Medieval methods... (was Re: Got a question....PDP? VAX?)

From: Derek Peschel <>
Date: Wed Mar 17 13:25:43 1999

Jim Strickland wrote:
> So... for those of us who haven't traveled in the UK (yet), how does it work
> post-1971?

That's much simpler. One pound is worth 100 pence (pennies).

There were some transition problems. The coins said "new" on them for a
while, as in "ONE NEW PENNY". People used old coins and units, whether they
were equivalent (1 shilling = 1/20 pound = 5 (new) pence, so old shilling
coins were useful for a while) or not (some low-value old coins were the
same size as higher-value new ones). [from recent alt.folklore.computers

But those things aren't relevant to the average tourist or British citizen
of today. It does take a microscopic amount of effort to get used to the
differing terminology and a larger amount of effort to get used to the
actual sizes of the coins.

On the other hand, the coins are grouped in sets. Each set (of 2-3 coins)
has a metal (i.e., copper, silverish, goldish, bi-metallic) and a shape
(i.e., smooth edges, rough edges, seven-sided, letters on the edge). Within
a set the coins start small and get big. The numerical value is printed on
each coin. So everyone (including blind people) has it easy.

Don't blame me if some of those qualities (bi-metallic, seven-sided) don't
exist. I haven't been to England in a while. Besides, I get pound coins
and franc coins mixed up.

IIRC the sets don't match the "natural" breakdown of the coins' values
(1p/2p/5p, 10p/20p/50p, L1/L2/L5) but the system is still very elegant. It
should be a lesson to the US Mint on how to avoid making mistakes. The L1
coin also makes a really nice "plnk" sound on a counter and has a motto on
the edge.

And before anyone argues, I know there's no L5 coin (maybe for special
occasions) but it would fit into the scheme perfectly.

Now if only British postage stamps were equally exciting.

ObCC: PL/I had similar facilities to cope with pounds-sterling arithmetic.
Also, the Felt & Tarrant Company (producers of the Comptometer calculator)
made various models with odd "bases" (sterling, hours/minutes/seconds,
feet/inches/8ths, etc.) Too bad they never made all-octal or all-hex

-- Derek
Received on Wed Mar 17 1999 - 13:25:43 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Oct 10 2014 - 23:32:20 BST