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Old 09-17-2019, 12:33 PM
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Why did the French implement decimal time during the French Revolution?


Sounds like an odd and impractical decision. Any historians or people otherwise knowledgeable on the subject who can explain that shortlived change? Thank you.
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Old 09-17-2019, 12:57 PM
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What is the impracticality to which you refer? What's odd about decimal time, especially in the context of also implementing decimal distance, volume, area, and mass measurements?
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Old 09-17-2019, 01:03 PM
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Same reason they put forth the metric system. It was scientific and logical, rather than a hodge-podge of ancient measures. Why should a day be 24 hours of 60 minutes of 60 seconds, repeated from 1 to 12 twice a day? A decimal system represented the future, a clean slate from the creaking leftovers of the past. Why not make time part of a fully scientific comprehensive system of measurement?
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Old 09-17-2019, 01:12 PM
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Because they could?


As others have observed, there isn't really anything "natural" about our current system, except that it's easily divisible by a lot of numbers. Decimal time would be as easy to use, with simpler conversions. In fact, people using digital clocks tend to automatically assume decimal time, and I've heard stories about people being surprised that 10:59 is followed by 11:00. People end up late to affairs that way.

When I first saw Fritz Lang's film Metropolis I noted that the clock the workers used only went up to 10, and assumed that Lang assumed a future with decimal time (and with ritzy art-deco numbers, so the "4" looks like a "+"):

http://oscilloclock.com/gallery/metropolis-clock

But then I noticed that Frederson, the Master of Metropolis, wears a wristwatch with the conventional 12 hours, and so it seems that the worker's clock actually represents their 10-hour work day.

https://wornandwound.com/watches-screen-vintage-finds/
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Old 09-17-2019, 01:26 PM
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The rest of the decimal system was logical. A "foot" was originally the king's foot, since feet are variable and they had to pick one as the standard. Comes the revolution, they want to obliterate any hint of "king" so redefine distance. While they were at it, redefine everything else too that evolved willy-nilly over the centuries. If you've seen the mish-mash of Imperial units - feet, inches, rods, chains, cable, furlongs, miles, leagues, and nautical miles, fathoms, acres etc.and then pint, quart, gallon, hogshead, barrel, cup, and pound, ounce, stone, ton, troy ounce, troy pound, …

Humans have this instinctive desire to fix things. Once you start with things defined in feet, you slowly find you have to replace everything.
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Old 09-17-2019, 01:26 PM
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A better question for historians is, why didn't it stick? Paragraph 22 of the "Décret relatif aux poids et aux mesures" of 18 Germinal, Year III simply states that the previous year's law making official use of decimal time obligatory is "suspended indefinitely".
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Old 09-17-2019, 03:01 PM
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A better question for historians is, why didn't it stick? Paragraph 22 of the "Décret relatif aux poids et aux mesures" of 18 Germinal, Year III simply states that the previous year's law making official use of decimal time obligatory is "suspended indefinitely".
I think the traditional time system was stronger than the traditional measuring system.

Many people don't realize that there wasn't an international system of measurement in the 18th century. The French had one system of measurements, the British had another one, the Dutch had a different one, the Swedes also had one, and there were several systems in Germany and Italy.

There had been a long standing movement to create a single universal system of measurements. There had been some progress; most countries had adopted a single national system, Spain had adopted the French system, and Russia had adopted the English system. So when the French revolutionaries enacted a new system, they were part of an existing movement.

The reason their system ended up supplanting the other options was mostly due to Napoleon. He didn't actually impose the metric system on Europe; he had a different system which was a mixture of renamed metric units and traditional French units. But he did generally succeed in imposing a single system of measurements across most of the continent. The benefits of that were obvious enough that it lasted even after Napoleon fell from power. And when people decided they wanted a single international system, the metric system was the one that was chosen.

