Bahai News -- Burlington County Times - Seeking Perfection? Man has a computer program for you

Seeking Perfection? Man has a computer program for you

Burlington County Times

WILLINGBORO ó Ask Peter Zilahy Ingerman what todayís date is, and you wonít get a simple answer.

Sure, heíll tell you itís May 19, 2003, on the Gregorian calendar, the one used by most Americans.

But give him a second and access to Megacal, the computer program heís writing, and the Willingboro resident will remind you that itís also 17 Iyyar in the year 5763, according to the Jewish calendar.

Or 28 Vaisakha in the year 1925, according to the Indian Civil calendar.

Or the day Perfection in the month Grandeur and year 160, if youíre using the BahŠíŪ calendar.

Ingerman, 68, isnít just a calendar aficionado. Heís also a volunteer emergency medical technician, cook, antique tool collector, certified hypnotist and owner of 15,000 books.

However, once he becomes interested in something, like calendars, he often immerses himself in it.

Twenty-five years ago, someone accused him of not understanding life insurance, so the computer programmer got a degree and a job in the insurance field.

About 12 years ago, Ingerman decided the Internal Revenue Service was violating a privacy act by including Social Security numbers on its mailing labels, so he said he sued the IRS in federal court. (He said he lost his case, but the IRS has since changed its policy.)

As for calendars, Ingerman said he was reading a book in which the author was trying to make a point by comparing dates. The problem, Ingerman said, was that those dates were from two different calendars, the Grego-rian and the Julian.

"I decided, ĎWell, I can fix this,í " Ingerman said.

Ingerman wrote his first program for an IBM in 1951 and began programming professionally in 1957, back when computers filled up entire rooms, not just corners of desktops.

So he tried to fix the problem the best way he knew how, with a computer program.

That program, Megacal, started out as just a way to convert Gregorian dates into Julian ones, and vice versa. But then Ingerman figured he may as well include the Jewish calendar, since he had friends who used it. While he was at it, Ingerman added the Mayan calendar, but that had eight variations, so he had to include each one.

A dozen years later, Ingermanís program can do date conversions involving about 44 different calendars, with as many as 90 different languages for each. Heís got three versions of the Zoroastrian calendar, both French Revolutionary calendars, even the fictional discordian calendar from the "Illuminatus" trilogy.

Ingermanís favorite calendar is the Swedish one, which juggled between the Julian and Gregorian calendar for half a century. As a result, the calendar skipped directly from Feb. 17 to March 1 in 1753 and had a Feb. 30 in 1712.

"Itís a good bar bet," Inger-man said. "Yes, Virginia, there was a February 30 somewhere."

Thereís also a month called Day In the Zoroastrian Shenshai calendar. According to Ingermanís program, today is the day Vohuman of the month Day and year 1372.


May 19, 2003 7:32 AM

©Copyright 2003, Burlington County Times (PA, USA)

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