BC - AD   ***   DATE  TRIVIA




The ABACUS - The First Computer ?

December  20,  2010

 listenear.jpg (16063 bytes)         hourglass.jpg (8806 bytes)         clockheld.jpg (16517 bytes)


Now that the fear of the  Armageddon  of  "Y2K"  on  January 1, 2000  has passed without major incident;  we can now focus on the reasoning for the true beginning of the new Millenium being  January 1, 2001.    But, have you ever wondered about "Y0K " or considered how and when our "Christian Era" based calendar came into being?

Two thousand years ago,  the Year One arrived;  but no one knew it,   either then or for several centuries thereafter.  The 12 months we call   1AD came and went as just another year.  To the Romans - who ruled what was then considered the civilized world,  and whose civilization would one day be the basis of our own - the year was 754AUC "Ad Urba Condita" ("From the Founding of the City") - 754 being the number of years since Romulus is said to have founded "Rome".  Among Rome's Greek subjects,  who marked time in four-year units between Olympic Games,  the year was merely the first quarter of the 195th Olympiad.  Meanwhile,  the Chinese saw it as nothing more than the second year of the reign of P'ing-ti,  a boy emperor who would die five years later at the age of 13.  But to a sixth century monk in Rome,  the year ranked as one of the greatest in all history.

Our current  numbering of years was instituted around 526 AD,  by the Roman and Christian Monk  Dionysius Exiguus, aka  "Dennis the Little";  based on his estimate of the year when Christ (aka Joshua bar Joseph) had been born.  Described as a native Scythian,  not much is known of Exiguus;  other than he had a great reputation as an avid astronomer and mathematician.  The date of Christ's Birth was not considered important until the 2nd Century and up until the time of Exiguus the date of the Resurrection of Christ, (which became associated with the Spring Festival of Easter in the 2nd Century), was still considered more significant than his date of birth; so Exiguus was commissioned by  Pope John "The First"  to develop a better and more rational method for the annual reckoning of the proper date for Easter.  The calendar then in use,  dated from the accession of the  Roman Emperor Diocletian  in the year now called  284 AD.   But Diocletian had persecuted early Christians,  and Dionysius Exiguus had said in a letter to a friend, that he "preferred to count and denote the years from the Incarnation of Our Lord".  

By adding together the number of years that the prior Emperors of Rome had reigned, Dionysius Exiguus calculated that Jesus' Birth had occurred 532 years before in the Roman Year 753 AUC (Ab Urba Condita - "From the founding of the City" of Rome); which Exiguus termed as "Anno Domini Nostri Jesu Christi" (Year of Our Lord Jesus Christ's Birth).  The Roman year 753 AUC became what we now term as the year 1 BC, with the year 1 AD beginning one week later after December 25th, on January 1, 754 AUC.  Exiguus retained the date of December 25, which had already been decreed as the date of Christ's Birth by Emperor Constantine in 1071 AUC - 318 AD and had previously been celebrated as the Festival of Mithras and the Dies Natalis Solis Invictus (Day of the Birth of the Invincible Sun).  Dionysius, however, was off by a few years in his calculations; as the postulated date of Christ’s Birth is now considered to have occurred on April 17,  6 BC, about two years prior to the death of Herod, Governor of Judea, in 4 BC, as documented in the Holy Scriptures.  

At that time in the Spring of 6 BC (when the shepherds would have logically been in the fields tending their flocks), the planet Jupiter (Star of Zeus) had been rising "In the East" as a morning star, in the constellation of  "Ares The Ram", (which to ancient astrologers represented the Kingdom of Judea), and it was also passing very near to the Moon, and was finally eclipsed by the Moon on April 17,  6 BC.  Also at about that same time, Jupiter was passing very close to (in conjunction with) the planet Venus - so close that they were observed to have nearly touched each other.  These rare and impressive stellar phenomenon were interpreted by the people of the region, and particularly by the "Maji of the East", who were knowledgeable astronomers (and from whom we get our word "Magic"), as an indication for the Birth of a King or a person of great importance in Judea.  