To get back to the question, there was no equivalent perceived need with time. Most places had adopted the twenty-four hour, the seven day week, and the twelve month year and it was a de facto international system. So there was no void for the proposed decimal time system to fill.
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Old 09-17-2019, 03:37 PM
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The calendar reform was really despised. 10 day weeks which was eliminated even before the repeal of the calendar. New month names. New year starting the wrong time of year. Confusion over leap days. Etc.

Wikipedia link. (Has art representing months via female personification, so spoiler boxed, because, you know, French art.)

The incredible influence of the Catholic Church was a major concern of the Republic. The old calendar was heavily oriented towards holy days, feasts, saints, etc. So out that went.

But time and the calendar are somewhat related so that was in for reform as well.

And since times were dictated by the Church for prayers and such, this was supposed to help free people from those rules, too.

Note that for centuries people were used to coins, weights and measures being dictated from above. If the King says there's eight Ningis to one Pu, that's the law. But time has a more traditional aspect to it.
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Old 09-17-2019, 05:45 PM
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Both the calendar 'reform' and the time one failed largely because they were out of step with everybody else around. The other Metric measures (distance, volume, weight) were competing with lots of different systems in different countries (and made more sense than most of them). Also, it was designed internationally, so changing to it was less political than adopting the system of a neighboring, rival country.

Interesting that these changes to measurement systems seem to always stick it to poor people.

The calendar change in England caused some riots, that people laugh about now. But it was a real hit to the workers: they paid rent by the month, but that month was suddenly 10 days shorter, but the rent was unchanged. And most workers were paid by the day, so their income didn't change, but their rent did.

The French Republic change from a 7-day week (6 workdays and 1-day weekend off) became a 10-day week, with 9 workdays and still only 1 day off. More workdays and less time off for the workers.

And it continues today. USA corporations are using their conversion to metric measurements to sneakily reduce sizes or increase prices. Liquor used to be sold in fifths (1/5th gallon) = 757 milliliters. Now it often comes in 750 ml size (7 ml short) or even European size 700 ml (57 ml short) -- but for the same price.

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Old 09-17-2019, 06:45 PM
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I think the traditional time system was stronger than the traditional measuring system.

Many people don't realize that there wasn't an international system of measurement in the 18th century. The French had one system of measurements, the British had another one, the Dutch had a different one, the Swedes also had one, and there were several systems in Germany and Italy.
Even worse, the French actually had hundreds of differing systems of measurements, as there was no national standard, and each region, or even town, had their own definitions (for example, the lieue (league) could vary from 3.268 km in Beauce to 5.849 km in Provence). This had been identified as significant problem for trade well before the Revolution.
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Old 09-17-2019, 07:49 PM
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The calendar reform was really despised. 10 day weeks which was eliminated even before the repeal of the calendar. New month names. New year starting the wrong time of year. Confusion over leap days. Etc.

Wikipedia link. (Has art representing months via female personification, so spoiler boxed, because, you know, French art.)
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Old 09-17-2019, 10:10 PM
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And it continues today. USA corporations are using their conversion to metric measurements to sneakily reduce sizes or increase prices. Liquor used to be sold in fifths (1/5th gallon) = 757 milliliters. Now it often comes in 750 ml size (7 ml short) or even European size 700 ml (57 ml short) -- but for the same price.
This has little or nothing to do with the metric system. The same thing has happened to hundreds of products marked in ounces.

The liquor industry converted to metric for the same reason the French did: rationalizing their products. There had been 38 sizes and shapes and now there are six.
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Old 09-17-2019, 10:56 PM
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This has little or nothing to do with the metric system. The same thing has happened to hundreds of products marked in ounces.
Look at ice cream as a common example. They didn't switch the standard package size to metric units. They just shrank it from a half gallon (sixty four ounces) to one and a half quarts (forty-eight ounces).
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Old 09-17-2019, 11:06 PM
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When I first saw Fritz Lang's film Metropolis I noted that the clock the workers used only went up to 10, and assumed that Lang assumed a future with decimal time (and with ritzy art-deco numbers, so the "4" looks like a "+"):

http://oscilloclock.com/gallery/metropolis-clock

But then I noticed that Frederson, the Master of Metropolis, wears a wristwatch with the conventional 12 hours, and so it seems that the worker's clock actually represents their 10-hour work day.

https://wornandwound.com/watches-screen-vintage-finds/
Look at your own first link. The interpretation of those particular people is that the workers use decimal time and the masters use the old measures. This makes sense both as a class marker and because it means the workers are working half-days; if they were working ten "normal" hours, the shifts would keep shifting forward.

