I don’t see myself as a Luddite but something about the obsession for accuracy these days is starting to piss me off. When I was being educated, on the occasional times I deigned to attend that is, there was always some bright spark who could quote Pi to god knows how many decimal places. To my mind, Pi is generally 3.14 – Usually, I am more than happy with Pi being 3.
Bear with me, this is going somewhere.
It’s all the fault of the sodding electronic calculator. See back when I was younger than I ever really was, there were slide rules, and a slide rule looked like this:
I appreciate that many people reading this won’t have ever used a slide rule in anger, but the principal behind them is that most of the time, you more or less guess the answer, as opposed to have it displayed to 9 decimal places in monocolour LCD lettering. Look up a little from here… See the third scale down? Just to the right of the 3? There’s Pi marked. It’s marked roughly between 3.1 and 3.2 – It’s about 3.15 in fact. If you want to multiply Pi by 3 you pop the two numbers together on the correct scales and read off about 9.45 on the result scale; if you want to multiply it by 30, you multiply that by 10 in your head… If you want to multiply it by 3 million, you do the same only with more zeroes and your error rate has gone up considerably, but it doesn’t matter much really, does it?
Why is this annoying me? Apart from the fact that I want to shoot people who can quote Pi to more than 6 places? Well it’s the post office, that’s what it is. They have digital scales now, and when the parcel you are posting weighs 501 grammes, they charge you for over 500 grammes. Generally speaking by that point, I just rip a corner off and make them re-weigh it but even so, when did we become so obsessed with this “down the nearest gramme” accuracy? I don’t like it. Make them stop. I am not even going to start ranting about their new letter size measurement devices which very much depend on the operator’s skill at getting parcels through a little plastic measuring slot – Well I am not going to rant YET, at any rate.
I want markets back where they plonked stuff on scales and weighed it in pounds. If it was 4.4 pounds, and cost 30p a pound, they’d charge you about £1. 30 because that was roughly what 4.4 * 30 is (a slide rule would confirm this to you, if you were to ask it, especially a W.H.Smiths one with the little clear slider thing missing like most of them are these days). These days they pop things on digital scales, tell the scales that the things you want cost 78p per 100 grammes, and when it weighs 264.5g it prints a label that says £2.08 (yes, the bastards round it up too).
I blame the Common Market.