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HDD Killers

Time & Money, Part 1

Posted on Tuesday 25 April 2006

This is a rant about the ridiculous way in which things are done in the world, and how these illogical practices are tolerated by everyone everyday.

I’ll write this in two parts since each one is going to be rather lengthy, so in this first part I want to talk about money. Pounds and pence, or for those in America, Dollars and Cents. There are many other monetary systems around the world and they all (as far as I know) copy the same basic formula. A unit of currency, divided up into 100 smaller units.

STUPID, that’s what it is, and here’s why. Why bother having a unit if you’re going to divide it up into 100 smaller chunks and have another, lesser, unit. Why not just have the unit?

Let’s say something costs £3.99, that’s 3 pounds and 99 pence. Why not just say 399 pence? Or maybe de-value the pound, make it 100 times less valueable and say 399 pounds.

There have actually been two times in recent years when it would have been easy to convert to a more sensible monetary system, the first time just across the UK, and the second across all of Europe, but at neither of those times did anyone take the initiative.

In 1971, the monetary system in the UK was altered. Instead of having pounds, shillings and pence, we converted to just a pounds and pence system. So close, we got rid of one useless unit, but not the other. Prior to 1971 the monetary system was completely ridiculous, there were 12 pence (the unit for which was written as d, obviously, d for pence) in a shilling and there were 20 shillings in a pound.

That makes 240 d in a pound, the need for shillings remains a mystery to me, but prices were always written in pounds, shillings, pence. As if that weren’t enough, there were also coins for half a penny (ha’penny) and quater of a penny (farthing). The ha’penny actually hung around even after decimalisation.

So now, I ask you, how ridiculous does that old system seem? A blinding array of coins and units, not to mention the ginuea, which was worth one pound and one shilling, but was never used as a unit on it’s own, except, of course, in horse racing, of course.

That old system doesn’t make any sense and looking back on it, it’s laughable. There were many redundancies and decimalisation eliminated a lot of them, all but one, the penny. Decimalisation greatly simplified things, the pound remained at the same value, the shillings were exchanged for 5 new pence and the exchange rate for pence was 2.4 d for 1 p. Now, if only the pound had been devalued at that time and pennies eliminated (aswell as ha’penny’s, which are no longer used).

Now that was in 1971, that was ages ago, way before I was born. But there was a very recent currency conversion across all of Europe with the introduction of the Euro. Euros and cents replaced the monetary systems in twelve countries in the European Union. Here’s some more information about the Euro for those interested.

The Euro became legal tender at the very start of 2002. This new currency was a sweeping change across Europe, here’s a map of the countries in the European Union, purple countries are the ones yet to make the switch and blue countries have.

Map of which countries in the EU use the Euro as of 2006.

The map shows that Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Finland have all made the switch, while the other EU countries, including the UK, haven’t yet. That’s a significant proportion of Europe to abandon their own currencies for a common currency.

Incidentally, prior to the switch, Austria used Schillings and Groschen, that’s Schilling as in the English shilling which was abandoned oh so long ago. 1 shilling was worth 5 pence and 1 groschen was worth 0.05 pence or 0.0005 pounds.

It’s not as if it’d be a hard sell for people to switch to a currency that doesn’t involve decimals, “For every penny you have, I’ll give you a pound.” Assume that the guy saying that to you isn’t known for lying, practical jokes or bullying and that’d seem like a pretty good deal to most people (though only because most people are stupid, the clever ones would realise that it’s a fair exchange and would have no objections).

De-valueing a currency is not without it’s downsides though, here’s a list of the potential problems that I can see:

  • Who Want’s To Be A Millionaire wouldn’t be quite as exciting.
  • Teachers wouldn’t be able to teach decimals to kids using money as an example.
  • Old people might get confused, but it shouldn’t be a problem for too long if you see what I’m saying…
  • De-valueing a currency is basically inflation, so immediately prior to the drop some people would convert their money into another currency, which would actually de-value the currency even more, though it would probably go back up again because people would convert their money back again to try and make a profit from the fluctuation.

That fourth point is the real kicker, so it would probably be better to simply create a whole new currency and allow it to run parallel to the older currencies for a while. If it’s a whole new unit then nothing is being de-valued, so there will be no heavy currency fluctuations, the new currency is simply created at a lower value to begin with.

I hope I’ve convinced you that current monetary systems are retarded. Don’t get me wrong, they’re perfectly useable, they do the job just fine, it’s just that there is a completely unnecessary unit thrown in for no good reason. It’s really not worth the extra effort and expense to create a whole new currency or de-value an existing currency though, but since two new monetary systems have sprung into being fairly recently, you have to wonder why the hell they didn’t fix the system then, when they had the chance.

To put it into terms of software development. The unit of pence is like a minor bug, it would be easy to fix the bug, but since it’s not critical, it’s not worth it’s own separate release of the software. However, if there were a whole new version of the software being released (a.k.a. the Euro), then the bug could easily be fixed without any additional time or effort being spent. This is where the analogy departs from truth though, because it seems that someone in the Eurpoean Union got nostalgic or something and decided to keep the cents, but programmers sure as hell don’t get nostalgic about bugs.

Anyway, I’m done for now, stay tuned for more rants about illogical stuff, not to be confused with illogical rants about stuff. Next up is the way we measure the passing of time if you hadn’t already guessed.


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