Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ It's Our Millennium and We'll Party if We Want To

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Nov 29, 1999

Posted to NewsTrolls, 30 November 1999.

OK, look, I've had it and I'm not going to stand for this abuse any more.

Like millions - maybe billions - of people around the planet, I intend to celebrate the new millennium when the digit counter switches to the magic "2000" mark in a month or so.

And that, my friends, will be the start of the new millennium.

Now there are some people - such as the foolish Millennium Clock and the U.S. Naval Observatory, of all people, who argue that the next millennium will not begin until January 1, 2001.

Poppycock! Balderdash!

Now I could tolerate their wacky ideas and odd behaviour except for the fact that they have been haranguing us for the last half century (49 years, their time) about this.

Like I said, I'm not going to take it any more. It's time to take a stand. This is my millennium party and I'm not gonna cry.

Here's their argument. The first century, as we all know, did not begin with the year '0'. It began in the year '1'. Thus, they say, the first century did not end until the end of the year 100, the first millennium did not end until the end of the year 1000, and therefore, the first millennium will not end until the end of the year 2000.

It all sounds so logical until we realize that the system was devised in the sixth century by a monk who wanted to base the calendar on the birth of Christ.

Not only had he never heard of negative numbers (thus making him mathematically illiterate, or immumerate, as we would say today), he also got Christ's birthday wrong, missing by four to six years.

The year '1' is in fact therefore an arbitrary date, close to but not matching Christ's birth date. The year before '1' was called - in error, as it turns out, '1 BC' (or in more recent circles, '1 BCE'). Looking back with two thousand years of perspective, it seems silly to call a year 'Before Christ' or 'Before the Christian Era' after Christ was born, but there you have it.

The fact is, 1 BC is actually 0 AD. There is utterly no contradiction to giving the same year two numbers - the BC and AD (or BCE and CE) systems of counting are two separate systems.

And we know that any sequence of counting discrete lengths (such as miles on an odometer, years in a life, etc) begins with '0'. Of course the Christian Era begins with year '0'. Only an innumerate monk from the sixth century would think otherwise.

And to think that scholars today would repeat and insist that Dionysius Exiguus's calculations are more accurate (not to mention relevant) than those of the twentieth century!

Dionysius Exiguus thought the Earth was flat, for crying out loud. He thought our lowly planet was the centre of the universe. He believed that the Pope was infallible! He thought measles were caused by the vapours. And he thought the year '0' should be called '1 BC'.

There is no reason to continue to stand for any more abuse. Reclaim the year '0' as rightfully ours! Reclaim the natural ordering of the centuries.

And for Exiguus's sake, get out there, party like it's 1999, and enjoy New Year's Eve 2000.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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