Exiguus' new Christian Era based Calendar of 526 AD was not then universally  adopted and gradually came into use over time.  The AD "Anno Domini" designation of the years after Christ's Birth was instituted by Exiguus.  Two centuries later in the early 8th Century, the Britain Benedictine Monk "Venerable" Saint Bede introduced the label "BC" to identify the years preceding "AD".  However, it appears that the BC-AD tagging of years did not come into  general  use until the "High Middle Ages" in 12th or 13th Century (1100's - 1200's).    

A "Year-Zero" was not utilized by Exiguus,  as at that time in the Western world,  counting was done with either Roman Numerals or "fingers", or using the original version of the Abacus developed in Rome (see ABACUS below);  neither of which included the concept of a quantity for "Nothing" or the number value of  "Zero".  Therefore, the sequence of years runs  3BC,  2BC,  1BC,  1AD,  2AD,  3AD,  etc.  This means that the First Year of the First Millennium was  1AD.   The 1000th Year and end of the First Millennium was  1000AD and thus the First Day of the Second Millennium was   January 1, 1001.  Hence the First Day of the Third Millennium would be January 1, 2001;  or 14,007AD,  if you are counting in dog years!  

It is said or rumored that in the final days of December 999; people huddled and devoutly prayed in their churches and their homes upon the approach of  "Y1K"  in 1000AD;  fearful that the world was coming to an end.  This was not unlike our fears over the perceived problems of  Y2K.  Nostradomus has assured us, however,  that the world will not come to an end until a great war in 3797;  that is if we manage to survive  "Y3K ! 

The now nearly universally adopted "Arabic" system of numbers,  which does include a value for "Zero",  appears to have originated with the Hindu's in India during the Fourth Century (301-400) AD.  "Zero" came into wider use in the Middle East about 600AD.  This system of numbering,  now termed  "Arabic"  was adopted by Arab traders,  who brought it to Spain and eventually to all of Europe by around 1000AD.


Romulus, the legendary founder and first ruler of Rome, instituted a 304 day, 10 month long calendar shortly after establishing the City that would bear his name.  March / Martius 31 days, named in honor of the god of war "Mars", was the first month of this "Romulus" Calendar.  The other nine months were  Aprilis 30 days,  Maius 31 days,  Junius 30 days,  Quinctilis 31 days,  Sextilis 30 days,  September 30 days,  October 31 days,  November 30 days and  December 30 days.  The last six names correspond to the Latin words for the ordinal numbers 6 through 10.  

In 713 BC / 40 AUC, Ab Urba Condita, "from the Founding of the City" (of Rome), one day was deducted from each of the 30 day months and  January / Januarius (29 days) was added to the beginning (prior to Martius) and February / Februarius (28 days) was added to the end (following December) of the original 10 month "Romulus" Calendar, extending it to 12 months and 355 days.  The Romans were superstitious about "even" numbers, so taking a day away from the "even" 30 day months to make them an "uneven" 29 days and adding a day to January to make an uneven 29 days (February remained at 28 days)  made for an "uneven" 355 day year.  However, this revised year was still nine days short of a full solar year.  To make the calendar better correspond to the solar year, these extra nine days were inserted as part of the period or month of "Mercedonius / Intercalans".  This "intercalary (added to the calendar)" period was inserted between the 23rd and 24th days of February, every other year.  The last five days of February apparently became a part of Mercedonius when that month was implemented on the alternate years.  

The first day of March (Kalends of Martius) was the original Roman "New Year's Day" until circa 200 BC or 552 AUC, when February was moved between January and March and the First of January (Kalends of Januarius/Ianuarius) became the first day of the then "revised" 12 month Roman Republican Calendar.  The Kalends of Martius, however, continued to be a day of significance to the Romans.  


