Home > General > The day Britain lost its soul

The day Britain lost its soul

I was going to say something about decimalisation myself but Mr Sandbrook does it better than I ever could.

link to original article.

The day Britain lost its soul: How decimalisation signalled the demise of a proudly independent nation

By Dominic Sandbrook 31st January 2011

Although we all have money worries, especially at a time of such economic ­austerity, few of us ever spare a thought for the coins that jangle in our pockets. We take them for granted; usually we ­barely even bother to look at them.

Yet next month will mark the 40th ­anniversary of one of the biggest ­ruptures in our recent past — a moment that marked the greatest transformation in the history of ­British money.

On Monday, February 15, 1971, Edward Heath’s government formally abolished the old coinage that had served for ­generations, replacing it with a new ­decimal system inspired by Napoleonic France.

Decimalisation: By 1971, Edward Heath, leader of the Conservative Party and the new man in Number 10, was obsessed with ­modernising Britain – and if that meant demolishing the legacy of the past, so much the better

Out went the shilling, the half-crown and the sixpence, with all their historic associations. In came a new, unfamiliar European-style ­currency — much to the outrage of millions of ordinary Britons.

Forty years on from ‘Decimal Day’, it looks a profoundly symbolic moment, marking the end of a proud history of defiant insularity and the beginning of the creeping ­Europeanisation of ­Britain’s institutions.

Like so many of the social and cultural changes of the Sixties and Seventies, it was remarkably undemocratic. Nobody ever voted for it; nobody ever asked the British people for their opinion.

Decimalisation was imposed from on high, the edict handed down by a ­political and intellectual elite indifferent to the romantic charms of history and tradition, but determined to turn Britain into a modern European state.

Like the reformers who wanted to revamp England’s historic counties, the planners who relished demolishing our Victorian ­architectural heritage, or those poor souls who wanted to sign up to the euro (and who have gone remarkably quiet), the decimal-­lovers fantasised about a modernised Britain with all the quirks ironed out — a larger, colder ­version of Belgium.

Yet they were not the first reformers to dream of scrapping Britain’s age-old ­coinage. Even the Victorians had their fair share of decimal enthusiasts, although their ­campaign never caught on.

Now decimal currencies are the norm, we often forget they represent something ­relatively new. As late as 1789, only one major European country, Russia, had a ­decimalised currency, the rouble, which was divided into 100 kopeks.

But when the French ­Revolution broke out that year, radicals saw their chance to sweep away the legacy of the past.

A bank within a shop in Oxford Street, London, changes the old pounds, shillings and pence into decimal currency (file photo)

Six years later, the French ­introduced the franc, divided into 100 centimes, which was to become their national ­currency for the next two centuries.

As Napoleon’s armies ­rampaged across Europe, the French took their strange new decimal notions with them. And although Britain stood firm against the Corsican ­dictator, there were, as so often, more than a few ­starry-eyed idealists who wanted to copy the French example.

In 1841, a small group of ­Victorian do-gooders even founded the Decimal ­Association to campaign for currency reform, and in 1859, a Royal Commission considered but rejected the idea, judging it had ‘few merits’. But the decimal enthusiasts never gave up the fight.

In Anthony Trollope’s Palliser novels, the character of ­Plantagenet Palliser is a ­passionate advocate of ­decimalisation. But although he eventually becomes Prime Minister, he never gets his plan put into effect.

The truth is that during ­Britain’s imperial heyday, ­politicians and ordinary people alike were too closely attached to their national traditions to consider such a radical change.

Like so many of the social and cultural changes of the Sixties and Seventies, it was remarkably undemocratic. Nobody ever voted for it; nobody ever asked the British people for their opinion

The pound sterling, the half-crown, the shilling and the ­sixpence were too deeply embedded in our national life; they were symbols of a country set apart, proud of its island status.

And this sense of British ­exceptionalism was not confined to the political Right. In his splendid essay The Lion And The Unicorn, published when Britain stood alone against the Nazis in 1940, the Left-wing George Orwell wrote that there was ‘something distinctive and ­recognisable in English ­civilisation … bound up with solid breakfasts and gloomy Sundays, smoky towns and winding roads, green fields and red pillar-boxes’.

Like so many of his compatriots, Orwell saw Britain as a land apart from continental Europe. ‘When you come back to England from any foreign country,’ he wrote, ‘you have immediately the sensation of breathing a different air. Even in the first few minutes dozens of small things conspire to give you this feeling.

