Big Changes Can Happen Overnight

by James La Trobe-Bateman on May 29, 2019

Do you worry that the world needs some big changes, fast (like action on global warming)? It seems to be a big challenge to get everyone to move overnight.

When you think about it, there really are some changes that affect everyone that happen really fast, overnight even.  Here’s an example.

On February 15th, 1971 the UK switched from a pounds, shillings and pence money system to a pounds and pence system.  Those ‘12 pence to a shilling and 20 shillings to a pound’ manipulations were an unnecessary complication for the computerization of banks. Other countries had long before decimalized. The merits of doing so were proven and obvious. Why not the UK?  And so the UK government decided to change. 

And we all did. Without much of a fight.

So what was it like to live through it?

Decimal conversion
First Bank Statement

I had just left home to start my first job and opened a bank account to look after the money.  You can see my first bank statement.  I also needed somewhere to stay and boarded with Mrs Gould. You can see that I was paying her 6 pounds 2 shillings and 6 pence for my board and lodgings. Then came decimalization.  After that, I was paying 6 pounds 13 pence or was it 6 pounds 12 pence?  2 shillings and sixpence converted to 12 ½ new pence. But, you couldn’t write a cheque for a ½ penny, so it had to be one or the other.  The ‘official’ conversion was 12.

This was about the biggest ‘grief’ that the change caused.  “How can 2 shillings and 4 pence, 2 shillings and 5 pence and 2 shillings and 6 pence all convert to 12 new pence?” she asked.  A valid question but ultimately not too difficult to understand.

It looks like I ended up paying her 6 pounds and 12 pence per week.  I guess over the 6 months I stayed there, she was short-changed 26 x ½ = 13 pence.  I’m sorry, Mrs Gould!

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