Do Not Want

Interesting article here on America’s continued rejection of the metric system. I didn’t know it was pushed by the French Revolution, but I’m not surprised. The same people are still pushing it today. One of my earliest school memories is of watching a filmstrip about the metric system. It had a scene where a driver got a speeding ticket because he saw a sign that said 95 kilometers per hour and assumed it meant 95 miles per hour. We were told we’d better get with the program and learn to love metric, because it was inevitable.

Well, forty years on, there’s less metric in our lives than there was then, as far as I can tell. I run into metric sizes on vehicles and power equipment less often than I did 20 years ago. It’s still on labels for things like food, probably forced by those pro-metric laws from the 1970s, but it’s in parentheses, as if to say (and by the way, we had to add this).

Metric is useful in the lab where measurements are arbitrary, and that’s about it. It’s not good for measuring things in real life. It’s definitely not helpful for working with computers, since its base-10 nature is a pain where everything is done in base-2 or an exponent of that. Computer users adopted some of the prefixes like kilo and mega, but they’re only approximations. A real kilobyte is 1024 bytes and a real megabyte is 1,048,576. That leads to confusion, because some companies that sell things like hard drives started using them to mean literally a thousand, a million, a billion, etc. At the larger sizes, that makes a big difference in how much space you’re actually getting, since a true gigabyte is 7.4% larger than a marketing gigabyte.

So we’re not doing it. See also: soccer. That was the other thing they told us we’d better get used to, because soccer would outpace all our other sports someday. Well, lots of parents use soccer as exercise for their kids and a social event for themselves, but no one actually cares about the sport itself. And that’s fine. They never told us we had to learn cricket because it’s huge in India, or Go because it’s big in China. Just soccer, for some reason. But after decades of trying to make us care, we remain indifferent.

At least there are a few things we’re united on as Americans.