<quote>Why did some decide to start the clock on 01/01/1970? The clock started on my birthday. </quote> In java (it happened in unix too) and some other computing systems a base year is needed. This is to aid computation. UNIX was already following this date known as 'epoch'. Sun decided to use the same - may be to avoid confusion.
Standard base time known as "the epoch" is January 1, 1970, 00:00:00 GMT.
<quote>Where is the start date being set? </quote> The java.util.Date class in the above context don't keep the base year. When you call the toString method, a DateFormat object computes the String value.