It was 1979, with computers a far way off from the technology we have today. And so, because of a bug in the system, the United States found itself just seven minutes away from launching a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.
This may sound dramatic, like the plot to another Hollywood action blockbuster, but it's not. It's the closest humanity got to World War III, and it really happened.
Let's put this into perspective for those who weren't up-to-speed or, more likely, not even born yet. For years, the world was on a knife-edge as the USA and the Soviet Union, or Russia as it is called today, engaged in the Cold War.
You see, these two military giants had hundreds of nuclear weapons pointed at each other, an action that was the child of the fallout of WWII. The story was based on politics, economics and propaganda. The US and the Soviet Union went head-to-head in a battle between diplomacy and communism, respectively, with allies backing either side.
Anyway, after the States dropped nuclear bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan, effectively bringing WWII to an end, nuclear was the talk of the town. Countries globally produced these weapons in the decades that followed, but our two protagonists had the most by far.
But, these weapons create havoc and are extremely dangerous. Thankfully, those in charge have been reluctant to press that big old red button we always see in the movies.
Unfortunately, computer software in the 1970s proved to be somewhat unreliable and, in the early hours of one December morning, the NORAD system lights up.
NORAD is the North American Aerospace Defence Command's early warning system, connected to satellites, the army, navy and other military systems. It's the first line of defence against attack for the US and monitors the globe for telltale signs of, among other things, rocket launches.
This single notification snowballs into seven minutes of scrambling by the US, pushing humanity closer to WWIII and, possibly, the end to life as we know it.
The guys over at The Infographics Show on YouTube have put together a video on what unfolded. It includes what happened before and during those suspenseful minutes and what caused the drama in the first place.
Life, today, could be very different for all of us. If any of us survived, that is.