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Many people don't realize that there wasn't an international system of measurement in the 18th century. The French had one system of measurements, the British had another one, the Dutch had a different one, the Swedes also had one, and there were several systems in Germany and Italy.

There had been a long standing movement to create a single universal system of measurements. There had been some progress; most countries had adopted a single national system, Spain had adopted the French system, and Russia had adopted the English system. So when the French revolutionaries enacted a new system, they were part of an existing movement.
Underline mine: what French system, and no we hadn't. Many of our unit names were similar (Romance languages and neighbors, you see), but at the time there was your libra castellana, your libra leonesa, your libra aragonesa... and your vara castellana, and your vara navarra and your vara leonesa and...

Vara means "long, thin piece of wood" but it's also a measurement of length and the sticks used to measure according to that unit. There's a clothesmonger in my home town which is in their 6th generation (the 7th is starting to join now), founded in 1860 IIRC. They use their metric varas (one meter from end to end) but also have on display their original varas from Aragon, Navarre and Castille.
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Old 09-18-2019, 09:48 AM
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When I first saw Fritz Lang's film Metropolis I noted that the clock the workers used only went up to 10, and assumed that Lang assumed a future with decimal time (and with ritzy art-deco numbers, so the "4" looks like a "+"):

http://oscilloclock.com/gallery/metropolis-clock
I don't think the "clock" in that link is a clock at all, but some kind of controller with settings from 1 to 10. Notice the lights all around the perimeter? As I recall that scene from seeing the movie ages ago, the character seen in the picture holding the "clock" hands had to keep moving the hands to where a light was flashing, and he got worn out because the lights were flashing too fast for him to keep up.
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Old 09-18-2019, 09:57 AM
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Same reason they put forth the metric system. It was scientific and logical, rather than a hodge-podge of ancient measures. Why should a day be 24 hours of 60 minutes of 60 seconds, repeated from 1 to 12 twice a day? A decimal system represented the future, a clean slate from the creaking leftovers of the past. Why not make time part of a fully scientific comprehensive system of measurement?
Not just a hodge podge : a regional hodge podge. That is to say, there were any number of weight & volume systems being used all over the place, some overlapping, and some using the same word for different measures. This obviously made commerce a pain in the arse.
Same went with money - many towns were still on the "we stamp our own coins" system, having earned the privilege from the King at some point in the Middle Age for some reason or another ; and you had to have change stations everywhere to turn your, say, Avignon pounds into Marseilles denarii and, again, it made commerce a bitch (not to mention many moneychangers were crooks).

The hour system however is a bit of a different story : medieval hours were Church hours - vespers, matines and so on. And obviously Revolutionary France couldn't be having with no churchy bullshit, so, decimal time. It didn't catch on, and neither did the calendar (because while the city bourgeois who came up with those schemes were fine with them ; peasants reckoned most agricultural tasks by Roman calendar dates and saints' days and simply stuck with those)
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Old 09-18-2019, 09:59 AM
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Look at ice cream as a common example. They didn't switch the standard package size to metric units. They just shrank it from a half gallon (sixty four ounces) to one and a half quarts (forty-eight ounces).
And most canned goods have shrunk. Older recipes might call for a 12 oz. can of tomato sauce, but today's shelves would only have 11.5, or 11 or even 10 oz. cans. (Just an example. Don't quote this.) Do you try to adjust all the other ingredients? Buy two cans and let some go to waste?

Cereal boxes have continually shrunk the same way. It's a near universal.

