A decade change 2 decades ago: CSU during Y2K

Matthew Bailey

It’s 1999. You just watched “The Matrix” with a Tamagotchi in hand, Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears dominate the radio and there’s a good chance you’re casually thinking about world destruction.

OK, maybe Y2K wasn’t that grave after all, but the international phenomenon seemingly posed a threat to a world increasingly dependent on computers.


The simple change from a “99” to a “00” meant banks would shut down, planes would fall out of the sky and entire power grids would fail.

No place was sheltered from the havoc of Y2K — not even Fort Collins.

The Y2K phenomenon remained a burning issue at The Collegian through to the last printed newspapers of the millennium. In fact, Y2K was a front-page topic in Collegian newspapers published in December 1999.

“Most of the local businesses will be OK,” read the first sentence of a Dec. 6 article, titled “Y2K OK for local businesses.”

The trend of businesses Y2K-proofing themselves, or upgrading computers to prevent New Year’s Day rollover problems, was apparent in town as outlined in the Dec. 6 article.

The article reported local banks and small businesses in the Fort Collins area were preparing infrastructure for the switch to the 2000s.

Banks prepared for the change as early as late September that year, and most financial institutions tested computer systems with a fake rollover, according to the article.

A Dec. 7 article, titled “Fort Collins a forward-looking community” and subtitled “City ready for Y2K, substance abuse and health problems,” emphasized the proactive route Fort Collins businesses took in Y2K-proofing themselves and explained that the same process of preparation must be taken for issues of substance abuse and homelessness.

However, not everything went so smoothly.

The Rams Bookstore at Colorado State University was negatively impacted by the Y2K phenomenon. Most textbook publishers were not accepting book orders up to two weeks after New Year’s Day, so books were ordered ahead of time to avoid problems going into the spring semester of 2000.


CSU’s “Cache Card,” which was a method of payment used at different Lory Student Center locations at the time, was not Y2K-compliant, according to a Dec. 9 article, titled “Cache Card to become Y2K casualty.”

Since the equipment used for the “Cache Card” system was leased from a different company that didn’t service it, the payment system became obsolete Jan. 1, 2000. This became inconvenient for people who relied on the “Cache Cards” at places such as the University Bookstore.

Hundreds of students, faculty and staff held “Cache Cards” at the time of the article’s release, and they were encouraged to spend their remaining balances. Ultimately, the article announced CSU was developing a University card that would combine other card systems used on campus.

At the end of the day, CSU and the Fort Collins community were affected by the Y2K phenomenon in numerous minute ways.

But the predictions of infrastructural failure born out of Y2K hysteria went unformulated, and the masses carried on with their digitized action films, plastic-electronic entertainment and teen pop ballads without the fear of apocalypse. Twenty years later, Y2K is nothing but a memory.

As 2019 draws to a close and the next decade appears over the horizon, who knows what new life-threatening phenomenon is in store for humanity next?

Matt Bailey can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @MattBailey760.