Ordinal Counting always starts â??firstâ??.

Techlife has some very smart readers. We get letters all the time from readers who ask technical questions, “how to” questions, and even the occasional praise for the column. Thank you to everyone. Nothing brightens my day more than getting email from people I have never met. (Though there are those pesky ex-kings around the world who insist my current career could be greatly enhanced by sharing in their millions.)

1 – A Reader’s Letter
So was it was nice to see this email:

The letter and answer after the jump.

Dear Mr. Kaufman,

I read your July column (link needed) and frankly, anyone can make a mistake, but I am surprised that your editor did not catch this one as well. If the first year counted was year ’01 (not year ’00), then each decade starts in January of the ’01 year and runs 10 years through December of the ’10 year. January 2000 through December of 2010 would be a full 11 years. The half way point in this decade will be midnight, December 31, 2005. (Ed. note – see “The Error” below the letter)

Again, this is a common error in calculating decades, just as people, including the press and our illustrious government, made such a “to-do” about the new millennium starting January of 2000. This, too was an error, as the new millennium, century and decade all started on January 1, 2001.

The good news is that we still have almost 6 months to get moving before the decade is half over.

I thought I’d bring this to your attention in order to remind people of how easily these errors can be made.


David K. Harris

2 – The Error?
The following excerpt is the statement in question:

This is it! The middle of the decade! July 2005 is the exact halfway point between January 2000 and December 2010.

3 – The Answer
Dear Mr. Harris,

Your letter raised a great point. I most certainly make errors. So how do we determine the exact magnitude of the error?

Wikipedia â?? Look up anything.

A little research is in order, fellow readers. I use a wide array of research tools to help solve problems from mundane to complex. One of the best is the “world’s encyclopedia”, Wikipedia.

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, is a collection of articles co-edited by people from all over the world. There are currently more than 630,000 articles. We could chat about this all day, but we have wrongs to right!

We do a quick search on: “Millennium” and we are provided with the most up-to-date article. Almost the entire article deals in our answer. There are two types of accepted counting systems, Ordinal and Cardinal counting.

Ordinal counting is considered the original counting method and why many people feel we would start with 1st year AD, not a zero year.

Ordinal Counting always starts â??firstâ??.

Cardinal counting is the more modern method and is used in single year number notation such as 2005. As explained in the article, “The usage 1999th year AD is no longer found.” The digital world as such, is immersed in the Cardinal system.

Cardinal Counting starts with nothing (zero.)

The real answer Mr. Harris, lies in the application of the counting system. The Ordinal decade would be 2001 – 2010 whereas Cardinal decade would be 2000 – 2009. But I have a special talent, I proved I can be wrong in both aspects. In either counting system, July 2005 is not the middle of the decade. In the older Ordinal system it would be December 31, 2005 as you noted, and in the more moderrn Cardinal system the middle of the decade is December 31, 2004.

So if Mr. Harris will indulge me, let’s just say I correctly identified the middle of the CarOrdinal Decade Counting System.

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