The big exception are sodas, which of course have grown tremendously. A Coke bottle was 6 oz. for decades. Underdog Pepsi fought back by making their standard size 12 oz. for the same nickel. Much later, when the soda industry was transitioning into plastic containers and standard sizes, Pepsi came up with a two-liter bottle that the whole industry adopted. That's 67.6 oz. and is often on sale for 99 cents, close to the same buying power as a nickel in the early part of the 20th century, but consumers get 11 times as much.
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Old 09-18-2019, 10:32 AM
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Decimal time does survive-- sort of-- and is actually used in certain astronomical formulae and records in the form of Julian days, though I am not sure whether there is any link to French revolutionary or earlier uses of decimal time. A "Julian" date of xyz.25 indicates a quarter of a day past noon, or 6 p.m. Universal time, for example, and xyz.1 is 2:24 p.m. Even Microsoft Excel handles time in a similar way.
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Old 09-18-2019, 11:48 AM
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Same reason they put forth the metric system. It was scientific and logical, rather than a hodge-podge of ancient measures. Why should a day be 24 hours of 60 minutes of 60 seconds, repeated from 1 to 12 twice a day? A decimal system represented the future, a clean slate from the creaking leftovers of the past. Why not make time part of a fully scientific comprehensive system of measurement?
As this is general questions I need to correct this, the choice of base 10 is convention and not due to it being "scientific and logical"

Out time is based on Babylonian numbers which were base 60, which is a "superior highly composite number"

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It can be shown that all superior highly composite numbers are highly composite and that the nth superior highly composite number has the form π1π2π3...πn, where the factors πk are prime.
Or with less math....60 is evenly divisible 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, 30, and 60.

360 degrees, which the Babylonian also used for degrees is also a "superior highly composite number" and when divided by 15 = 24....or the number of "hours in a day". Now the Babylonians tended to divide small segments of time into 'ush' which are 4 minutes and 60 / 15 = 4.

So note here we have the "superior highly composite numbers" when divided work out to
360 degrees / 4 seasons / 3 = 30 days in a year
360 degrees rotation / 15 ( 5 * 3) = 24 hours in a day
60 / 15 (5 * 3) = 4 minutes in a ush
365.256 sidereal year is close to 360 days in a year, and because is is easy to count to 60 on your fingers (if not as easy as 10) it is quite clear that to claim that the move to decimal was due to it being "scientific and logical" is unfounded. In fact it is one of the most scientific if you consider the amount of observations involved and the relation to pi and orbits. Note how they liked what are prime numbers when making that pi relation again.

That said, deciding on conventions is important as the are efficient and prevent errors and as by the time the French revolution happened society was using a decimal number system. I am not anti-Metric, but the unification of conventions is the main value and that is very valuable.[/I]

There is a huge value in standardizing as much as possible but there is a challenge when 60 and 360 are both Colossally abundant numbers and Superior Highly Composite Numbers compared to having a divisor within the base numbers in this case for the critical users.
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Old 09-18-2019, 12:08 PM
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In a decimal time system*, how long is a "second?"

I'm going to guess that part of the appeal of our current system, being based on 60s, is that one second is about the same duration as a human heartbeat, therefore easy to visualize.

My thought: If we had a 10 hour day, each hour 100 minutes, then each minute 100 seconds, then one decimal second would be 0.864 of our current seconds. Clocks would tick faster, but hours would be a lot slower than before (about 1.5 of our current hours).
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Old 09-18-2019, 12:21 PM
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Underline mine: what French system, and no we hadn't. Many of our unit names were similar (Romance languages and neighbors, you see), but at the time there was your libra castellana, your libra leonesa, your libra aragonesa... and your vara castellana, and your vara navarra and your vara leonesa and...