The beer is ­bitterer, the coins are heavier, the grass is greener, the advertisements are more blatant.’

Yet in the decades that ­followed, Orwell’s Britain became ­increasingly unfashionable. By the beginning of the Sixties, with the colonies ­declaring independence and the economy entering a long-term decline, our political and ­intellectual classes were ­losing confidence in Britain’s ­deep-rooted traditions.

Having rejected the chance to join the nascent Common ­Market in the mid-Fifties, ­Britain’s governing elite now became convinced only ­European membership could reverse the decline. And in a bid to show their neighbours just how modern and European they were, they turned their attentions to the national currency.

In 1961, Harold Macmillan set up the Halsbury Committee to examine the prospects for ­decimalisation. It did not report until five years later — by which time another impatient ­moderniser, Labour’s Harold Wilson, was prime minister.

Lord Fiske, Chairman of the Decimal Currency Board, pictured in 1970 with one of three posters which were displayed as part of an intensive campaign of official information and explanation of decimal currency in time for D Day Februay 15, 1971

Having promised to build a ‘new Britain’ in the ‘white heat’ of the technological revolution, Wilson liked the sound of ­anything that would make him look youthful and progressive. His was a government obsessed with the new, from new road signs, postcodes, speed limits and breathalysers to the reform of the divorce, abortion and homosexuality laws.

Going decimal, he thought, would show French president Charles de Gaulle just how keen he was on all things European.

So when his Chancellor, Jim Callaghan, asked him about ­decimalisation, Wilson simply nodded and said: ‘Why not?’ — an extraordinarily cavalier and undemocratic way to approve such a sweeping change.

When the Cabinet considered the matter a few days later, it was accepted with virtually no discussion at all. So, in just a few moments, without the ­British people ever being asked to express their opinion, the coins that millions of Britons down the centuries had known and loved had been condemned to the scrapheap. But what should replace them? Most banks and businesses wanted a shilling system, with ten shillings as the basic unit. But the Bank of ­England was ­adamant that to preserve sterling’s ­international reputation, Britain must stick with the pound.

By 1968, the changeover was underway. In April that year, the first 5p and 10p coins entered ­circulation, larger than they are today being the same size and weight as the old shilling and the florin or two shilling coin. A year later they were joined by the ­hexagonal 50p coin, which replaced the ten-shilling note.

Gradually, the old coins began to disappear. The old ha’penny vanished in 1969; the much-loved half-crown, part of ­English life since the reign of Henry VIII, went a year later.

All of this, however, was merely a prelude to the big changeover on Monday, February 15, 1971, ­‘Decimal Day’ — chosen because February was usually a quiet month for banks and businesses.

By now a new Conservative ­government was in charge. But in many ways, Edward Heath, the new man in Number 10, was even more radical than Wilson.

Already looking forward to ­taking Britain into Europe, Heath was obsessed with ­modernising Britain — and if that meant demolishing the legacy of the past, so much the better.

In the run-up to Decimal Day, Heath’s ministers spared no effort to preach the virtues of the new currency, even commissioning an unforgivably awful song by Max Bygraves, Decimalisation. The BBC organised a series of five-minute information shows called Decimal Five, while ITV put on a supremely patronising little drama, Granny Gets The Point, showing a baffled old lady learning how to use the new coins.

On the big day itself, the ­transition went off without a hitch. British Rail and London Transport had gone decimal a day early, while most major stores were prepared.

Harrods had an army of ‘decimal pennies’, girls in rakish boaters and blue sashes, to help confused ­shoppers, while Selfridges boasted a troop of girls dressed in ‘shorts and midi split skirts and other suitably ­mathematically costumes’.

Yet like so many of the ­transformations of the late Sixties and early Seventies, from the ­demolition of the old city centres to the abolition of hanging, decimalisation went ahead in the face of widespread public opposition. Polls showed barely four out of ten people liked it; in London’s West End, so-called ‘anti-decimal terrorists’ handed out leaflets denouncing the government’s ­failure to consult public opinion.

Many people were worried that going decimal would allow stores secretly to put their prices up. Almost certainly this was an urban myth, for with inflation already at a staggering 9.4 per cent, prices were soaring anyway.

Yet it is not hard to see why so many were upset. The ­elderly remained highly suspicious of the new money. Many even insisted on carrying ‘Decimal Adders’ around the shops to work out the ­difference between old and new, although by the standards of modern calculators these were laughably clunky and cumbersome.