In 46BC, Julius Caesar further reformed the calendar, adding "leap years" creating the so-called "Julian" Calendar.  The Julian year being 365 days in length, was six hours longer than the true solar year.  Thus, by the 16th century, the accumulation of surplus time had displaced the Vernal Equinox from March 21st backward to March 11th.  The date of March 21st for the Vernal Equinox had been set in the 4th century.  In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII, in order to rectify this error and better match the Calendar Year to the Solar Year, decreed that the 10 days between October 5th and October 14th be dropped from the year 1582 and further ordained that the Century Years ending in "hundreds" should not be leap years unless they were divisible by 400, such as the Year 2000.  The year 1600 was a leap year in both the "Julian" and "Gregorian (reformed)" calendars; but, 1700, 1800 and 1900 were leap years only in the un-reformed Julian calendar.   The "Gregorian Reform" was accepted, immediately in most Roman Catholic countries, more gradually in Protestant countries, and in the Eastern Church, the "old" un-reformed Julian calendar was retained into the 20th century.  The present, generally accepted calendar is therefore termed the  Gregorian, although it is only a slight modification of the Julian.

The Gregorian (reformed Julian) Calendar was not accepted in England and the British colonies in America until 1752.  By that date the English calendar was 11 days different from that of continental Europe.  Therefore, by decree of the King of England,  11 days were omitted in 1752, when September 2nd was immediately followed by September 14th.

Some OTHER DATING POINTS of world history have been  -  Creation of the World, 4000BC, the year in which it was once believed the world was created and termed Anno Lucis (AL) "The Year of Light";  or sometimes Anno Mundi (AM) "The Year of the World".  The Jewish equivalent of "AL" is 3760 BC, Anno Hebraico or the Byzantine equivalent is 5508 BC.  ***  The Maya "Long-Count" calendar commencing with the mythical beginning of the Maya Civilization on Aug-13, 3114 BC and extending for a period of 5125 years, postulated to end on Dec-21,2012  ***  The Founding of the Olympic Games in Greece in 776 BC, with reckoning in periods of four-year "Olympiads"  ***   The Founding of the City of Rome, 753 BC, abbreviation AUC - Ab Urba Condita - "From the Founding of the City"  ***  The  Diocletian Calendar of Rome in 1087 AUC or 284 AD  ***  The "Hegira"(AH - Anno Hegirae), the flight of Mohammad from Mecca in 622 AD  ***  The Gregorian Calendar of 1582 AD, which is the basic calendar now in general world-wide use. 

The JULIAN DAY CALENDAR is a less well known system of astronomical dating, whereby the "difference in days" between any two dates can be calculated mathematically and more directly without using conventional civil calendars with their uneven months and leap years.  It is particularly useful in computer data processing when two dates are to be compared for which is greater (more recent) or lower (older) and/or to determine the difference in days between any two dates.  It was devised by Joseph Scaliger in 1582 and named in honor of his father, Julius Caesar Scaliger.   The Julian period of 7,980 years is a product of the Solar Cycle, the Lunar Cycle and the Roman Calendar Cycle and begins on January 1, 4713 BC, that being the last time when the three cycles most nearly coincided.  Dates and days are numbered consecutively from January 1, 4713 BC, regardless of the many calendar revisions that have taken place since that initial date.  Thus "Julian Day One" is January 1, 4713 BC, while the Julian Day Number or the number of days elapsed since "Julian Day One" for December 31, 1999 is 2,451,544, January 1, 2000 is 2,451,545, Jan. 2nd is 2,451,546 and so on.  The Julian Day begins at Noon, Universal Time (UT), aka Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or Zulu Time (ZT), and ends at Noon UT on the following date.  

                                                  * * * * *

And now,  some other  DATE TRIVIA  and  Please Remember  -   You Saw It Here FIRST !

In 1752,  the eleven days  Sept-3 through Sept-13 inclusive,  were omitted;  when the English speaking world switched from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Reform Calendar.  The King of England simply decreed that for the Year 1752   September 2nd would be immediately followed by September 14.  And so it was!  

Centuries will only begin on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday.

Millennia always begin on Wednesday or Saturday.  2000 began on Saturday.   3000 will begin on Wednesday.

January and October always begin on the same day, except in Leap Years.

February, March and November always begin on the same day,  except in Leap Years.

March and November always begin on the same day,  regardless of Leap Years.

July always begins on the day before the day of January 1st,  except in Leap Years.

September and December always begin on the same day,  regardless of Leap Years.  

11- 19-1999  was an "Odd" day (every digit is odd),  and is the last such day we will ever see.

The next odd day will be  1-1-3111.    Zero is considered to be "Even".

2-2-2000, was an "Even" day and was the first such day since  8-28-888.

