Net Gains: Time for a change

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Time, as they say, is nature's way of making sure everything doesn't happen at once. When it comes to the millennium this is a bit of a problem: how are Net users going to cope with the fact that everybody in the world celebrates midnight at a different time?

Mankind goes to the trouble of inventing a network of computers which renders your location irrelevant. Then it has a huge party where the time you celebrate depends on where you are

Let's ignore for the moment that the millennium is an arbitrary event (or the 2,000th anniversary of an arbitrary event); and that some countries don't even use the same calendar as us. The Internet is dominated by places (ie, America) using the Christian calendar, and 1 January 2000 is going to be a big day for the Net.

I can only imagine that it will be a 24-hour-long, slow-burn party. Britain will be a perfect vantage point because it's at the fulcrum of events. Half the world jumps into the new millennium before us, the other half afterwards. We'll be able to watch the early celebrations on the Net before having our own party, then we can monitor the stragglers in America and eastern Asia. Which means (American dominance again) that the on-line party won't really start cooking until about 5am our time.

At least we can take some comfort from the fact that Greenwich is, for time-keeping purposes at least, the centre of the world. (America, not a country to take such things lying down, claims to have an atom clock that keeps "official US time" whatever that is.) And Greenwich also hosts a site celebrating its unique place on the map. It's just one of the sites devoted to the millennium.

Another, one of the most epic web pages I've ever come across, contains virtually every piece of trivia about the date you could ever want to know, including the solar cycle, the Julian Calendar and a link to a page that lets you pull up a calendar for any year between 1 and 10,000AD.

If you haven't decided where you're going to be on the big night (a Friday, incidentally), don't despair. There are a number of sites devoted to where the hot new year bashes are. Most people I know still haven't made their plans. They might want to take a look at the so-called International Register of Millennium Eve parties.

And if you have a real penchant for keeping track of the time, take a look at the atom clocks. Said to be accurate to within a second every million years (a suspiciously round number), most of them tend to give you the time on the US east coast, which seems to have become the unofficial Internet standard. Of course, the time the signal takes to get from the server onto your browser is going to render it, by the standards of atom clocks, pretty inaccurate. As one site puts it: "You might not get the absolutely correct time but you'll be darned close!"

anansi.panix.com/userdirs/wlinden/calendar.shtml

The Calendar and Clock page. A vast fact-list about the current date with links to dozens of other calendar-related pages.

www.jepa.co.uk/shopping/party.html

The self-styled international register of millennium-eve parties around the world.

greenwich2000.com

Greenwich's official millennium site, including an atom clock.

SITE UNSEEN

tycho.usno.navy.mil/mc2.html

For serious tekkies. Everything you ever wanted to know about atom clocks.

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