Yet for millions of people in the early Seventies, decimalisation was merely another symptom of a world that seemed to have cast out all tradition, all familiarity, all reassurance, all order: a frightening world beset by inflation, ­terrorism, crime and delinquency.

The truth was that Orwell’s ‘distinctive and recognisable’ England was disappearing.

A year later, Heath’s government ripped up the map of the British Isles, abolishing historic counties such as Rutland and inventing new, entirely artificial entities like Avon and Cleveland.

And on New Year’s Day 1973 came one of the biggest changes in our entire history, as Britain joined its decimalised partners in the European Community. Outside its Brussels headquarters, the Union Jack flew for the first time — appropriately enough, upside down.

Just as its opponents had ­predicted, decimalisation was an expensive business, costing an estimated £120 million (roughly £4 billion today). And just as they had predicted, it proved merely the thin end of the wedge.

Bit by bit, the distinctive ­traditions that had marked British life during Orwell’s lifetime began to disappear. Under European law, metrication soon followed decimalisation, with kilograms and metres slowly ousting pounds and feet.

Today, most of us simply take our decimal currency for granted. Nobody born after the late Sixties can remember the old coins so familiar to previous generations. And few recall that for hundreds of years there were 240 pence in the pound, not 100. It might seem a trivial change. Yet as the debacle of the euro has proved only too well in recent months in Greece and Portugal, a nation’s currency is its very life-blood.

Just like the planners who were flattening our historic city centres at that very moment, sacrificing tradition on the altar of modernity, the men behind Decimal Day were indifferent both to public opinion and to the great weight of history.

Decimalisation not only drove a wedge between the generations, giving millions of older people the sense they had been transported into a foreign land. In a deeper, symbolic way, it helped to cut us off from our history.

Of course we will never go back to the old currency — not least because, as even traditionalists would have to admit, the decimal system is a lot easier to grasp.
For good or ill, we have become a much more European country — a land of duvets and wine bars, ­pavement cafes and continental breakfasts, foreign holidays and Italian restaurants.

But change never comes without a cost. And in the disappearance of George Orwell’s Britain, the land where the coins were always heavier than anywhere else, there was surely much to mourn.

On that grey, drizzly day 40 years ago, we might have gained a shiny new streamlined currency. But we also lost something rather more profound: a little bit of our national soul.

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Categories: General
  1. March 25, 2017 at 8:57 am

    Well, Jazz, nostalgia is all very well but this island paradise really had to move on!

    The duodecimal system would have been a challenge for the new-fangled computing machines, now taken for granted in many forms. Half a sixpence, six and eight pence, 15 and fourpence – just imagine.

    Consultation with ‘industry’ had been going on for years. Footsie 100 companies had been housing their board members and marketing men in the Savoy Hotel for several years, trying to foresee the effects of a change to decimal currency. And debating arcane topics like ‘should we have a 2.5p coin to replace the sixpence (six old pence, that is)?

    Eventually commonsense prevailed and people soon learned the new system, except those who, like Bremainers, can’t accept a new regime,

  2. March 25, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Decimal currency wasn’t Napoleonic in inspiration. Peter the Great decimalised the Rouble in 1704. The US Dollar has always been a decimal currency, the consensus being that a distinctly American currency was desirable but that developing an independent fractional system wasn’t practical. Despite the best efforts of London, Canada was another early adopter of a decimal currency as trade volumes with the US required compatible currencies. Australia and New Zealand decimalised at roughly the same time as the UK and Ireland.

    Janus:But isn’t this brave new world a tedious,homogenised bore? The same bloody fast food “restaurant” in Kaohsiung, Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, Trier, Sydney and Valley Springs. The same shops, the same weighs and measures, the same bleeding everything. I want to scream when I see “Starbucks”, what belongs in some rubbish, suburban Septic shopping centre in the Forbidden City and a mediaeval merchant house in the Netherlands. We’ve given up so much made our countries feel like our countries for the sake of “progress” and “modernity”. South Africa, incidentally, issues a 2 1/2 cent coin because the 6d-piece was to beloved.

  3. March 25, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Janus you’re entirely wrong. The imperial system was quite easily ‘decimalised’ we’d been doing it for years (centuries /) at sea before formal adoption of the metric system arrived. Most stability and navigation problems were solved through the use of 5 figure logs so we decimalised every thing e.g. 1200.47 long tons or 123.6 cu ft or whatever, it didn’t matter and was no problem. £130.66 = £130 13s 2.5d near enough.

