten years have certainly been eventful. We've weathered a Stock Market Crash or two, seen an extraordinary number of immigrants make their way to this country, avoided a war with England, and won one with Spain.

And I have to say, now that Edison's lowered the price on his new Standard Phonograph, it appears that recorded music is here to stay.

The Phonograph will, however, never replace piano rolls. Although it's rather fun to actually hear a human voice come out of those scratchy cylinders, true music lovers have got to be frustrated by the lack of range. For music in the home, those tinny phonographs cannot hold a candle to the Player Piano, which offers a far superior dynamic range.

Why, you can even get some of that new "Rag Time" stuff on rolls now.

I should mention that over in Germany they are reportedly experimenting with a new type of phonograph, one which would use rotating flat discs instead of the usual cylinder. In my opinion, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Besides, phongraphs and cylinders are now so affordable that almost any family can afford one. This disc thing is, I'm sure, another wacky European idea that's bound to sink like a stone.

Speaking of Edison, several otherwise fairly sane colleagues of mine have been waxing a bit over-enthusiasticly over one of his lesser gadgets - I refer to his electronic picture moving device, or those "flickering flickers", as I like to call them. Now, it was fun to see one in action, but I fear this device is but a novelty that will soon wear out its welcome. I'll take Broadway any day of the week.

To return for a moment to crazy German experiments, I've learned that some retired general named Ferdinand von Zeppelin is planning to launch a flying machine some time this coming year.

No, I'm serious. I almost wish I could be there to watch the thing crash - I'm not saying that some day in the distant future we won't find a way to fly, but I'm sure most of us can agree that it won't happen in our lifetime!

Speaking of transportation, it's now clear (or should be at any rate) that these noisy, dirty new toys of the idle rich, the Horseless Carriages, are never going to catch on. Besides the fact that they're just too expensive, why would we need them? The majority of Americans live in the country, and farming is naturally the principal occupation of most of us. How could it ever be otherwise? What is more needful than the production of food?

And what farmer would have any practical use for a Carriage without a horse?

As far as the cities, thanks to electricity most major cities now have wonderful trolley systems. These mini-trains remain the perfect device for those city dwellers in a real hurry. For the rest, well, there's nothing like a horse, is there? (Yes, yes, I hear the complaints already - don't worry, I have nothing against bicycles, either. Might even buy one this year.)

What else?

Well, economically, we look to be in pretty good shape. We've had a scare or two, recently, but the Market seems fine now, and I think the coming century will be relatively free of any major Crash.

Predictions are that immigration may actually pass one million this coming year. That may very likely be, but I think we'll see things slow a bit as we enter the 20th Century Proper. The number of available jobs will dwindle rapidly, and I'm sure you'll agree that our poor cities can't handle too many more people. I'm sure that by 1906 or 1907 we'll have comparitively few immigrants landing.

As far as World Politics, I'm optimistic. As I mentioned, we nearly went to War with England over that South American thing back in '95, but as you know cooler heads prevailed. Having now just defeated Spain and won Cuba (my personal prediction as the next state to enter the Union), we've pretty much reestablished our preeminent standing in this hemisphere. I therefore believe that this century will be one of relative peace, and hopefully one in which Europe will handle its own problems.

Elsewhere in the world, there are small revolutionary movements that have some people worried. The two that worry people the most seem to be the ones in Russia and China, mainly since the two countries are so large.

Of course, it is the very largeness of the two that makes me laugh at the idea that either movement will ever succeed.

After all, China has been under the empirical system for longer than most other countries have even existed, and though its current leader, the Empress Dowager, is getting on, I trust a suitable successor will be appointed, and Chinese life will go on this coming century as it alway has.

As far as Russia, that country is blessed with a relatively young, dynamic monarch: Czar Nicholas II. There's always been a Czar, the current one seems to have a firm grip on things, and there is therefore no reason to believe that a handful of radicals is likely to make much of an impact.

Actually, if you think about it, most of the ruling European monarchs are related, with England's Queen Victoria the epicenter of this extended family. In short, with Victoria on the throne and given the current state of things, I predict a time of unprecedented Peace for Europe in the 1900's. We shall look back, years from now, at the 1800's, and smile at how barbaric we all were. Who knows, perhaps War as we know it may be eliminated by the mid-20th Century!

Finally, the upcoming election. William Jennings Bryan is almost certain to be the Democrats' choice, and this may very well be his year. McKinley is sure to run again, but I predict a split Republican party. There are several factions urging New York Governor Roosevelt (you'll recall him as "Teddy", the recent hero of San Juan Hill during the Spanish War) to run, either as a Republican or an Independent.

Now, those in the know regard Theodore Roosevelt, quite properly, as something of a loose cannon. You may recall he was one of the more vocal supporters of going to war with England, as well as helping to drum up the mania that created the Spanish conflict.

In short, not a bad sort, but not the sort of person you want as President. Such a man would almost certainly lead us into some unnecessary conflict at the drop of a hat.

Still, he's popular, and ambitious, and thus his entry into the ring, in spite of his protestations that he supports McKinley, is entirely probable.

Such a venture would split the Republicans down the middle, and practically guarantee Bryan a win.

Of course, with the sudden and recent death of the Vice President, there is a small faction that believes McKinley may actually bring Roosevelt on board as Vice President, but if you know just how much animosity there is between the two, you'll realize, as I do, that the odds of that happening are laughably small.

No, I don't think we'll be running into a President Roosevelt in our lifetime! What a thought . . . why the idea is ludicrous. Roosevelt has as much chance of becoming President as women have of getting the vote, or those temperance fanatics have of Prohibiting alcohol . . .

Happy New Year!