#11  
Old 01-26-2008, 11:39 PM
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Default Re: Imperial cf Metric

As someone who has lived through the attempted changeover to metrication in the UK let me put in my '2 bobs worth'

The belief that metrication is an attempt to overthrow the status quo in the UK by foreigners is strange. The imperial system was a first attempt to rationalise a lot of different measures either taken from other countries or introduced by invaders. The pound (16 ounces) is actually a French measurement (avoirdupois) The original idea of metrication has been credited to Dr. John Wilkins, a Brit, in 1668. Many British scientists have worked to develop the system and have had measurements named after them. Newton, Faraday, Watt and Kelvin to name a few. It was ,however, first introduced by the French and has subsequently been adopted worldwide. Why............because it is simple and adaptable. A litre is 100 centilitres or 1000 millilitres and a litre of water weighs 1 kilogram which is 100 centigrams or 1000 milligrams. No ambiguity and simple decimal calculations.

It will most assuredly come to America for one overriding reason.............dollars. As the global nature of world trade expands standardisation is the most efficient system to get the most 'bang for your buck' The USA and UK are the 2 holdouts on the world stage. The notion that UK is embracing metrication is a mirage. The partial adoption in the UK has cost, I believe, the manufacturing industry that we were so proud of. Cars, shipbuilding and heavy machinery have almost disappeared along with the employment and wealth. If you were educated after 1975 you will have been taught in metric and lived with imperial. Even now we use feet, miles per gallon and acres. Road signs and speed limits are in yards, miles and miles per hour. Heating appliances are in British Thermal Units(BTU's) and electrical are in kilowatts. I once heard someone in a hardware store ask for a kilo of 4 inch nails..........EH?

Metrication should never be politicized. That is what happened in Britain. It is a technical issue and if it is approached with openness and masses of information I believe it can be a fairly painless exercise. I hope that is the case in America when the time comes. The last time there was the feeling of stealth and it was kicked out. End of lecture!


Last edited by Inishta; 01-27-2008 at 07:58 AM.
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  #12  
Old 01-27-2008, 06:22 AM
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Default Re: Imperial cf Metric

Inishta,

Very clear, well stated. Thanks for clarifying the historical thread.

Jim
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  #13  
Old 01-27-2008, 07:32 AM
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Default Re: Imperial cf Metric

First of all, I am not against the metric system. As I've said before, the inch is a METRIC measurement. It is 25.4 millimeters exactly, and has been since the 1950's. The inch is simply a "graphic user interface" to the metric system.

I run a machine shop, and still, everything is in inches: the threads, the tool and work holders, the tool sizes, the metal stock, the graduations on the machines, everything. In the tool catalogs, you have pages and pages of inch denominated tooling and supplies, and then, at the end, as an addendum, you have a few metric items, always fewer choices and WAY higher prices. It's a matter of supply and demand. The only native metric tooling I use on a regular basis is clock gear cutters, which come from Europe.

I would be all in favor of the metric system, if it were at all practical to use. At this time, in this country, it just isn't practical. It would cost a fortune in sunk tooling and increased operating expenses to take my shop metric. As it is, most of our dimensions are computer generated, and increasingly the machines are computer numeric controlled. The dimensions are calculated to six decimal points (five if working in MM). Our real standard is some infintesimal computer unit, and how you read it out, and how you implement it, is just a matter of convention.

It's a myth, by the way, that the French adapted the metric system during the revolution, and never looked back. I hold in my hands a French clock movement from the turn of the last century. On the bottom of the plate is stamped the length of the pendulum, in Pouces and Lignes. That's right, the French royal inch. The pouce is pretty much the imperial inch, and the ligne is one twelfth of same. I think continental Europe had the advantage of having their factories flattened in 1918, and had the opportunity to start over fresh.

I close with a quote from someone who WAS against the metric system, Edmund Beckett, Lord Grimthorpe, the Victorian barrister, historian, and horologist, who designed the great clock at Westminster, which strikes on Big Ben:

"There are people who want to force upon the world this absurd, inconvienent, and useless measure, invented by a nation whose language is declining all over the world; while the English language, with that standard of measures which every man carries in his arms, his legs, and in his head, is spreading all over the world, so that it will soon be the only universal language to be found everywhere, if it is not so already. Doctrinairnes of this kind may cram penny-school girls with French metres, and centimetres, and kilograms; but our yard grew and will remain as the natural standard of length until the stature of the human race alters."

1903
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Old 01-27-2008, 08:31 AM
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Default Re: Imperial cf Metric

I think the biggest problem with any conversion is that people dislike change. I work in an oil refinery where we have been in the process of changing over to metric for the last 20 years ! The petroleum industry is very slow to change. All oil barrels are 42 gals, not 55 gals as most people think. This is because they used to move the crude oil from the field to the refinery in old wine barrels ( 55 gal) by horse cart. With the bumpy roads and rough ride the oil would slosh out if there was more than 42 gal. Hence, the standard petroleum is 42 gal.
We get some standards from convience using the current technology of the times. You can find a lot of information about railroad widths on the internet. Basically they are based on the old roman roads (and ruts) which were designed to accomodate 2 horses butts side by side . Since we build upon exsisting systems from the past, we carrry forward the same measurements, but with a different scale.
Change is always hard, it takes more time and money than anyone expects. Change in a measuring system will probably be generational and gradual. People have too much invested in the current system, both in tooling and emotional investment to give it up at the drop of a hat, even if it is a good idea.

