Five days after the millennial moment struck, the lights are still on, the faucets are still running, and the ATMs are still giving out cash. Good news for everyone but the Y2K doomsayers, who, according to their annoyed followers, have a lot of explaining to do.
Soon after the nation's computers hit the '00s without mishap, the angry e-mails started pouring in. By yesterday, the discussion forums for the dozen or so most popular Internet Y2K gurus were stuffed with recriminations.
Why, the thousands of disillusioned preparers seethed, had they wasted their time, their faith and their money getting ready for an apocalypse that never materialized? And was anyone now prepared to apologize?
"Some accountability here is required, I believe," began an "Open Letter" to Ed Yourdon, considered the thinking man's Y2K guru. An MIT graduate and computer consultant, Yourdon over the past two years sold 250,000 copies of his book "Time Bomb 2000," thanks partly to its now infamous back cover inscription: "Saturday, January 1, 2000. Suddenly, nothing works. Not your phones, not the cash machine, not even your fancy new VCR."
"It may be just my opinion, but I feel that you shoulder much of the blame for the fear, Uncertainty and Doubt that has propagated throughout the internet, and into the mainstream regarding Y2K," continued the letter, signed by Hoffmeister, who described himself as a longtime subscriber. "Even now, you apparently refuse to admit you were wrong. . . . Tis long past time to end the BS, Mr. Yourdon."
Yourdon told followers that the letters he was receiving were evenly split between those who thanked him for helping them prepare and those who chastised him, yet in his open letter back he did not exactly apologize. Instead, like most of the other gurus, he deferred.
"Some, and perhaps many, Y2K bugs have not become visible yet," he wrote on his Web site on the quiet morning of Jan. 1, then ran through a page of technical glitches that suggested doom could still arrive.
Hundreds of e-mails also poured into a site established by Gary North, a well-known Cassandra who had urged people to do what he did: flee to a mountain hideaway to gird against Y2K disaster.
"I suppose you're just a bit disappointed that the world will not embrace you as their prophet mentor and saviour," wrote one follower, who accused North of "profiteering."
North did not exactly recant, but he came closer than Yourdon. In his defense against profiteering, he reminded readers that he gave up a possibly lucrative business venture to start his much less profitable Y2K Web site.
He conceded that he had encouraged families to spend money and "gain safety and reserves for their neighbors" and that it had done them no good. "I plead guilty and throw myself on the mercy of the court," he wrote, with a touch of melodrama.
Still, many were unmoved. "Who wants to get with me in a class action suit?" asked one reader.
As always happens when apocalypse fizzles, some stuck with their leaders. They conceded they had been wrong about disaster during the "rollover" of the calendar but clung to the new, long-term metaphor, "death by 1,000 cuts"--a phrase repeated dozens of times in the e-mails. Protectively, they shared "Strategies for Dealing With Ridicule." "I know you were no charlatan," one long-term subscriber wrote, expressing her hope-tinged fear that "we're not out of the woods yet."
In one of the most moving letters, a man who described himself as deeply religious acknowledged his mixed emotions. He had spent thousands of hours reading the Y2K Web sites, following the advice.
"We have been waiting, we have been watching for over thirty years now," he wrote about him and his family. "With each new abomination we grow more desolate, I fear we even grow more tired."
He acknowledged being confused about why, once again, the world had failed to end. Somehow, though, even this latest disappointment did not erode his belief.
"Dr. Gary North," he closed his letter. "I believe that you are as of now, one of the unsung heroes of history."
CAPTION: A worker at Shinhan Bank in Seoul takes down a sign with an explosive motif after the apocalyptic predictions of many Y2K gurus blew up in their faces.