Vara means "long, thin piece of wood" but it's also a measurement of length and the sticks used to measure according to that unit. There's a clothesmonger in my home town which is in their 6th generation (the 7th is starting to join now), founded in 1860 IIRC. They use their metric varas (one meter from end to end) but also have on display their original varas from Aragon, Navarre and Castille.
From what I've read it happened when the Bourbon dynasty took over the Spanish crown. An order was issued in 1718 telling the army to use French measurements:

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and for the measurements they will use the fathom and foot of France, as it has been referred in the Article 14, in order that being general and common in the whole Spain, they would be avoided the doubts and confusions that cause the ordinary measurements of every province
A lot of local Spaniards still used the traditional measurements they were used to, but this was the official policy of the Spanish government. From 1720 to 1760, the Spanish government used the French fathom (called the toise in French and the toesa in Spanish) as its official unit when there were projects like building a road, a bridge, a fort, a port, or a civic building.

In 1760, King Carlos III modified the official policy. The fathom would still be used for military buildings but the Burgosian rod (vara de Burgos) would be the official unit for civilian projects. But the problem was there was no clear standard of exactly how long a Burgosian rod was. So a value was set; a Burgosian rod was equal to 7/3 of a Parisian fathom.

The units of length in the Spanish treatises of military engineering
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Old 09-18-2019, 12:25 PM
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The big exception are sodas, which of course have grown tremendously. A Coke bottle was 6 oz. for decades. Underdog Pepsi fought back by making their standard size 12 oz. for the same nickel. Much later, when the soda industry was transitioning into plastic containers and standard sizes, Pepsi came up with a two-liter bottle that the whole industry adopted. That's 67.6 oz. and is often on sale for 99 cents, close to the same buying power as a nickel in the early part of the 20th century, but consumers get 11 times as much.
Soda prices are basically insane. Last month, I saw a twelve pack of soda selling for less than a six pack of the exact same soda being sold next to it on the shelf.
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Old 09-18-2019, 12:39 PM
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In a decimal time system*, how long is a "second?"

I'm going to guess that part of the appeal of our current system, being based on 60s, is that one second is about the same duration as a human heartbeat, therefore easy to visualize.

My thought: If we had a 10 hour day, each hour 100 minutes, then each minute 100 seconds, then one decimal second would be 0.864 of our current seconds. Clocks would tick faster, but hours would be a lot slower than before (about 1.5 of our current hours).
If you read the (short-lived) French law, then one "decimal second" [seconde décimale] is equal to 1/100000 of a day. There were indeed decimal clocks in France, for a few years, anyway.
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Old 09-18-2019, 12:49 PM
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My thought: If we had a 10 hour day, each hour 100 minutes, then each minute 100 seconds, then one decimal second would be 0.864 of our current seconds. Clocks would tick faster, but hours would be a lot slower than before (about 1.5 of our current hours).
Actually, in such a decimal system, a New Hour would be exactly 2.4 Old Hours.
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Old 09-18-2019, 12:52 PM
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From what I've read it happened when the Bourbon dynasty took over the Spanish crown. An order was issued in 1718 telling the army to use French measurements:



A lot of local Spaniards still used the traditional measurements they were used to, but this was the official policy of the Spanish government.
1.- The military is not the whole government. Not only locals, but most branches of the government used the local systems of measures.
2.- The Spanish crown was still two crowns at the time (under Felipe V but also under Carlos III, both hereby mentioned under the Castilian numerals but with different numbers for Navarre); the largest crown included multiple realms with their own systems of measure.
3.- There wasn't one French system. "The Parisian fathom" to use a unit your own cite mentions was in use in part of France.
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Old 09-18-2019, 02:05 PM
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And most canned goods have shrunk. Older recipes might call for a 12 oz. can of tomato sauce, but today's shelves would only have 11.5, or 11 or even 10 oz. cans. (Just an example. Don't quote this.) Do you try to adjust all the other ingredients? Buy two cans and let some go to waste?

Cereal boxes have continually shrunk the same way. It's a near universal.
Actually that's less driven by a desire to fool the consumer by stealthily shrinking packages while keeping the same price, and more driven by consumer bitching about price point changes for the larger increment of measure.