Last comment. Communication is difficult face to face, harder by voice only, and most difficult in writting. It is very easy to "read into" someone's comments things that were not intended. This forum is a great and helpful place for all. I urge everyone to continue the effort to communicate clearly and diplomatically in this most difficult format.
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Old 01-27-2008, 08:34 AM
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Default Re: Imperial cf Metric

Fun thread, Jeff! Look at the blood spilled~! Perhaps religion next time.

Great comments all. Very educational and a great Sunday morning read. Having lived in the US, Japan, and Italy, and travelled extensively beyond, I've had plenty of exposure to the metric system. It's very simple to get used to and makes complete sense for all measurements. I'm sure that is why the system is used in medicine throughout the world. Theraputic and toxic doses are all calculated in mg/Kg.

I think David makes a very valid point about the cost of retooling to make the switch. I'm sure that is a huge issue in the overall resistance to make the change. Personally, I can live with both systems and never give it a second thought.

Have a great day all. Hug your families. Enjoy your friends. Eat well.
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Old 01-27-2008, 09:35 AM
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Default Re: Imperial cf Metric

Gosh yes, or politics... No, please please don't start on that!!

Wooohooo, I had no idea this was such an issue. Having grown up in an English household in Switzerland, I've always lived with both kinds of measurements - with a greater enphasis on metric it has to be said. But if something's in different mesurements you convert it. If you do it often enough, it becomes automatic - like different currencies.

Ok, UK and US galleons did have me stumped the other day, and Farenheight doesn't seem to want to enter my sluggish brain... but working with and on this forum I can now visualise inches and feet without converting. Its cool, I learnt something new.
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Old 01-27-2008, 11:18 AM
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Default Imperial cf Metric

I must first say that throughout my short membership on the forum I have been a huge admirer of dmuns unflagging will to share a level of expertise that most of us can only aspire to. However there are a few issues I have with his most recent contribution.

It is clear that the inch is not a metric measurement since it pre-dates decimilisation. It has been defined in the metric system as 25.4 millimetres. To accept it as such ratifies the metric system is now so well established that non-metric units still in use are actually defined in terms of the metric equivalents. America is already decimalised to a great extent. Have a look at soft drinks, wine, swim track and field, car engine sizes in litres, buy light bulbs...............watts, volts and lumens are metric measurements, radio stations are in mega hertz or kilohertz. Metric only labelling is widespread in many states.

I believe that the source of much resistance can be found in the statement that "it would cost a fortune in sunk tooling and increased operating expenses to take my shop metric". There is no denying that there is a cost to change. The balance is whether not to accept will be a lot more costly. The EU has a statute on the books, defered on a number of occasions, that state that non SI markings will be banned from 1st. of January 2010. Those American companies already in compliance will have a commercial advantage. The UK went through exactly the same situation and all engineering is now in compliance after a long and costly period of reticence. The USA is a huge marketplace but to be insular is to severely limit your options.

Your timepiece speaks more of horology being stuck in a time warp. The pouce was never an inch.........but 1.066 as a conversion and not used much after the introduction of decimilasion in france in 1795. The quotation from Beckitt.........he pretentiosly dropped his surname of Denison on achieving the peerage for building a clock...........speaks of the xenophobia of the time and to quote "Doctrinairnes of this kind may cram penny-school girls with French metres, and centimetres, and kilograms; but our yard grew and will remain as the natural standard of length until the stature of the human race alters." seems to pale in the realization that 90% of the population of the world has embraced the metric ethos.

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Old 01-27-2008, 04:55 PM
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Default Re: Imperial cf Metric

The story of the standardization of the inch is a facinating one, and not well known. As Intisha says, the inch predated the meter, in fact lots of inches did, changing from country to country, industry to industry and even from shop to shop. Henry Ford ran face into this in trying to build a mass production system for automobiles, and quickly realized that there was no standard inch measurement, and what standards existed were so bad as to be worse than useless. Ford turned the problem over to the Swedish inventor Carl Edward Johansson, whose work was with standards in the metric system. As you may know, linear measurements in machining and precision measure is established with precision screw threads, in everything from micrometers to machine tool travels. Johansson realized that he could make accurate threads from his metric equipment in 25.4 mm approximations of the inch by using a 100:127 gear ratio. He proceded to make a series of steel measuring blocks of unprecidented accuracy, so flat that if cleaned and pressed together in a rotational motion that they will stick together. These gage blocks are to this day called jo-blocks.

Ford convinced the US government that acquiring Johansson's measuring tools was a matter of national security, and there is a real adventure tale of the smuggling them out of German occupied Sweeden in WWI. Thus was the metric inch finally standardized in the United States, and later throughout the English speaking world by way of an international conference in the 1950's

As far as the clock industry being reactionary, and the consequences thereof, well that speaks for it's self. What clock industry?

Oh, and the Grimthorpe quote? That was meant to be humorous. Sometimes I miss the mark.
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Old 01-27-2008, 08:38 PM
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Default Re: Imperial cf Metric

Not often do you miss the mark dmun, and certainly not today. Somehow, I think you should be teaching somewhere (if you are not already). I picture your lessons as being a short drink from a firehose.

Thanks again for the schooling. Water is shooting out of my nose so I guess I'm done learning, at least for the moment.
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Old 01-27-2008, 08:38 PM
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Default Re: Imperial cf Metric

SORRY.
Didn't mean to stir emotions. Length and temperature concern me.
Length (as in dome measurements), are fairly easy for me to convert.
Temperature is a problem though, and it disrupts the flow when one must pause to convert.
As a luddite, I know nothing of computer programmes, and am constantly amazed at software capability. With this in mind, I'd wondered if eg 212F could be set up to appear as 212F/100C.

I still worship FB Site and Forumites, and would never intentionally cause hurt or disharmony.
Again, my apologies.
Luddite Jeff.
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