    Anyway if we had to do it why not make the old 10s = one new pound as did Australia and New Zealand thus avoiding some of the rampant inflation which followed decimalisation. As for measurement why not allow both systems.

    Decimalisation was a classic example of throwing the baby out with the bath water courtesy of our political class which has the knack of getting almost every thing wrong.

    Christopher: I knew that we had to agree on something.

  4. March 25, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    Jazz: The florin was first issued in 1849 as part of an early effort to decimalise Sterling. It failed, of course, but it was kept because it was a perfectly usable denomination — the double florin not so much.There were some bi-metal decimal penny pattern coins minted at that time, sterling centre, copper outer-ring, but that didn’t go anywhere. At that time, public reaction — indifference to outright hostility — was taken into consideration. Some of the most stately, beautiful and dignified coins ever minted were the British fractional coins of the Regency and early Victorian eras. The quality of the design was such that, after nearly 200 years, they look just as fresh as they did when they were first minted. Decimal issues look like play money in comparison.

  5. March 25, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    Jazz, of course I’m entirely wrong!! No change there then. Normal people like me find the decimal Pound very convenient and easy to learn. Your ‘near enough’ fancy calculations are not real life! What a sad, badly governed, hopeless world you describe. I don’t recognise it.

  6. March 25, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    CT, West Dorset will suit you! 🙂

  7. March 25, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Janus: I once moaned to the female-type parent that the problem with the metric system and decimal currencies is that I’m rubbish at decimals. She laughed and said “You’re hopeless at maths anyway”. West Dorset does suit me.

  8. March 25, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    What a sad, badly governed, hopeless world you describe.

    Seemed OK to me at the time.

  9. March 25, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    Janus: “…Normal people like me find the decimal Pound very convenient and easy to learn…”

    Oh well as long as you find it easy.

  10. christinaosborne
    March 25, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    I must certainly side with jazz on this. The timber trade has always had to convert from board ft to cubic metres and into differing currencies. Still does!
    Remember the USA which is a huge exporter of goods never metricated and cheerfully manages to sell their stuff in all sorts of so called archaic measures!

    It was quite obvious that people’s ability to do quick mental arithmetic went sadly downhill after metrication of the currency in the UK.
    I always had an instant test for putative bar staff. Give them a price list, quote four drinks and ask how much? If more than a couple of seconds passed they did not make the grade. No computerised tills in those days and customers don’t like waiting. You should know the total round whilst you are pouring the last drink.
    Very few passed! Any that were half way useful got offered a job in the kitchens instead.

    Prices were absolutely gouged after decimalisation. Especially for those items under a pound, most food in those days. Things went virtually instantly to the nearest 5p and some things just had the d made into a p, so prices were doubled! At the time I still had an overdraft from uni and was watching the pennies like mad. Remonstration got you nowhere, robbing bastards!

    I have always suspected that one of the contributing factors to most people being unable to cook these days is the welter of differing measures. All this kilo shit whilst so many cookery books are in lbs and ounces. I am personally able to convert this and US cup measures too but I know many people can’t. Don’t tell me that the old weight of an egg (2oz) system wasn’t a damn sight easier than 115gms, it was and is.
    Likewise, 5 C? Jock strap and sunglasses or fur lined knickers?
    Who wants to go 5/8 of a bloody mile?
    Bring back furlongs, rods and perches!
    If you ask me that is where the rot set in big time for the UK and none of us were given a choice, just imposed from on high.
    Thank God the USA had the sense not to go along with it. I want to buy 1lb of anything not 450 gms! And I want to drive ten miles into town to buy a yard of cloth.

  11. March 25, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    You are both escapists, I fear.

  12. March 25, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    I confess that I very frequently have difficulties in Hunland. People give me measures in MM and CM. I struggle to grasp them. I very frequently have to pause to convert to inches and feet. Likewise, I have a hard time giving out my recipes because they’re invariably in imperial measures. I can grasp temperatures Celsius — just.The female-type parent has similar difficulties. She was raised using only metric measures. It really depends on what one was raised with and what one feels most comfortable using.

    I do think it’s interesting, however, that in most traditional measures — be they Japanese, imperial, Bavarian, French, Spanish, Swedish, Dutch, etc. the differences were not as profound as one would think. The only truly arbitrary system is metric.

