Millennium 2000: Zeroing in on ZeroAired January 1, 2000 - 4:53 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RIZ KHAN, CNN ANCHOR: We've spent an entire century counting up to 99, now we get to start all over again at zero.
BOBBIE BATTISTA, CNN ANCHOR: And so, it could be said in this report from CNN's Jeanne Moos, it's much ado about nothing.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the year 2000 finally here, it's time to zero in on zero.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just looks great. I mean, zero is, you know, you can't get -- perfect circle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very sleek.
MOOS: Might as well appreciate the zero's figure, you're going to be inundated by them. From the '00 model year in cars to the '00 presidential campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Expiration dates on cards are really a riot.
MOOS: From your credit cards to your auto inspection sticker to your checkbook...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will be much easier than going from '98 to '99 in your checkbook.
MOOS: Zeros are memorable. They can mean you have nothing in your bank account, they can mean you have millions. Zero gives value, though alone it has none.
ROBERT KAPLAN, AUTHOR: It's the king maker. It turns a one into a 10. Two zeros make it into 100. Mathmetician Robert Kaplan wrote a whole book about nothing, the nothing that is that the natural history of zeros.
The Babylonians dreamed up the concept 5,000 years ago. The hollow circle we know first surfaced on a stone tablet in India. Two hundred and seventy looked like 27.
KAPLAN: And then a floating zero.
MOOS: Why the circular shape? Well, they used to use counting board, moving stones on sand. One theory is that zero mimics the depression left when a counting stone was picked up. Nowadays, computers depend on a code made up of ones and zeros, and kids learn to count on zero.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): My hero, zero. Until you came along we counted on our fingers and toes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: We were counting on someone to come up with a catchy name for our new decade of zeros. Remember the Roaring '20s. Somehow, the Roaring '00s doesn't have the same ring.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The double zeros?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The null decade. There you go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The uh-oh decade.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not worried about those. I'm not one of those uh-ohs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has anybody given you an intelligent answer?
MOOS (on camera): No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you expect one from me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Os, baby, the zeros.
MOOS (voice-over): Which bring us to what "The New York Times" magazine suggested. Editor Jack Rosenthal is lobbying for the Os.
JACK ROSENTHAL, "NEW YORK TIMES": The Os implies a certain sense of wonder and awe.
MOOS: Rosenthal says the uh-ohs sounds like a mistake, the zeros brings to mind Japanese war planes, and the naughts, which is what they called first decade of the 1900s, sounds too quaint.
ROSENTHAL: I think you'll be acutely conscious of the one- syllableness of it, and you'll say the Os -- and so will everybody else.
MOOS: There's something satisfying about all those zeros lining up. Call it the odometer affect, demonstrated when David Letterman brought on this guy's '83 Toyota to watch the odometer hit a million, even if the speedometer didn't work.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: You'll tell your kids where you were when this happened. Congratulations, come on in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: Of course millennium-minded marketers took advantage of zero. Cheerios added twos to its Os and sold Millennios. Spaghetti- Os did the same thing, which prompted us to concoct a special Y2K delicacy.
(on camera): I think we're short a few Millenni-Os in our Millenni-O Spaghetti-Os.
(voice-over): No wonder the zero has an identity crisis. What numeral likes to be referred to as it's an O in the alphabet or an 0 for operator. But if the zero ever needs an ego boost, this should give it a lift.
UNIDENTIFIED FLIGHT CONTROLLER: Two, one, and lift-off.
MOOS: Mathematicians get misty eyed over zero.
KAPLAN: Zero is a door, a door we walk through into the future.
Jeez, 2000 just arrived and already folks are talking about the year 3000. If you have any doubt about zero's sex appeal, just ask 007. Zero runs circles around regular digits.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
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