In other words, people get it in their head that "a can of coffee"(to use an example) ought to cost $X dollars. But when prices rise, manufacturers find it less problematic to keep the price the same, and adjust the size, instead of keeping the size the same and adjusting the price. That way, "a can of coffee" mostly costs the same, but may be 15 oz rather than a full pound. It also gives manufacturers more wiggle room to maintain a particular price point relative to competitors while maintaining their preferred profit margins.
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Old 09-18-2019, 02:41 PM
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Actually that's less driven by a desire to fool the consumer by stealthily shrinking packages while keeping the same price, and more driven by consumer bitching about price point changes for the larger increment of measure.

In other words, people get it in their head that "a can of coffee"(to use an example) ought to cost $X dollars. But when prices rise, manufacturers find it less problematic to keep the price the same, and adjust the size, instead of keeping the size the same and adjusting the price. That way, "a can of coffee" mostly costs the same, but may be 15 oz rather than a full pound. It also gives manufacturers more wiggle room to maintain a particular price point relative to competitors while maintaining their preferred profit margins.
Yes, absolutely.

IOW, no connection to the metric system at all.
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Old 09-18-2019, 03:18 PM
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In a decimal time system*, how long is a "second?"
That's like asking "in a decimal linear measurement system, how long is a foot?"


There are a few likely built-in natural durations to chop into segments for a decimal time system. The "second" ain't one of them. I would go with the day, myself. We would of course eventually define the day in terms of a certain number of something else defined as the microday or the attoday or some such thing, rather than obtaining the perfect measure of the average day, but in plain parlance the time from one sunrise to the next = day, then divide that up into millidays (shorter than minutes) and slice those into hundredths to get a momentary unit akin to a second (they're about 3/4 of a second actually).

I got obsessed with it as a hobby once upon a time and made conversion charts and actually memorized the exact time (as measured in conventional hours::minutes::seconds) that each deciday rolled past and so forth. ETA: my name for the 100,000 of a day was "centimil"

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Old 09-18-2019, 04:00 PM
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Let me observe that any attempt to mess with the week would run afoul every Abrahamic religion in the world.

In one of his regular columns that ran in F&SF, Asimov discusses the question of what the English learned in school since they didn't learn long division (a fact mention by, IIRC, Pepys) what arithmetic did they learn. The answers included such things as pounds, shillings, and pence, but also learning how to convert among the dairyman's ounce (and pint and quart and gallon), the vintner's ounce, the brewer's ounce, and so on. So standardization was a really welcome change. Of course, the English did not adopt metric until the 1960s, but at least they adopted some standard. Note that the British ounce is not the same as the US ounce and the pint, quart, and gallon are even further off.

Notice that the claim that "A pint's a pound the world round" is and always was false everywhere. A US pint (of water at 4 deg C, 1 At pressure weighs about 4% more than a pound) and, while 16 imperial ounces of water does weigh one pound, a pint is 20 oz. and weighs 1.25 lb.

The sensible way to decimalize time would be to have 10 hours of 100 minutes of 100 seconds each and the new second would indeed be .846 old seconds. A pulse that currently reads 60 would now be 69.4444...
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Old 09-18-2019, 04:45 PM
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The US gallon is the wine gallon or the Queen Anne gallon, which was required by statute in the UK from 1707 through 1826 when the adoption of the the Imperial system changed it. Obviously that was after the US revolution.

The history is complex but the same is true of anything that is focused around taxation. Here is a good history to just show how complicated it was along with trying to keep sizes similar to the roman sizes while supporting division by 1/8ths for the "pieces of eight"

https://www.sizes.com/library/Britis...ine_Gallon.pdf

The difference in time is that while France was trying to develop a cohesive unified unit of measure there was already an international standard for degrees of angle and time while the same didn't exist for volume, weight, and length.

It does take a lot of work to convert from decimal if you reads some of Laplace's work which he did use decimal degrees....which a right triangle == 100 degrees and a circle would have been 400 degrees.