February 1865 is the only month in recorded history not to have a full moon. 

Easter was celebrated very early in the Year 2008.  Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox (which was March 23, 2008).  This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that the Hebrew people used to identify The Passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman based calendar.

Based on the above information, Easter can actually be one day earlier, March 22, which is very rare.

March 23, 2008 was the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives!  And only the most elderly of our population have ever seen it this early (95 years old or above).  And none of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier!  

The next time Easter will be as early as March 23rd will be in the year 2228 (220 years from 2008). The last time it was that early was 1913.  So if you're 95 or older, you are the only ones that were around for that!.

The next time Easter will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285 (277 years from 2008). The last time it was on March 22 was 1818. So, no one alive today has or will ever see it any earlier than in 2008 !

For the first time since 1554 and 1638, or 456 and 372 years, a full Lunar Eclipse occurred on the Winter Solstice, December 21, 2010.  A lunar eclipse will not occur again on the Winter Solstice until the Year 2094.  Miss that one and you will have to wait until 2382 and 2466 !

Now You Know !!  And Remember  -  You Saw It Here First !!


DAYLIGHT  SAVING  TIME  -  Who  -   When  -  Why

"DST" does not really save any daylight,  it just moves an hour of generally un-needed summer morning daylight to the evening hours when it is of greater use and more appreciated.  Daylight Saving Time also saves energy.  Studies done by the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that DST trims the entire country's electricity usage by a small, but significant amount of less than one percent each day with Daylight Saving Time.  We save energy in both the evening and the morning because less electricity is used for lighting and appliances.

The idea of  Daylight Savings Time,  called "Summer Time" in many other parts of the world,  was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin while he was an American delegate in Paris in 1784.  The original text of his proposal was published in the "Journal de Paris" in which he had calculated that "the inhabitants of Paris could save annually more than 96 million livres of candles and lamp oil,  if they would rise with the Sun during the summer months and not several hours later", as was the custom.   

The idea was first advocated seriously by a London builder, William Willett (1857-1915), in the pamphlet "Waste of Daylight" (1907) that proposed advancing clocks 20 minutes on each of four Sundays in April, and retarding them by the same amount on four Sundays in September.  About twelve months after Willett began to advocate daylight saving  (he spent a fortune lobbying for it),  he attracted the attention of the authorities and a bill was introduced  in the House of Commons to make it compulsory to adjust the clocks.  The bill was drafted in 1909 and introduced in Parliament several times, but it met with ridicule and opposition, especially from farming interests. Generally lampooned at the time,  Willett died on   March 4, 1915.

Willett had suggested a complex scheme of adding eighty minutes, in four separate movements.  On May 17, 1916, an Act was passed and the scheme was put into operation on the following Sunday, May 21, 1916,  following the lead of Germany,  who had adopted Summer Time three weeks earlier on May 1, 1916.    There was a storm of opposition, confusion and prejudice.  The Royal Meteorological Society insisted that Greenwich time would still be used to measure the tides.  The parks belonging to the Office of Works and the London County Council decided to close at dusk, which meant that they would be open an extra hour in the evening.  Kew Gardens, on the other hand, ignored the daylight saving scheme and decided to close by the clock.

In Edinburgh,  the confusion was even more marked,   for the gun at the Castle was fired at 1 p.m. summer time, while the ball on the top of the Nelson monument on Calton Hill fell at Noon or "One o'clock" Greenwich time.  That arrangement was carried on for the benefit of seamen who could see it from the Firth of Fort.  The time fixed for changing clocks was 2 a.m. on a Sunday;  which is still the usual hour of  "time change".

The plan was not formally adopted in the United States until 1918.  "An Act to preserve Daylight and provide Standard Time for the United States" was enacted on March 19, 1918.  It both established standard time zones and set summer DST to begin on  March 31, 1918.  It placed the country on Daylight Saving Time for the remainder of WW I, and was observed for seven months in 1918 and 1919.  The law,  however,  proved so unpopular (mostly because people rose earlier and went to bed earlier than we do today) that the law was later repealed in 1919 over President Wilson's veto. It became a local option, and was continued in a few states (Massachusetts, Rhode Island) and some cities (New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and others).

