Feedback head

Greenwich Time: 2001

Like Myrick Hilsman (Feedback, Spring 1999), I am disappointed with all the incorrect statements about the coming millennium. However, Mr. Hilsman's is one of those incorrect. His analogy of counting one's age and counting the century is contradictory.

Using his reasoning, in order for Dec. 31, 1999, to begin the 2,000th year, the calendar would have had to start with the year 0; however we all know there was no year 0.

Let me quote one line from the Royal Greenwich Observatory Information: Leaflet No. 52: "It is thus clear that the start of the new millennium will be 1 Jan. 2001."

You can read the rest of the explanation at

Please put this issue to rest with a definitive statement to the uninformed that the new millennium starts Jan. 1, 2001. A great technical institution such as ours can accept no other position. Fathertime

Robert W. Brown,
Phys '74
Peachtree City, Ga.

False Premise

I'm surprised that you printed the feedback letter without comment. The widely-held view that Jan. 1, 2000, should be considered the beginning of the third millennium is disarmingly simple reasoning, until you realize that it is based on a false premise: that the first year of the modern calendar (i.e. year 1 A.D.) equates to the first (i.e., 0th) year of one's life.

Unwittingly, the writer has provided an excellent example of why the exact timing of the arrival of the next millennium can be so confusing.

Dan Colestock
EE '79
Smyrna, GA

Millennium Mathematics

Your 20th birthday is the start of your 21st year. However, the Christian calendar begins with the birth of Christ. When Christ was 1 year old in the year "0001," he celebrated his first birthday. His birth was in the year "0000." The day after the first year is 1-1-0002.

By the same reasoning, the 20th century and the 2nd millennium end after 2,000 years. The day after the 2000th year is 1-1-2001 and starts the 21st century and the 3rd millennium.

We have a year and 6 months to begin the 21st century and the 3rd millennium.

Robert M. Lupo, IE' 49
Titusville, Fla.

Not Too Simple

Myrick Hilsman gives his reasoning that the third millennium indeed starts Jan. 1, 2000. He states, "It's a simple problem in logical mathematics."

Yes, it's simple, but like many classes I took at Tech, simple problems often lead to simple errors. There was no year zero in the Christian calendar, thus on Jan. 1, 2000, only 1999 years will have passed.

Stephen Mencik,
ICS '81
Gambrills, Md.

Millennium Dilemma

There is mass confusion between the year 2000 and the new millennium. I believe many people are getting the end of the millennium and the Y2K computer problem intertwined.

The Y2K computer problem is related to the dating system for the computer programs and could be just as severe for year 01, 02, etc., if not corrected for year 00. This problem is basically a problem at the beginning of the year 2000 whereas the end of the present millennium will occur at the end of the year 2000.

A millennium is defined by Webster as being 1,000 years with any starting point; however, in our calendar system it is normally accepted that the calendar millennium is the period starting in year one and progressing through completion of the 1000th year. Millenium Party

The key word is completion.

I am reminded of D.M. "Doc" Smith, who was a great professor and a Georgia Tech legend in the Mathematics Department. He always gave quizzes of 10 problems with each problem counting 10 points on your grade. One of our classmates had used logical thinking on one of the problems, worked many of the steps correctly but ended with an irrational and incorrect answer.

He confronted "Doc" Smith, stating that he had done all the steps correctly, until the answer so he should get part credit. "Doc" Smith, agreed to give him part credit-he took the "1" and gave the student what was left!

Using the age example, consider a newborn child. From birth the child is in his/her first year of life, but the parents do not consider the child to be 1 year old. When asked the age during the first year the parents will give the age in days, weeks or months until the first year is completed and then and only then is the child considered 1 year old.

For another example, we look at loans made to a borrower. If a schedule is set for 100 payments, no lender will consider the repayment complete at the 99th payment but only after the completion of the 100th payment.

So it is with the calendar millennium. In the slice of the time continuum at the completion of the year 1999 and start of the year 2000, we enter the 2,000th year, which will be completed at the end of the year and the beginning of the year 2001--and the new millennium.

Charles Byrd, ChE '48
Tulsa, Okla.

Millennium Countdown

In the Christian calendar there is no year zero. Because there is no zero, the first year A.D. ended at the end of the year 1 A.D.; the first century A.D. ended at the end of the year 100 A.D., and the first millennium A.D. ended at the end of the year 1000 A.D.

