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That Century Trick (Again)

It seems that every few years someone like John Hamilton Scott (“That Old Century Trick,” Saturday Letters, Feb. 11) comes along with the idea that Jan. 1, 2000, is not the first day of the 21st Century. Even The Times’ own Jack Smith had a column about it some time ago. Wrong again, folks!

When George Burns is born, he is 0 years old and in his 1st year. When Burns has completed 1 year, he is in his 2nd year. And so on. By the time Burns is 99, he is in his 100th year. In other words, Burns’ age indicates the number of years he has completed . And so it is with our calendar.

Right now the year is 1995, which means we are in the 96th year of the 20th Century. Next year will be the 97th year, while 1999 will be the 100th year of the 20th Century and, ergo, 2000 will be the 1st year of the 21st Century.

I think the mistake comes from the erroneous concept that our decimal system runs from 1 to 10. It does not. It runs from 0 to 9, just like the binary system from 0 to 1. Therefore, the very first year of our calendar is the year 0.

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HARDY SALWITZ,

Mathematician

Ventura

Sigh. No doubt George Burns will lay the matter to rest by celebrating a birthday Jan. 20, 2002.

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