After the "Great War" (WW-1),  several Acts of Parliament in England were passed relating to summer time.  Eventually,  in 1925,  it was enacted that  "Summer Time"  should begin on the day following the third Saturday in April.  The date for closing of summer time was fixed for the first Saturday in October.  Since 1986  in the United States,   the first Sunday in April and last Sunday in October delineate Daylight Savings Time.

The energy saving benefits of "DST" were recognized during World War II,  when clocks were put two hours ahead of GMT during the Summer.  This became known as Double Summer Time.  During the war,   clocks remained one hour ahead of GMT throughout the winter. 

During World War II, President Roosevelt instituted year-round Daylight Saving Time,  which was termed  "War Time" (from February 2, 1942 to September 30, 1945).  From 1945 to 1966,  there was no federal law concerning Daylight Saving Time.  So states and localities had the option of deciding whether to observe Daylight Saving Time or not and could mandate when it it was to begin and end.  This, however, caused much confusion,  especially for the broadcasting industry, as well as the railroads , airlines, and bus companies.   Because of the different local customs and laws,  radio and TV stations and the transportation companies had to publish new schedules every time a state or town began or ended Daylight Saving Time.

Following the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, Congress put most of the nation on extended Daylight Saving Time for two years in hopes of saving additional energy. This experiment worked, but Congress did not continue the experiment in 1975 because of opposition -- mostly from the farming states.

On January 4, 1974,  President Nixon signed into law the Daylight Saving Time Energy Act of 1973.  Then, beginning on   January 6, 1974,  implementing the Daylight Saving Time Energy Act,   clocks were set ahead for a fifteen-month period through  April 27, 1975.

In Israel,  ultra-Orthodox Sephardic Jews have campaigned against the concept of daylight saving time because they recite their Slikhot penitential prayers in the early morning hours during the Jewish month of Elul.

STANDARD  TIME  IN  "TIME  ZONES"   was instituted in the U.S. and Canada by the railroads on November 18, 1883;   as they needed and required "standard-universal" timing for the safe operation of trains meeting and passing each other at sidings and stations.  Prior to that date,  the time of day was a local matter, and most cities and towns used some form of local solar time,  generally maintained by some well-known local clock (for example, on a church steeple, the Town Hall or in a jeweler's store window).  After 1883, large pendulum controlled "long-case" (so-called grandfather type) "Regulator" clocks, emblazoned with the notation "Standard Time"! could be found in railroad stations,  jewelry stores, drug stores or other prominent locations. 

The new standard time system was not immediately embraced by all, however.  The use of standard time gradually increased because of its obvious practical advantages for communication and travel.  Standard time in "time zones" was not established in U.S. law until the Standard Time Act  enacted on  March 19, 1918.

Canada's Sir Sanford Fleming also played a key role in the development of a worldwide system of keeping time. Railroads had made obsolete the old system where major cities and regions set clocks according to local astronomical conditions.   Fleming advocated the adoption of a "standard" or "mean" time with hourly variations from zone to zone.  He was instrumental in convening an International Prime Meridian Conference in Washington in 1884, at which the system of  International Standard Time -- still in use today -- was adopted.

In 1918, Congress adopted standard time zones based on those set up by the railroads in 1883, and gave the responsibility to make any changes in the time zones to the Interstate Commerce Commission, the only federal transportation regulatory agency at the time.  When Congress created the Department of Transportation in 1966,  it transferred the responsibility for regulating   "time standards" to the DOT.


3600 seconds in a Hour     86,400 seconds in a Day     604,800 seconds in a Week 

2,592,000 seconds in  30 day Month     31,536,000 seconds in  365 day  non-Leap Year 

1440 minutes in a Day     10080 minutes in a Week     43,200 minutes in a 30 day Month 

525,600 minutes in a 365 day  non-Leap Year     527,040 minutes in a 366 day Leap Year 

52,596,000 minutes in the 20th Century (1900's) with 25 Leap Days (including Year 2000

168 hours in a Week    720 hours in  30 day Month     8760 hours in  365 day Year 

876,600 hours in the 20th Century (1900's) with 25 Leap Days (including Year 2000

8,765,832 hours in the 2nd Millennium (1000 years - 1001 thru 2000) having 3 Centuries with 25 Leap Days each, (Centuries ending in the Years 1200, 1600, 2000, which are divisible by 400), and the other 7 Centuries which have 24 Leap Days each


***  The Clock of Life is Wound but Once - And We Know Not When the Hands will Stop  ***


* * * * *

THE  ABACUS  -  The First Computer ?

