BCE, CE, and the new IE


I Google everything. What I find annoying is this: When you Google something that existed before the Internet and has no ongoing importance today (such as local landmarks that have since disappeared), there is literally NOTHING on the Internet about it.

For example, Leisure Lodge was a very large and glorious hall on the outskirts of Preston (now a part of Cambridge, Ontario) that was THE place to go from the 1950s to 1970s - they had their own big band group (the John Kostigian orchestra), and in the 1970s, they were the biggest disco joint around (they even hosted the Miss Nude World Competition one year). It burned down in 1980 and the ruins of it still exist at the edge of the Kinsmen Stadium next to Hwy 401 between Cambridge and Kitchener, Ontario.

However, if you Google Leisure Lodge, you won’t find a single picture of the place to see what it looked like. You will only find a few paragraphs about it in a Google Books result that covers the history of Ontario dance halls.

Another example is the massive Encyclopedia Britannica building in the Hespeler part of Cambridge (very close to where I grew up). This was perhaps the biggest and most “important” building in Hespeler when I was growing up. However, as Encyclopedia Britannica shrunk in the late 1980s and early 1990s due to the rise of encyclopedias on CD-ROMs and the Internet, they moved out of Canada altogether and now only exist in the US (which is ironic since Canada was a part of the British Empire until relatively recently).

Heritage building

The building that housed Encyclopedia Britannica was nestled in a forest on the edge of a tiered hill that overlooked Hwy 401 - if you followed the winding road up the beautifully manicured grass slopes, you wound around to the back of the building and could walk into the building via a bridge that connected the parking lot to the main floor. In the 1990s, the building was empty for a long time until the Heritage Baptist College purchased it and built some more buildings on the property. The original building of Encyclopedia Britannica is shown in the picture here - it is the big one with all the windows on the left - the other buildings on the right were added after Heritage bought the property. Instead of the big red “Heritage” letters on the left side of the building front, there was even bigger red letters that read “Britannica” on the right side of the building front.

The reason I had to include a picture of Heritage Baptist College instead of the original Encyclopedia Britannica in this post is because there is nothing on the Internet about the original building at all! In fact, it was if the place never existed - the only reference to the place I could find was in an old list of publishers that was maintained by some school board in British Colombia - it simply listed Encyclopedia Britannica at the same address (175 Holiday Inn Drive, Cambridge, Ontario). Nothing else. What a shame.

OK - so what does this have to do with the title of my post? Hold on….I’ll get to that in a few moments.

As writing became common in the 16th century in Christian-ized Europe, people needed a numbering system to denote the year - they based this on the year that they estimated was the birth of Christ (Year 1 Anno Domini, or AD). Thus, it is now 2010 AD in this system, and everything prior is measured in years from this reference point - 100 years before the birth of Christ would then be 100 BC (Before Christ). Nowadays, we use BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era) to refer to BC and AD respectively.

Now recall that this year numbering system arose from the increased need to document events on paper in the 16th century.

Today, we document everything on a micro level because of the plethora of available technologies. You can Google Mel’s Diner in Waterloo and get hundreds of pictures of that famous shit hole diner from before it burned down this year since every kid with a camera in their phone probably posted tons of pictures/videos to MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, and Wikipedia (don’t get me wrong, Mel’s Diner had great food, but it really was a shit hole). Now, if you Google Leisure Lodge or Encyclopedia Britannica in Cambridge, you will find squat. If there are pictures of these places, they are probably in some private photo album that will never see its way to the Internet.

In short, we record far more information about less important or grandiose things today than ever before. And the reason for this is technology - the Internet started to grow up in the late 1990s, digital cameras started popping up everywhere around year 2000, and people started blogging, participating in social networks, and updating information on the Internet (e.g. Wikipedia) shortly thereafter.

So what I propose is this - we acknowledge that year 2000 is roughly when we dramatically changed the way that we recorded data and make it a new year-based reference point.

Year 2000 would be 1 IE (Internet Era) and 1999 would be 1 BIE (Before Internet Era) to match how we numbered the previous reference point (there is no 0 AD). That would make today Monday November 22nd in the year 11 IE. Anything with a date BIE would be difficult to research on the Internet.

I think it is a great system - at the very least, it would make certain people feel a little less stupid - namely those who thought that the world would blow up at midnight Dec 31st 1999 because of the way that old computer programs stored the date (the Year 2000 Bug).