Thus the second millennium A.D. will end at the end of the year 2000 A.D., and the third millennium A.D. will begin Jan. 1, 2001.

Using the example of your 20th birthday--if you were born in 1981 A.D., your 20th birthday would occur in 2001 A.D., not in 2000.

Frank Sorensen, EE '82
Leonardtown, Md.
Front-Wheel Engineering

I always enjoy the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. The content and appearance are excellent.

In the article, "Engine Engineer," about Randy Thayer, the statement, "the 1966 Toronado was the first mass-produced front-wheel-drive vehicle" obviously refers to General Motors all the way. It should have said "the first GM front-wheel-drive vehicle" since Auto Union (back then the car was called DKW, now it's the Audi, division of Volkswagon), Citroen in France, and others have been mass producing front-wheel-drive cars for decades.

I feel some sectors of the U.S. car manufacturing establishment are still quite closed-minded about what happens out in the big, wide world, and that is probably one reason why so many of us are driving European and Japanese cars today.

Some sectors of the U.S. car industry have come a long way, but there is always something to learn from others.

Diego Schaefer
TE '70, MS TE '71
Duluth, Ga.

Starting the Calendar

Regarding the letter, "Starting the Millennium": Considering "birthdays" is exactly the wrong analogy to use. In birthdays, we start out at zero and reach 1 after one year. We started our calendar at the year 1, not zero. So the third millennium will start 1/1/2001. It is a matter of logic, and Tech grads should be able to handle it.

Robert Persons,
Phys '64
Waynesville, N.C.

The White House Millennium Council has set the Millennium Clock. You can check it out at:

When does the millennium start? The official word from the White House council is: "According to the United States Naval Observatory, the nation's official time keeper, the end of the second millennium and the beginning of the third will be reached on Jan. 1, 2001. This date is based on a calendar created in Rome in 526 Anno Domini (A.D.), now recognized globally. Rather than starting with the year zero, the calendar begins with the date Jan. 1, 1 A.D. Consequently, the next millennium is not officially reached until Jan. 1, 2001.

"Despite this fact, much of the world is planning to celebrate on Dec. 31, 1999, when the calendars flip to the year 2000.

"During the millennium year (Jan. 1, 2000 to Jan. 1, 2001), the White House will lead a national Millennium Program that will engage Americans in a wide variety of activities and initiatives designed to highlight our heritage and celebrate our creativity."

Stalnaker Was Colorful

Thanks for publishing my piece about Professor Thomas Seidell (Spring 1999). It was the stimulus for a fellow 1951 electrical engineering graduate to contact me. I look forward to submissions by others, and am presumptuous enough to send another.

Many of my day will remember professor Ashford W. Stalnaker, who taught electrical machinery and was the most colorful faculty member I've ever known. He was a large man of pleasant countenance, a thick shock of hair, and very sly humor. I and other classmates referred to him as Professor Scale Belly. He wore no undershirt and his big belly popped many a button as he leaned forward on his lectern. He disdained blackboard erasers, preferring to erase with his hand, which was then dusted off in his hair.

Professor Stalnaker was famous for his extended circuit diagrams, which he usually drew from memory.

His classroom easily enabled this-three walls being composed of blackboards. Once, in drawing a diagram of a voltage regulator, he used all three boards as most struggled to keep up. A particularly bright student pointed out that there was a dangling wire at the very end. When asked where it was to connect, Professor Stalnaker studied his work for a few seconds, generating clouds of dust as he scratched his head. Finally, he said, "It goes right here," as he pressed chalk to board and walked all the way back near the point of beginning. Naturally, roars of laughter ensued from the students.

H. S. "Hal" Branch,
EE '51
Goodlettsville, Tenn.

Missing Link

By error my last Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine got thrown out, and I would like to have a replacement copy. It is a great magazine, and I have the prior six copies in my archives. I don't know how the spring edition got away.

Carroll B. Hart,
Text '57
Belton, S.C.

With a letter like yours, we'll do our best to keep your collection connected. The replacement copy is in the mail.

Buzz E-mail
Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine welcomes your letters. Address all correspondence to Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine, 190 North Avenue, NW, Atlanta, GA 30313, Fax (404) 894-5113. E-mail, (please include full name, city and telephone number).