  13. March 25, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    No Janus we’re realists. The old system evolved with usage which is why it worked and why many people still use it. Metrication didn’t evolve from anything it was just imposed because of a beaurocratic desire to standardise everything and a complete disrespect for this country and its traditions. Bear in mind that there was nothing to stop anyone using metric measurements if they so wished, but that wasn’t good enough they had to try and crush our ancient system out of existence. Sheer ignorance and vandalism. Do you recall the metric martyrs ? Market traders being prosecuted for using lbs and ozs !! absolutely wicked.

  14. March 25, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    Jazz: Napoleon ordered the creation of the metric system in order to help destroy France’s regional cultures. He wished to recreate France in his image and deeply-rooted traditions, legal, linguistic and practical — had to go. Italy and Hunland metricated as part of a central plan to cut ties with their regional histories and forge “new, forward-looking” states in their place. Russia metricated under the Soviets as part of their zeal to destroy the old Russia. The KMT and CCP metricated China in order to smash tangible links to China’s ancient history. I’m happy to say that post-Liberation there has been a rise in merchants selling their wares in pounds and ounces in Dorset.

  15. Boadicea
    March 25, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    Well, I still use pounds, shillings and pence – and the old counties. As a medieval historian why wouldn’t I?

    As someone conversant with base 12 (pennies) and base 20 (pounds) and base 16 (ounces and pounds) and all the other quirky British measurements I have no problem with understanding different number bases – whereas ,the children I taught could not understand why they needed to learn different ‘number bases’.

    Other societies in other times used other ‘bases’ – why do we use 60 minutes / seconds and degrees? God help us if they decide to change our time-keeping to decimal. These ‘historic’ measurements are far more more specific than the decimal system allows. The decimal system only gives the nearest approximation – and a very great approximation.

    10 is only divisible by 2 and 5, whereas 12 is divisible by 2, 3, 4 and 6 – and most of the other bases that were historically used were far more easily manipulated. And, I got my computer to deal with pounds, shillings and pence – because I had to. It wasn’t rocket science.

    As for the changes in English counties – how could anyone decide that Yorkshire could be divided into North, South, East and West Ridings when the word Riding is derived from the word ‘thrithing’ meaning a third?

  16. christinaosborne
    March 25, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Eh? There is no South Riding of Yorkshire, don’t tell me some total shit head has invented one, please, please don’t!

  17. christinaosborne
    March 25, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Here here on the counties, where the f### is Gwent? What happened to Montgomery? Pow to Powys!
    Grrrr.

  18. Boadicea
    March 26, 2017 at 7:22 am

    Christina – created in 1974, when Rutland, Middlesex and Huntingdonshire were ‘removed’. Sussex was divided into East & West Sussex and other such changes…

  19. March 26, 2017 at 8:07 am

    Shades of Eartha Kitt – you’re all old-fashioned girls! 🙂

  20. March 26, 2017 at 11:32 am

    There is an awful lot of cr*p being presented by both sides of this argument.
    ‘Like most people here, I was born into the Imperial system and can still recite my tables:
    20 pence is 1 and 8, 30 pence is 2 and 6, 40 pence is 3 and 4 etc.”
    “12 inches 1 foot, 3 feet 1 yard, 22 yards 1 chain, 10 chains 1 furlong, 8 furlongs 1 mile.”
    But to be honest this is about as useful to knowing the words to “I’m a Barbie Doll”.

    In Rhodesia we went decimal in 1970. $1 = 10/-

    Unlike Britain, we went the whole hog and everything, including volumes, weights and distances were metricated. It was infinitely more sensible than the British and US systems. Britain is a joke with its pussy footed approach to metrication, piss or get off the pot, is what springs to mind, though at least most people understand metric. But when I see that a rugby player weighs 16 stone, WTF? The US is worse having a complete mish-mash of units. In the United States the price of natural gas is quoted in dollars per million BTUs, though I guarantee not a single American knows what the B stands for.

    Prior to the Revolution, America had a whole range of currencies. I wont go into it, but look here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_American_currency However, this section may be of interest.

    “After the American Revolutionary War began in 1775, the Continental Congress began issuing paper money known as Continental currency, or Continentals. Continental currency was denominated in dollars from $ 1⁄6 to $80, including many odd denominations in between. During the Revolution, Congress issued $241,552,780 in Continental currency.[46]

    Continental currency depreciated badly during the war, giving rise to the famous phrase “not worth a continental”.

