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View Poll Results: Should the US switch to metric units?
Yeah, ASAP!! 71 73.96%
I dunno. Let me think about it. 7 7.29%
Now why would anyone use the metric system? 18 18.75%
Voters: 96. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 02-09-2009, 01:31 PM   #1 (permalink)
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US switching to metric system?

While fooling around with metric/imperial/US conversions I started wondering what are the chances of the US switching to metric? What would be the disadvantages (b/c the advantages are numerous)? How long would it take? Who would protest the loudest? And how long after the switch would it take to "get it out of the blood"?

I know that somewhere in the 1970's Congress passed something about going metric and that was that, folks. I know of 1 (one) road sign in both miles and kilometers (on the freeway going from Durham NC to RDU airport, it gives the distance to somewhere as 4 mi, 6 km). And I've spent half of my life in the US. Juggling between units takes getting used to, but the metric system is just sooooo much easier to use. I mean, we all use a base 10 number system, so using base 10 units would be logical, wouldn't it? Why stuff your memory with random numbers from archaic measuring systems such as the temperature at which water freezes or boils, how many feet are in a mile (nautical mile, statute mile, USGS mile - all three are different), how many ounces are in a pound and how many in a quart? I remember talking about this with an American once and he said "Well, it's easy to remember - a pint's a pound the whole world round. And how much does your liter of water weight?" At least the US uses the same time measurement system as the rest of the world. And the same calender (which isn't the case in Russia).

The only thing that is useful in the US system is that fractions of feet and inches are usually given as powers of 2 (1/4, 3/8. 7/32, etc.). I can't think of anything else.

Are there any countries besides the US which still don't use the metric system?
How did the transition look like in coutries which have done it? Was it all overnight, or were both systems officially in use for weeks or months? Would it be less painful if it was done little by little? Say, first the temperature would be switched to C, then maybe weights, and then volumes and distances?

The switch wouldn't be that hard, I guess. Today, you find both systems on food. I remember that my first encounter with the metric system was in middle school science class. Plus textbooks in physics and mechanics use metric units, not imperial like in the 70's. Scientists wouldn't have much of a problem switching, immigrants and naturalized Americans would feel at home. But then there'd be voices of trying to take away what's american and so on.

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Old 02-09-2009, 04:09 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I think the only possible way to effect such a change is to mandate a complete and clean switch (eliminating English units and completely replacing with Metric units) at a specific point in time. If that were to happen (which in itself is unlikely), then there would be an unprecedented amount of screaming and gnashing of teeth, and whoever politically supported the mandate would be quickly tossed out on their rears... and the mandate would quickly be overturned with the replacement politicians...

IMHO, I think the vast majority of US citizens couldn't give a hoot about the system that the rest of the world uses, and so have absolutely no desire to change it. There's basically no benefit to the average person... they (or should I say 'we'?) inherently know how long a foot or a yard is, how far a mile is, how fast 60mph is, how heavy a pound is, how much a gallon is... very few know (or care) how long a cm or meter is, how far a km is, etc.

That said, I personally prefer metric as well, and have no problem going through the "pain" necessary to switch over... but I'm not holding my breath expecting it to happen in my lifetime...
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Old 02-09-2009, 04:47 PM   #3 (permalink)
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So if a Volvo mechanic over in Sweden needs a 14MM socket, does he place that 14MM socket on a 3/8" ratchet?

That's all I want to know. Are ratchet sizes the same as ours..........
1/4" 3/8" 1/2"

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Old 02-09-2009, 05:51 PM   #4 (permalink)
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It may happen sooner than later, especially if the push comes from the auto industry. I have heard rumors that Ford wants to simplify be reducing the number of worldwide chasis used for their vehicles. Since the majority come from over seas then logically they would all be metric based.

But it is the nuts and bolts side of things that would have the hardest time adjusting. It's not like it would disappear either, just no longer made new.

I say go for it ... rip the bandaid.
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Old 02-09-2009, 05:55 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I HATE having to buy two sets of wrenches, two sets of sockets...
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Old 02-09-2009, 06:03 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Johnny Mullet View Post
So if a Volvo mechanic over in Sweden needs a 14MM socket, does he place that 14MM socket on a 3/8" ratchet?
One of those questions I've wondered about in the past, but had no way to answer.
Googling at it (sideways after looking up socket wrench in an online English/German dictionary), the answer appears to be, yes, he does.

Here is the German company Stahlwille's on-line catalog in Swedish.

And here is the page from that on-line catalog listing (all?) of their socket sets.
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Old 02-09-2009, 06:04 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Johnny Mullet View Post
So if a Volvo mechanic over in Sweden needs a 14MM socket, does he place that 14MM socket on a 3/8" ratchet?

That's all I want to know. Are ratchet sizes the same as ours..........
1/4" 3/8" 1/2"
Basically yes at least here in Australia. The main sizes are 1/4 , 1/2 and 1" square drive.
3/8 and 3/4 are not commonly used and 1/2 square drive is the most popular by far.

Cheers , Pete.
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Old 02-09-2009, 06:16 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Ah the age old debate continues.
One point Americans seem to miss is they are already using the metric (ten based system) every time they spend money. I am talking about Dollars and Cents !

Here we changed in the 1970's for weights and measures and for currency it was 14 February , 1966.

The currency was parallel for a while and gradually the Pounds , Shiilings and Pence English based system was changed over the simpler Dollars and Cents system.

The weights and measures was the same and most people changed quickly.
The next generation now in their late 20's and early 30's have no concept of pounds and ounces or of gallons and pints.
For them it is all metric measurement.

The TV weather was one of the first to be changed and then Government measures (land areas , weights of wheat and wool etc) and finally cars and private products.

That said economic interia had a part to play and there are still some items on the market which are "metricated"
Car tyres for instance , some ball bearings are still in the 1/4" and some items coming in from the US are built in non metric and sold here as a metric items.
You can still but a half inch socket driver but it is sold as "12.5 mill" and many housing related products are the same.
Sheet ply is still 4 x 8 ft sheets 3/4 in thick. Tiles are still 6x6" or 12x12" and some liquids are still converted. 375 ml is common (8 ounces).

By the way the litre is one kilogramme.

I think the comments by NachtRitter above sum it up fairly well.

Cheers , Pete.

Last edited by Peter7307; 02-09-2009 at 06:23 PM..
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Old 02-09-2009, 08:38 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Piwoslaw View Post
The switch wouldn't be that hard, I guess.
You cannot do it completely because every machine tool, power tool, and the vast majority of anything that has been designed and manufactured by US companies in the past 80 years used inches.

Those of us that do design work for foreign manufacturers simply end up converting back and forth between either measurement system.

There's really no benefit or downside to either system, and I don't see either one becoming universally dominant any time soon. It could be advantageous for industry segments to agree to standardize though since that could reduce supply costs.

I end up using both every day at work. All I need to do is keep an online calculator handy.

Last edited by captainslug; 02-09-2009 at 08:44 PM..
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Old 02-10-2009, 01:27 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Frank Lee View Post
I HATE having to buy two sets of wrenches, two sets of sockets...
Don't get into old British sports cars, then, 'cause you'll have to get a third set, in Whitworth sizes.

And in the "go figure that one out" department, I had to put a new alternator belt on the '88 Toyota pickup yesterday, and of course they designed it so you have to take off the fan and A/C belts first. So I'm trying & trying to get a wrench on the A/C tensioner: 17mm's too big, 15mm too small, and I don't think I've ever seen a 16mm. So finally I get out the other set, and guess what? 5/8 fits perfectly.

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