Throwback Thursday: Wyoming Medical Center prepares for Y2K
By Kristy Bleizeffer Dec 31, 2019
Remember 11:59 p.m. Dec. 31, 1999?
Maybe you were on a dance floor somewhere, counting down the end of the millennium as Prince blasted from the stereo: "Two thousand, zero, zero party over, oops, out of time ...
So tonight I'm gonna party like it's nineteen ninety-nine."
Or, maybe you were in your pantry, taking inventory of your canned goods and jugs of water, counting down to the moment when the clocks flipped to midnight, and the Y2K glitch exploded our computers and hurtled civilization into darkness.
Nobody knew exactly what would happen when '99 changed to '00 and the two-digit shorthand that computer programmers used to save memory would no longer make sense. News reports from the time warned that banking systems may fail, power systems could become overwhelmed and communication networks may break down. Time magazine ran a cover with the headline: "The End of the World? Y2K insanity! Apocalypse Now! Will computers melt down? Will society?"
Even the American Red Cross got in on the hysteria, distributing a Y2K checklist for home security in case the lights went out and ATM cards couldn't be procesed. Wyoming Medical Center published the entire checklist in our December 1999 issue of "Highlights," our employee newsletter.
"Be prepared to relocate to a shelter for warmth and protection during a prolonged power outage or if for any other reason local officials request or require that you leave your home," reads one item on the checklist. (Read the entire checklist at right.)
Wyoming Medical Center set up a Y2K command center open from 11 p.m. Dec. 31, 1999, to 6 a.m. Jan. 1, 2000, and staffed it with help desk personnel, according to another "Highlights" article in the December 1999 issue: "Ringing in the New Year: Hospital doesn't expect the impact Y2K to create much noise."
Any employee could call ext. 2000 if they experienced any computer-related funny business. Extension 2-0-0-0. Get it?
"We're treating this as we would a major winter storm, which means we'll have enough supplies on hand to last for three days," said Reed Barr in the article, the Information Services team leader at the time.
In fact, WMC had started preparing for Y2K 18 months earlier. "The onerous part, Barr soon discovered, was that most all of the technology at Wyoming Medical Center has computer chips embedded somewhere, sometimes 25 layers deep. Not just computer software, but also all elevators, cooling systems, IV pumps, diagnostic equipment, respirators, etc., which left unchecked, may or may not be impacted by the changing century," the article said.
In the end, at Wyoming Medical Center and in most of the rest of the world, it was all much ado about relatively little. Advanced preparation to repair the glitch meant that the year 2000 came and went with few computer disruptions. The January 2000 issue of "Highlights" didn't even mention Y2K.
"The new decade did not start with a bang as some had feared. Plans for Y2K problems were thorough, but there was not a single computer-related event at Wyoming Medical Center," wrote Rebecca Hunt, Ph.D., in "Wyoming Medical Center: A Cenntennial History," published in 2011.
You can read all the Y2K "Highlights" coverage in the photos below.
Throwback Thursday looks back on Wyoming Medical Center’s long, rich history in Natrona County. Special thanks to the Casper College Western History Center, which archives our vast collection of newspaper articles, photographs and other memorabilia; and to "Wyoming Medical Center: A Centennial History," by Rebecca A. Hunt, Ph.D. Information is also collected from a collection of Hi-Lites, Wyoming Medical Center's employee newsletter, dating from 1982-1996.