Last edited by rat avatar; 09-18-2019 at 04:45 PM.
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Old 09-18-2019, 05:37 PM
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The military is not the whole government. Not only locals, but most branches of the government used the local systems of measures.
True, but I imagine that things like the court system and the diplomatic corps and the post office didn't use measurements all that much. It was the military that built things for the government so they were probably the only branch of the government that used official measurements of a regular basis.

And while I've acknowledged that people in Spain may have stuck with the traditional local measurements they were used to, I think it's reasonable that when we talk of Spain doing something to refer to what the the Spanish government does. If I said "Spain joined the European Union in 1986" most people would accept that I was talking about an action by the Spanish government and I didn't mean that all of the individual people who lived in Spain somehow joined the EU.
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Old 09-19-2019, 04:15 AM
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. The French had one system of measurements, the British had another one,
The French, like the British, had hundreds of different measurement systems. The British Imperial system, with one system of measurements was developed over decades if not centuries, and was resisted by users of customary measures every step of the way. That I know of, they were still working on standardizing Imperial weights and measures in the late 1800s.

You could, if you wanted, convert between the different systems of measurement: you could sell a bag of wheat at a different port, and than have it shipped to a different port, and then have it sold to a different customer. But if you were a farmer, you couldn't actually compare prices at different destinations, because you didn't know what the measures meant. And that's just one grain: in the same location, you might be using different measures for different grains.
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Old 09-19-2019, 06:39 AM
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The calendar change in England caused some riots, that people laugh about now. But it was a real hit to the workers: they paid rent by the month, but that month was suddenly 10 days shorter, but the rent was unchanged. And most workers were paid by the day, so their income didn't change, but their rent did.
All that's simply incorrect. The 1752 calendar riots never happened and section VI of the 1751 Calendar Act dealt with the problem of rents etc. by specifying that they should be paid as if the old calendar was still in use.
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Old 09-19-2019, 08:20 PM
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The French, like the British, had hundreds of different measurement systems. The British Imperial system, with one system of measurements was developed over decades if not centuries, and was resisted by users of customary measures every step of the way. That I know of, they were still working on standardizing Imperial weights and measures in the late 1800s.

You could, if you wanted, convert between the different systems of measurement: you could sell a bag of wheat at a different port, and than have it shipped to a different port, and then have it sold to a different customer. But if you were a farmer, you couldn't actually compare prices at different destinations, because you didn't know what the measures meant. And that's just one grain: in the same location, you might be using different measures for different grains.
Exactly.
I remember visiting a small village in rural France that had preserved its 16th century market plaza. In the middle of it was a large slab of... well, it probably wasn't concrete but it looked like it, sandstone presumably ? I don't know. The top of the slab was flat, with a number of hemicircular divots of different widths and depths, which were the official measures for this or that grain. If you bought one Town Unit of barley and you thought you had been cheated, you'd ask the town official to pour the sack into the official barley divot, and if it didn't reach the top then you'd have a case.
Pointedly, next to the slab was a little pedestal which used to feature the town's stocks. Caveat motherfucker. Merchant guilds did not fuck around with cheats, for good reason : a market with a reputation for dishonesty or lax standards would be avoided ; and reputation was EVERYTHING back in the day. And you thought a bad Yelp review was harsh .

But, again, this was the measure for that one pissant village. The next village over presumably had its own slab with its own divots, which were implicitly much better divots that the ones those weirdoes over there use, and the bastards put the toilet paper roll the wrong way around too !
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Old 09-19-2019, 08:27 PM
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Let me observe that any attempt to mess with the week would run afoul every Abrahamic religion in the world.
Again, that was absolutely the point, in the case of French revolutionaries.
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Old 09-20-2019, 03:04 AM
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Hubba, hubba! Check out the pomegranates on Miss Fructidor (18 Aug - 16 Sept).
According to the SDMB software, you posted on 9-18.. maybe Fructidor is the mysterious 18th month?
  #37  
Old 09-20-2019, 08:06 AM
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The main thing is probably, as already mentioned, that there already was an international standard for time.

Another is that we much more rarely deal with time unit conversions the way we deal with other unit conversions and it was even rarer back then.
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