    The Metric Act of 1866, also known as the Kasson Act, is a piece of United States legislation that legally protected use of the metric system in commerce from lawsuit, and provided an official conversion table from U.S. customary units.

    Jefferson, the first US ambassador to France, was major advocate of decimalisation and pressured the French into moving in that direction. However, his own system was rather chaotic and as America expanded west, decimalisation failed to gain traction.

    South Africa metricated in 1961. There was indeed a 2.5 cent coin that replaced the 3d ‘tickey’. It only lasted a short while and was removed in 1965 or thereabouts. Incidentally when the Queen visited Rhodesia in the early years of her reign she was given a necklace made of tickies. She wore that same necklace at one of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations which to my mind spoke volumes.

    While learning Latin, Greek and Imperial weights and measures may exercise the minds of the young and train them to think, they are not practical in a modern world. My father, who was born in 1914 was classically educated, well, he went to Harrow, knew a lot of stuff that I did not. But when aged 15 I tried to explain the concept of Absolute Zero to him and that it was impossible to have a temperature lower than minus 459.67 F, he poo-pooed me saying that records were always being broken.

    Every year, there is more to learn as humanity discovers more. While learning tables and formulae are very worthwhile, learning unnecessary stuff is a waist of time. The Imperial system makes life difficult and inefficient, for British and Americans when the rest of the world is using metric.

    The Imperial System of weights and measures is outdated and no longer fit for purpose though it survives because of American hegemony. Progress is an inexorable force and even the US will change one day.

  21. March 26, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Sipu: I think you are rather missing the point. Some of us quite like imperial measurement and we don’t see why we should be trampled over by the legislators and there are several areas, navigation for instance, where the metric writ don’t run.

    In any event metric is just reducing things to the base ten and you can do that with imperial .5 of a statute mile etc . The SI system is not a problem but the legislators attempts to exclude Imperial is. People should be free to use whatever system they like.

    Question:- How many metres in a Light Year ?

  22. March 26, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Hello Jazz: 9.5×10^15 near enough.

    How many light years in a parsec?

  23. March 26, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    Sipu is right. (Did I say that?) 🤓

  24. March 26, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    PS show me how to add (etc) £sd on a calculator, pls.

  25. March 26, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    Low Wattage: Approx 3.26 lt yrs in a parsec.

    Janus: http://www.vintagecalculators.com/html/sterling_calculators.html

  26. March 26, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    Janus: Really?
    For the first amount multiply number of pounds by 240 add to Memory (M+)
    Multiply the number of shillings by 12 M+
    M+ number of pennies

    Repeat for next number (adding or subtracting (M-) as required)
    When done with amounts to be added or subtracted now is the time to multiply or divide if required
    When done with that MRC the result and divide by 240

    Write down the characteristic* this is number of pounds (* the stuff in front of the decimal pint)
    M- the characteristic and multiply the remainder by 20

    Write down the characteristic* this is number of shillings
    M- the characteristic and multiply the remainder by 12 This is the pence .

    Seemples (c 1998 Ferret)

  27. March 26, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Jazz: C’rect. Intuitively I always think a light year should be bigger than a Parsec, multiplying very big numbers always seems to me should result in larger answers than dividing by very small ones.

  28. March 26, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    If We’d kept £ s d there would have been no problem in dealing with it as indeed there was not at the time.

    LW: I think it would be quicker to add up the pennies divide by 240 m+, add up the shillings divide by 20 m+, add up the £s.

    As for the stuff post decimal point, that can be done in your head.

  29. March 26, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    As noted, decimals are simpler.

  30. christinaosborne
    March 26, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    mmmmm.
    Do parsecs require similar cultivation to parsnips?
    How can I get some seeds?
    I have to admit I can no longer remember how one multiplied or divided L S D. (If I ever could, I suppose I must have been able at some time!) Quite shocking.
    Good on you lot, no Alzheimers there yet then?

  31. March 26, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    Mrs. O. Multiplication of currency by currency is best left to economists. Division of LSD is best left to hippies.

    Parsecs are easily raised from chicks and require no special care.

    Fully grown Gerunds on the other hand should not be approached except with caution (C 1960 Molesworth)

  32. cogitationator
    March 26, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    None of it’s worth a thing if you don’t have enough to count, let alone convert. The way the exchange rate has gone, that means less all the time. (Interbank rate currently hovering just under USD 1.25 / GBP, vs. the $1.75 – 1.92 that prevailed back when I was sending money thataway.)

