If you’ve been on the Internet, or followed any social media over the past several years at all, you probably have seen the above image. It purports to be a sticker–a label–that would have accompanied personal computers or peripheral equipment in 1999 in contemplation of the Y2K issue. Back at least to the 19th century and the science fiction futurism of H.G. Wells, the year 2000 was expected to be the Renaissance of all things Future. Even though we followed Prince’s lead and partied like it was 1999, in 1999, the year 2000 didn’t get us flying cars or jetpacks.
The reality was far more mundane (even if Wells likely would have been impressed by computers, television, and even indoor plumbing). Corporations, specifically their information technology departments–had everyone chasing their tails with the possibility that when midnight arrived for January 1 of the year 2000, machines might have some kind of snafu. It derived from poor planning–some systems used full four-digit programming when referring to dates, but less forward-thinking programs used only the last two digits. Would computers know what to do when flipping over to year zero?
Ultimately nothing substantial happened that was ever proven to be a result of fear of the Y2K “bug” that wasn’t. But what’s the story with the specific sticker in the image above? Posit: This single sticker may be the most widely reproduced and circulated single sticker… ever. If it’s even real.
For at least the past seven years the image of the Best Buy sticker, identifiable because of the tear on the left side of the image, has been widely re-circulated around the end of each year. It appears to be the kind of sticker that came on a roll and was handed out at Best Buy stores or placed inside some kind of Best Buy branded add-on as a courtesy or marketing gimmick. Something like that would have netted tens of thousands of different stickers distributed through Best Buy stores in 1999. So why don’t we ever see any other images of this sticker when New Year’s comes around? Many have tried but the image does not seem to have been found on the Internet before at least 2015, maybe 2017. Which begs the question of whether it was created for nostalgia purposes only. To be clear–nobody questions whether Y2K happened, or whether companies may have put some kind of sticker on boxes in 1999. The question is what is the source of this image, the sticker in it, and if real, why doesn’t anyone produce evidence of another original copy of it? The query only arises because this torn sticker image has been so widely circulated. Is it just a concocted meme or a bit of history?
You need to disregard the fact that opportunists have reproduced it and sold it as a gimmick via eBay, Etsy, and similar sites. It’s even on T-shirts. It’s an easy thing to Photoshop to remove the tear in the image. But have you ever seen this type of sticker in any other context? Doubtless if this were real, it would have been found several times since 1999 in old storage boxes, or preserved with vintage computers in some kind of archive, be it public or private.
If this exact sticker is real, how much do you think it would sell for if put up at auction? You may think it’s worthless, yet if it is real it no doubt has some historical, cultural value.
So for your New Year’s Eve planning, here’s a New Year’s Eve scavenger hunt mission for you. Find a photo of an original copy of this sticker that *isn’t* this exact image. Or better yet, search through that old drawer or box for another copy of that same sticker. Again, note that tear on the left side, and disregard unprovable copies. IF this single sticker is real, it may be the most widely circulated sticker… ever. Consider how many millions of times it has circulated around the Web.
Disagree? Then search out a specific sticker you think you’ve encountered even more on the Internet than this one and let’s see it. We’re looking for a photo of a single, specific object, not just a visual representation of a mass circulated type.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it.
Have a fun and safe New Year’s and New Year 2023!
C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg