Right about now you're probably getting bored with warnings about the coming Y2K crisis. Or increasingly frantic.
Most consumers apparently recognize the likelihood of some disruptions without buying into the hysteria. According to a national survey conducted by Roper Starch for Iomega Corp., Americans have largely relegated the potential Y2K problem to the middle of the pack of their everyday worries. It ranks fifth behind not having enough time to spend with the family, root canals, public speaking and losing information on the computer. It ranked ahead of preparing income taxes, asking for a raise, asking for a date, and buying a bathing suit.
Iomega has a vested interest in Y2K preparation, of course. Standard advice Y2K experts give is to back up all vital files on your home computers. Iomega makes Zip drives whose 100- and 250-megabyte Zip disks can store the equivalent of 70 to 175 floppy disks and can back up entire operating systems in less time than, say, reading this column.
Some other easy-to-do tasks consumers can do to be prepared if there is a Y2K crisis:
Get copies of your family records if you haven't already (birth certificates, social security cards, financial and medical records, etc.), advises S.F. Tomajczyk, author of "101 Ways to Survive the Y2K Crisis" (St. Martin's Griffin, $8.99). He also recommends paying bills two months in advance as the year's end approaches to avoid postal slowdowns, and keep enough cash on hand to get through a couple months.
In "How to Tame the Y2K Bug Before It Bites You," authors Marcy Ross, Marc Eisenson and Nancy Castleman advise keeping a well-stocked first-aid kit at home, along with flashlights, batteries, portable battery-operated radios, matches, and a one-week supply of food that doesn't require refrigeration. To get the 27-page booklet, send $4.50 (postpaid) to Good Advice Press, P.O. Box 78, Elizaville, N.Y. 12523.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) advises that you ask your financial institutions about their Y2K programs and review all account information for accuracy after Y2K passes. For a free copy of "The Year 2000, Your Bank and You," call the Consumer Information Center at 1-888-878-3256.
If you're unsure which home electronic products (TV, VCR, camcorder, computer, etc.) are vulnerable to Y2K glitches, the Federal Trade Commission advises contacting the manufacturers or checking their Web sites. Meanwhile, look over the FTC's informative "Year 2000 Consumer Update" Web site, www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/y2k/index.html
After years of rate baits and bidding wars, AT&T has come up with a new twist on luring customers. An essay contest. Write 200 words maximum describing how a "communications makeover" would improve your dreary, cell-phoneless, off-line, no-beeper life. Send it to AT&T Communications Makeover, 295 N. Maple Ave., Room 2353F2, Basking Ridge, N.J. 07920, or e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org (must arrive by June 18). AT&T will fly five winners to California for two days of training in the latest communications technologies (hotel and meals included), give them free Ericsson wireless phones, Toshiba laptop computers and 3Com Palm Pilots, and waive monthly charges for a year for its AT&T Personal Network and AT&T WorldNet Services.