Joe Celko has a moment of zen:
Human beings are not very good at handling nothing. The printing press didn’t just lead to civilization as we know it, but it also changed our mindset about text. When we wrote text manually on paper, a blank or space was not seen as a character. It was just the background upon which characters were written.
It was centuries before the zero was accepted as a number. After all, it represents the absence of a quantity or magnitude or position; how could it possibly be a number? Before it was accepted as a number, it was considered a symbol or mark in a positional notation to indicate that there was nothing in that position.
It’s an interesting riff, so check it out.