In the "good old days" our money (in England and Australia anyway) was in pounds (yes, a different pound), shillings and pence, with 20 shillings to the pound and 12 pence (pennies) to a shilling. Then in 1966, Australia changed to decimal currency, with our newly-formed dollar equal to 1/2 a pound, or 10 shillings. The dollar (first named the Royal, but changed before coins were released) was divided into 100 cents, so a cent was worth 1.2 pence.
The English currency consisting of pounds, shillings and pence was changed to a decimal system in 1971. It dropped the shillings and pence, and replaced them with new pence; 100 new pence= 1 pound sterling. So an amount of 1 pound 12 shillings and 6 pence, which was 1 5/8 pounds, became 1 pound 62 1/2 new pence. The word new was dropped in 1981.
For quite a while the decimal conversion was confusing, especially to us "old-timers" and we had to be very careful that we weren't "ripped off" by more agile-minded and shifty dealers. But overall, the change (no pun intended) was for the better, as it simplified calculations and made money-handling machines simpler.
The units for distance have also been changed, also for the better I believe. The old units of miles, yards, feet and inches have all been dropped in favour of the meter with its decimal based sub- and super-units, the kilometer, centimeter and millimeter. Some older units, the furlong, chain and link had already become redundant in most fields (again, no pun intended) except surveying and horse-racing.
Some of the tools for measuring weight, size and distance and many other things have also improved. Room and furniture sizes for instance, once done rather awkwardly with a tape-measure, can now be done with a laser device that is merely pointed at the distant point to accurately display the distance digitally.
Some Old Units And Their New Counter-parts
|Old Unit||Nearest New Unit||Scale Value||Comparative Value|
|Inch||Centimeter||12inches=1foot||1 inch≈25.4 millimeters|
|Foot||Centimeter||3feet=1yard||1 foot≈30.48 centimeters|
|Yard||Meter||22yards=1chain||1 yard≈0.91 meter|
|100 links||inch||100 links= 1 chain||1 link= 7.92 inches||Chain||Meter||80chains=1mile||1 chain≈20.1 meters|
|Mile||Kilometer||1mile=1760yards||1 mile≈1.6 kilometers|
|Pound||Kilogram||14pounds=1stone||Stones were mostly used for body-weight|
|Ton||Tonne (or Metric Ton)||1ton=2240pounds|
|Farthing||cent||4 farthings=1 penny|
|Penny||Cent||12 pence=1 shilling|
|Shilling||Cent||20 shillings=1 pound|
|Florin||Cent||2 shillings=1 florin|
|Half-Crown||Cent||1 half-crown=2 shillings and 6 pence|
|Crown||Cent||1 crown=5 shillings|
|Weight (Troy, or Precious Metal)|
|Pint||Litre||2 pints=1 quart||1 pint≈0.57 litre|
|Quart||Litre||4 quarts=1 gallon|
As you will see if you examine the third column, the simple act of adding or subtracting quantities in the olden days could be quite tedious, as the units had to be converted between the various sub-units by dividing or multiplying, and similarly for other actions.
For example adding 2 feet 6 inches to 3 feet 9 inches required the inches to be added (6+9=15) then divided by twelve to convert this to feet and inches (1 foot 3 inches), then added to the feet, giving a total of 6 feet 3 inches.
Using the decimal system, meters, to add say 1 meter 65 centimeters to 2 meters 50 centimeters, we simply add 1.65 to 2.5 giving 4.15 meters or 4 meters 15 centimeters.
Some side-effects for us "old-timers"
There are a few Weights and Measures changes that remain, if not problematic, at least niggling for me and others of my vintage.
- I used to proudly claim that my car averaged thirty miles per gallon of fuel, which was pretty good. Twenty-five miles per gallon was ok, and even twenty was acceptable for larger cars.
Now, economy is stated in litres per 100 kilometers, and my car would have been about 9 litres per 100k, and the larger car 14 litres per 100k. To someone who's grown up to regard a lower figure as desirable, adjusting to a higher value being good can be a bit problematic.
- I don't do much cooking, but I sometimes get called upon by my wife to convert quantities in recipes to those she's accustomed to. Some of her books give amounts in grams and in ounces, but most of her "old faithfuls" give only ounces, and to measure, say 12 ounces of butter from a 500 gram pack is a little awkward.
- When travelling on country roads, our usual speed would be 60 miles per hour and at this speed, when we saw a sign that said our destination was 45 miles away, it was easy to say "ok, that's 45 minutes".
Now, with country speed being about 100K per hour, it's not so simple. We have to divide the distance (ok, it is in kilometers) by 100, then multiply by 60 to find the time in minutes.