Ford may have initiated it, Ttemple, but Carter pushed it. And I remember he was ridiculed for it. When Reagan ditched it, I remember people saying it was one more dumb Carter idea down the drain. There is a good portion of the U.S. population that prides itself on keeping its old habits.
Jon, thanks for taking up this subject again. Seems like I've been seeing this discussion come and go for most of my life, and I keep wondering why we haven't adopted this set of standards. At minimum, we should be using both. If we do that for a generation or so, making the switch to metric would be less painful. I agree with Dave, increasing diversity in the population will help push us toward this goal.
Jon, you are "Spot-On". The switch has already been made; if only subliminally. Like anything, waiting for the "official" launch shouldn't affect your own personal efforts. "Switch" to the Metric System-? We already have. Don't you think synonymously in length now-? (Hmmm ... .030"... that's 3/4mm ...) Don't you have two sets of socket wrenches-? A digital caliper that switch-toggles the LCD from English to Metric-?
As you pointed out, as scientists and engineers we were subject to thinking "metric" in college, and just never switched it OFF. I liken this integrated thought process of English/ Metric to the language here in South Florida, where the huge Latin population has presence on TV networks, Billboard and Radio. Commonly referred to as "Spanglish" the language here crosses the cultures. I look at English/Metric the same way. Maybe we can coin a phrase here: Metglish, or perhaps Englic!!
But, if the US goes metric, what will I do with all the unit conversion apps that I've grown accustomed to?
In my job, metric is already king. English units offer me nothing other than inconvenience and confusion (for compound units). My material and component selection tasks would be easier if all suppliers included metric parameters by default.
I agree, metric all the way! (but I don't need the government to tell me which side of my ruler to use...)
I believe that in the Carter administration we did "switch" to metric. The Reagan administration later abandoned it. That is when all of the car makers made the switch, and they didn't bother to "switch" back after Reagan repealed the Carter initiative. (That's the way I remember it anyhow.)
I checked myself - it was actually Ford: (from some article)
"Gerald Ford signed the Metric Conversion Act on December 23, 1975"
"The 1975 Act didn't last very long. You can imagine that American scientists, who had long been using metric units to describe their work to others in the international scientific community, were excited about the conversion.A Metric Board was created by the law to oversee the switch, complete with PSAs and jingles about metric measurements. But your parents and mine decided they weren't in the mood to learn anything new that decade, and public opposition the process of officially converting to the metric system (called metrication). The result was a law passed under Reagan that repealed the metrication in 1982."
It seemed like the US was ready for the switch in the Seventies, but Congress just couldn't force the change. We are somewhat reluctant to change in any form, just look at the huge expense in using paper dollar bills. We have stacks of coins minted and ready to go, but the masses aren't ready to change.
We recently switched to metric units at my job. But very few people have internalized the metric system, and most of us still need to convert dimensions into inches in order to think about them practically. For stress calculations, I've found that some of my co-workers convert all of the units into inches, calculate the stress in psi, then convert back to MPa.
On the other hand, my kids grew up in El Salvador, and tend to think mostly in metric units. I think the increasing diversity of the U.S. population is one factor that will help push us along the path towards the metric system.
One of my favorite / least favorite subjects We really are at a disadvantage in the US. I used to work for a German company. I loved the drawings and all of the metric hardware. It was so simple, most of the dimensions were in multiples of 10. You could do the math in your head. But, now try to design in the US with off the shelf raw material in millimeters. There is no 10 millimeter plate, okay let's use 3/8" thick, but wait that's 9.525 mm. The design is off to a bad start already. Until, the raw materials become metricized we will still be behind the eight ball. I don't see that happening anytime soon. And pipe, that's another can of worms, but the EU has never fully metricized theirs either, so don't feel too badly about that.
In 1970, everyone writing in trade magazines, such as this one, was in agreement that metrification was happening now. Even the Cincinatti Reds marked their outfield wall distances in meters, with feet as a secondary unit. Well, a small amount of metrification occurred in the next 15 years or so as I remember having to buy metric wrenches for my 1985 Chevrolet. For the alternator and another driven accessory, I still needed 1/2" and 9/16" wrenches though. Now, it seems that our automobile industry has completely metrified. My company supplies industrial bearings to both end users through distribution and OEMs directly. Talking with the former, we speek in inches and pounds. With the latter, it's millimeters, kilograms and Newtons. The Thyssen-Krupp company has opened two steel mills on Mobile Bay, Alabama, and they have dictated 100% conformity to metric units. This was extended to sub-contractors, who were not allowed to use adjustable crescent wrenches during construction of the mills.
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