We think of the abacus as an Oriental calculator.  Actually,  many claim it was invented by the Romans and was in common use in Europe until the opening of the seventeenth century (1600's).

The abacus of today is called the "rod abacus" and operates by moving beads along narrow rods.  The first abacus developed by the ancient Romans was merely a small sandbox.  The sandbox had no beads or rods; markings were made in the sand with a finger, and after the calculation was completed the markings were erased with the finger.

The second abacus the Romans developed is called the "lined abacus."  It was simply a board with lines drawn on it.  Calculating was done by placing little discs, as needed, on top of the lines and moving them about.  Ancient Rome's next, and final advance in the development of the abacus was the "grooved abacus."   As the name suggests, small grooves were carved into the board.  Balls were put in the grooves and moved in such a way as to make calculations.

It was the grooved abacus which found its way from Rome to China by the time of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- A.D. 220).  This happened by way of the two "Silk Roads" which connected these great empires and allowed for a lively commerce.  But it wasn't until the great rise in prosperity of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1636) that the rod abacus was developed and came into common use in China.  Incorporating the rod was the first, and final, ingenious development of the abacus in China.  Still used today, it has two beads above a beam and 5 beads below, and a rod running through each row of seven beads.

Although it may have been introduced to Japan earlier, it is known that during the seventh century Japanese students were studying in the then Chinese capital of Chang-an, now called Si-an, and came into contact with the abacus.  From that period to the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the year Japan awakened before the world, the Chinese abacus was used in Japan.

From the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese began using a modified Chinese abacus.  This modified abacus, commonly called the "older Japanese-style abacus," had one bead above the beam and five below.  Since 1940 the older-style Japanese abacus has been replaced in favor of the modern Japanese abacus.  The modern Japanese abacus has one bead above the beam and only four below, and is the abacus in common use in Japan today.

Why did the Romans abandon the abacus?

Arabic numerals doomed the Roman abacus.  Roman numerals were unwieldy for making long-hand calculations. Imagine trying to multiply the following: MDCCLXVII (times) LVI. (1767 x 56) - And, don't even think about trying to perform Long Division using Roman Numerals!
The introduction of the Arabic numerals made long-hand calculations easy, (1767 x 56).  Now we can understand why the Roman abacus went the way of the dinosaur, and the rod abacus remains popular in China, Japan, and elsewhere in Asia.

Chinese/Japanese characters are as unwieldy as the Roman numerals were, yet many Asian countries have not forgiven these characters in favor of Arabic numerals.  Thus, the abacus of China and Japan remains alive and well.

A later calculating device, the Slide Rule, was developed around 1630 using the "Logarithmic Scale" created by Edmund Gunter in 1620.  Multiplication and Division,  finding of the Powers and Roots of numbers and other complicated calculations could be performed on a slide rule with just a few simple mechanical manipulations. 

The term "computer" was originally applied to a person who specialized in performing arithmetic calculations using manual or mechanical means and/or to the calculating device he used. 

The electronic computer, the abacus and the slide rule, for that matter,  were created to assist humans in performing something they do very poorly - Arithmetic!  -   Just think back to your math classes and "times-tables"  in school? - Not to mention those "Farmer Brown has a bushel of apples at one price, which he mixes with others of a different price, And then what should the new mixture sell for?" -  Closely followed by your gnashing of teeth and the breaking of your pencil on the desk!   

Could the abacus be considered the first computer?  It would seem to qualify for that title.


***  Republican Time Line   ***  Imperial Time Line  ***

***  Roman Names  ***  Roman Numerals  ***

***  Roman Numeral Converter  ***  Roman Numeral Calculator  ***

***  Roman Calendar  ***


You have been counted as number

Hit Counter

to understand the New Millenium and Why there was no Year Zero.