When Mr. Bug Went To Town

Remember when civilization was set to end overnight a few years ago because of the Y2K bug? Even those of us who were skeptical that the worst-case scenarios being bandied about in the months leading up to December 31, 1999, were likely to actually transpire couldn’t help but feel slightly unsettled as the actual turn of the century approached.

Sure, those of us with Mac computers could feel smug in the knowledge that the bug in question would only begin making Microsoft’s PCs go haywire at the stroke of midnight, not our superiorly crafted Apple devices.

Unfortunately, the real world runs mostly on PCs, not Macs, and if the entire set of electric grids that powered Planet Earth were going to go successively ka-flooey time zone by time zone, the refrigerator spoilage of Mac-owners would be just as distasteful as it would for PC-owners.

Lots of computer-patches were being downloaded and installed furiously as the doomsday date approached, but even though the professional geeks who were programming such patches theoretically knew what they were doing, who could be sure that they would get every single thing corrected that needed correcting? After all, if they were so smart, howcum they let the damned bug get into all those computer hard drives in the first place?

So most of us watched television warily on the 31st as midnight began creeping across the world’s land masses. Of course, all eyes (or rather, hungry banks of television cameras) are on the International Dateline every New Year’s Eve, but as the Year 2000 approached the coverage had a different vibe. Normally the planet’s media watch eagerly to the skies over New Zealand brighten dramatically from the first of many displays of crowd-pleasing fireworks that would soon be exploding over the world’s celebrating cities. But in 2000 ther media waiting to see if New Zealand’s lights would all go out and airplanes would begin falling willy-nilly out of those aforementioned skies.

Had such nightmarish developments actually begun unfolding in New Zealand as some had predicted, then those of us located west of there would have various numbers of hours available to contemplate the similar nightmares likely to befall our own time zones as the Sun advanced our way.

It turned out that as clocks struck midnight in one zone after another, catastrophes proved pallid. Some ATMs malfunctioned here and there and other modest inconveniences arose during the next few days, but all in all the Y2K bug proved to be as non-formidable as had the Comet Kahoutek, which also caused widespread edginess as it approached our planet in 1974 and which also failed to live up to its advance billing as a disaster delivery system.

Why is the Y2K Bug on my mind today? Because I happened to come across two rough sketches this week (see above and below) while looking for an unrelated item in my files. These two variations on a theme were commissioned in 1999 by a friend of mine who thought that — what with the end of civilization being imminent — there might be money to be gleaned from making comical Y2K tee-shirts available to consumers.

My friend was naive about the amount of lead-time required for such a merchandizing venture to be profitable, unfortunately. Besides the normal need to lay careful marketing groundwork well in advance of introducing a topical product, it goes without saying that tee-shirts linked to the end of civlization are best sold before civilization actually begins ending, since people senses of humor tend to do downhill fast once their future prospects have been obliterated.

Anyway, neither my friend’s tee-shirts nor finished versions of my two sketches ever materialized. But since the sketches have spent several years in a file drawer waiting to be re-discovered already, why shouldn’t I share them with you today?

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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