Decimal measures to oust inches and miles

But seriously folks. The article below was an April fool joke but the decimal tape measure is real. In Britain surveyors did use the decimalised foot before going metric. Clearly they recognised the advantages of a decimal system but realised that the metric system proper had much more to offer. The tape featured in the article is in fact American where they still use old fashioned units of measurement. They too clearly see the advantages of decimal in measurement, so the next step is …

“Following the recent consultation by the National Weights and Measures Laboratory (NWML), in which Weights and Measures legislation has been reviewed, Metric Views has learned that the Government is to propose a radical solution to the problem that has resulted from the excruciatingly slow and piecemeal approach to metrication in the UK, namely that of running two incompatible measurement systems side-by-side.

Acknowledging the benefits that the decimal-based metric system has brought to UK manufacturing and industry, the Weights & Measures Review Committee has concluded that a single decimal-based measurement system should now be used for all official purposes. However, in a compromise apparently designed to appease imperial die-hards, the metre will be dropped in favour of the foot as the base unit of the UK’s official measurement system. The metric system’s decimal prefixes will be retained and new subunits will be introduced. Thus, a thousandth of a foot will be known as a “millifoot”, and one thousand feet will be known as a “kilofoot”.

Commenting on the outcome of the consultation, a Government spokesperson said, “We are following through, to the logical outcome, both the desire for a single easy-to-use decimal-based measurement system, and the reluctance of successive governments to fully adopt the metre for all official purposes. The new decimal-foot system will bring an end to the difficulties of doing even simple calculations in imperial units”. The spokesperson went on to say, “Current road signs are also a mess, with no apparent logic as to when a short distance should be expressed in yards or when it should be expressed as a fraction of a mile – neither of which corresponds to the decimal miles shown on car odometers”.

To help the public adjust as quickly as possible to the new measurement system, the Government will commence an immediate conversion programme for all UK road signs. All short distances will be shown in feet, with longer distances shown in kilofeet. Height and width restrictions will be shown in decimal feet to the nearest 0.1 feet. Speed limits will be set in feet per second, with the new motorway speed limit set at 100 ft/s. Tape measures with decifeet (10ths of a foot) and centifeet (100ths of a foot) units will also be made available from 1 April 2008. All tape measures with inches or centimetres will then be withdrawn from general sale during the following 12 months; thus ending the UK’s odd stance of using two systems of measurement on its ‘standard’ tape measures.”


12 thoughts on “Decimal measures to oust inches and miles”

  1. Oh Yes, I like it!!!!!!
    But only until 1200hrs after which we will revert to boring old metric


  2. April Fools! You had me going until I saw the 04-01 implementation date.


  3. This is not a scoop at all. The European Council has been aware of this for some time and has even (since 2007 – the 50th anniversary of the EU), recommended to other EU countries to educate their public about our new system.

    In France where I live, motorists are being advised of our new speed limit (100 ft/second) for if & when they drive to the UK, incidentally they call it 100 pps (pieds par seconde).

    I also heard that stones will no longer be 14lb, changing soon to 10 decipounds.


  4. There is one radical solution – a solution that I know was used in South Africa and that I believe was used in Australia, New Zealand and many other countries – the prohibition of the sale or manufacture of measuring devices that are calibrated in imperial units. A few people whinged, but in the case of South Africa (of which I had experience) it was generally realised that this was the way forward.

    While it is true that many measuring devices calibrated in imperial (or rather customary) units could be imported from the USA, anything with quarts, pints or gallons would be suspect, while the stone is not used in the USA.

    It should be noted that such an action is expressly permitted by the EU – Article 4 of the Units of Measurement Directive 80/181/EEC.

    Another radical solution (which might be contrary to the EU Units of Measurement Directive) would be to redefine the pound as being legally 500 g in certain specified circumstances unless the words “Pound Avoirdupois” were used in full.


  5. Be careful what you say! Sadly, I can just about imagine the UK Government introducing such as system as a “Great British Compromise”.. 😦

    What this shows is that we really do need to move the last few measures over to metric as soon as possible: the current mess is a bad April Fool joke that’s been going on for too many years already..


  6. It is a funny joke; on the other hand David is right. Such madness seems impossible, but can never be ruled out. Politicians are capable of anything. Napoleon did a thing like this in 1812 in France, which nearly killed the metric system and delayed French metrication till 1840. Under Napoleon came the ‘Systeme Usuel’ (Customary System) for use in the home and in retail trade. The decimal system was taken out in this case. The metre was divied like the yard; the pound of 500 g was divided like the avoirdupois pound. The litre was divided in eights etc. Yet in 1816 the United Kingdom of the Netherlands (The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg) decided to adopt the decimal metric system, bewcoming an oasis in a nonmetric ocean. By law of 1837 July 4 France went to the decimal metric system at last, and all nonmetric and Napoleonic second-hand metric units were banned from 1840 January 1. This marked the start of metric take off.


  7. My understanding is that in Napoleonic France there was widespread disregard of metric units – shopkeepers were using the old measures which were not fixed – the vivre d’roi (King’s pound) and the pied d’roi (King’s foot) were widely disregarded in favour of the local variant (which was often ill-defined and smaller). This was the norm in France before the introduction of the metric system.

    What Napoleon did was to kill off the livre d’roi, the pied d’roi and all their local variants in favour of a single national measure, thereby killing a cancer. Unfortunately it took many years before the patient was well enough for the metric system proper to be used.


  8. The United States’ liking for decimal systems goes back a long way.

    From the beginning, its currency was decimal, and its hundredweight has always had 100 pounds not 112. Recently, US dominance in IT has given us the 63 inch plasma TV and the 2.4 inch digital camera LCD screen – no feet or fractions here.

    Pity that the US preference for decimal has not resulted in the adoption there of a simple, rational and decimal system of measurement for all purposes.


  9. Incidentally, was this “news item” actually submitted to any newspapers, TV stations, etc?

    [Indeed it was – to all national and some provincial newspapers, and major tv news organisations.  As far as we know, none used it – Editor]


  10. No, I actually bought one of those tape measures on the internet. Decimal feet and cm. I had to throw it out to make sure I didn’t actually use it to measure something that was supposed to be inches.


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