    The metric-vs.-Imperial business becomes especially interesting when driving from the USA into Canada. One must force oneself to awareness that a posted speed limit of “100” really means only a pokey 62 MPH. Fortunately for those whose brains move even slower, cars sold here have both scales on the velocimeter.

  33. March 26, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    Cog. But they also sell their gas by the litre (not the noble US mini gallon) so God only knows what it costs.

    I worked in the automotive business for a while. The European standard for fuel efficiency is litres/100 km (low numbers are good) the USA standard is MPG (high numbers are good)

    My 5.8 litre truck engine was actually built as a 353 cu inch chevy, like many other vehicles it still has a mixture of inch and metric fasteners (two sets of tools required).

    Strangely enough it also does not automatically adjust between EST and DST but my cheap cell phone does.

  34. March 26, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    LW: 5.8 litres. What’s the mpg err sorry litres per 100km

  35. March 27, 2017 at 7:20 am

    It’s measured in gallons per mile in old money!

  36. Boadicea
    March 27, 2017 at 11:52 am

    I still use pounds, shillings and pence – and the old counties. As a medieval historian I have to. And anyone who wants to use my data (and there are many people who do funnily enough!) has to do the same… it isn’t rocket science.

    It wasn’t that difficult to use a computer to deal with the old monetary system – just a bit of simple manipulation – and it was far more interesting.

  37. March 27, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    Jazz:

    MPG about 18 pretty good for a truck. That’s about 14l/100Km compared with a VW Golf Diesel at 3l/100 km.

    My 2017 New Years resolution was to increase my carbon footprint by 50% I’m well on the way.

  38. March 27, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Apparently pollution wise small diesel cars are worse than trucks of which the newer have various kinds of filtration not fitted to the smaller cars.

  39. March 27, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Can someone explain the European logic of litres/100 km? It seems daft. What is wrong with Km/litre? As with mpg, it is far more intuitive and of practical use?

  40. March 27, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Jazz: Big diesel trucks (and big diesel cars) have chemical factories attached to their exhaust systems, the most widely used system is (“BluTech) a Daimler Benz patent, it injects a water solution of Urea into the exhaust and chemically converts Nitrogen oxides. Smaller cars do not use this system hence the problem with VW and Audi emissions.

  41. March 27, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    VW probably lied.

  42. March 27, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    Hello Sipu: Enter the pedant, they actually measure slightly different things

    Fuel Consumption FC Litres/Km usually between 0.03 to 0.1 for European cars
    so not to scare the innumerate use 100KM instead now we have a number between 3 and 10
    Could also use Gallons per 100 miles. Using this measure it is easy to calculate the cost to drive 100 Km. Just FC times price per litre.

    Fuel Efficiency FE Km/Litre or MPG
    Not so easy to get the cost of driving 100 miles here. Need100 divided by FE then times price per gallon.
    By now the innumerate have left the room.

    Why did Europe choose FC? I do not know but I think it came from TUV in Germany back in the seventies and spread from there.

  43. March 27, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    Janus: Better than that they built a smart little program into their engine controllers which sensed when the car was on a dynomometer (only the drive wheels are turning) which switched the engine to “lean burn” allowing it to meet the emission specs. The lean burn engine is not capable of operating the car on the road.

    So technically they programmed the cars to lie.

  44. March 27, 2017 at 7:51 pm

    Yes, they lied. I always thought the really numerate folk were able to explain their sums to the grate innumerate masses. Keep trying, eh?

  45. cogitationator
    March 27, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    LW: I’ve long thought that the difference between European and American fuel consumption calculations was only intended to confuse – and that’s even without the added complication of Imperial vs. USA gallon sizes. I suppose there’s little hope of standardizing by switching the world to drams per horsepower-hour. Or maybe something involving newton-meters. Or… or…

    Say what one may like about the Canadians, they can do their calculations well enough that they know to fill their tanks every time they venture south of the border. Not far from us, there’s a largish purveyor of petroleum products on the road to/from one of the border crossings and I’ve never seen the place not busy.

  46. March 27, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    Cog: There are no petrol stations for several miles on the German side of the border with Luxembourg.Virtually everyone drives to Luxembourg as petrol is over 20 cents per litre cheaper than in Germany. The same with coffee — 25pc more expensive in Germany.

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