The wonderful Decimal World
Observe: a wonderful world where some Arabs invented names for quantities up to nine. And, even more wonderful, a name for nothing: zero. Who do you suppose decided that nothing needed a name. It was lucky for us because, with the nine names for small quantities, it became the decimal system we use for counting.
We, most of us, have ten fingers. We could name our fingers, pinkie, ringy, middie, pointer, thumby left, and pinkie, ringy, middle, pointer, thumby right. And we could use them for counting too.
A transaction in the pinky counting world might go like this.
"How much is that doggie in the window? The one with the wiggly tail?."
"That doggie is pinky right dollars."
"That’s a lot for a three legged dog."
"Well, he is marked down from pointer right dollars."
"I’ll give you thumby left dollars for him."
How much easier it is to know that the dog is six dollars, marked down from nine, but the offer of five dollars is acceptable.
I really appreciate the decimal system when I try to do math problems using binary numbers, or hexadecimal numbers. In binary counting there is only one and zero. Binary counting goes 1,10,11,100,101,110,111,1000,1001, 1010,1011,1100,1101,1110, and 1111...etc. Complicated? Not compared to hexadecimals with numbers 1 through F. ("F?," I hear you ask. "How did F get into it?")
Well, numerals in hexadecimals are 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,A,D,C,D,E,F. Counting beyond F brings you to 10,11, ...etc… to 19, 1A,1B,1C,1D,1E, 1F. ("effteen" if you please) followed by 20, 21, and on through 2F. ("Twenty-eff")
Can you guess what comes after "twenty-eff"? If you said "thirty", good for you.
(For extra credit…what comes after FF (‘effty-eff") ?)
There can be as many numbering systems as your imagination allows. I once made up a numbering system with the names of playing cards as numerals. Counting started one-club, one-heart, one-spade, one-diamond, two-club, through king-diamond, joker, one-club-oh, one-club-one-club, one-club-one-heart. Try doing arithmetic in that system. Just learning your basic combinations for addition would kill you: for instance, what is jack-heart plus joker? (one-club-Jack-club, I think, but I am not sure.)
So decimals seem easy in this ten-fingered world. So why do I get resistance when I propose a decimal clock.
Present day clocks use three numbering systems: decimals up to sixty seconds and minutes, twelves for hours, and binary for am-pm. Quick: how long is it from 9:57 am to 1:18 pm?
You may have done it (3 hours 21 minutes) but it wasn’t quick, and you had to use your fingers, admit it.
Now, my New Clock has a day divided into 10 hours not twenty-four, 0 through 9, and one hundred minutes per hour. Further there are 100 seconds per minute.
Time is written with three digits: 198 for example. That is almost 2 o’clock, written 200. You need seconds expressed? Use a decimal point. 198:99 comes two seconds before 200:01. It’s as easy as dollars and cents.
But can I sell the idea. No way.
People don’t like the idea of getting up a 257 to get to work at 323. Lunch time is 500 sharp to 520. Twenty new-minutes is time for a leisurely meal, since new minutes are longer than conventional minutes.
And think of counting time. Now we have to count one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, to count seconds. New seconds are shorter than conventional seconds, so you count one two three four etc for seconds. Much easier.
Dinner at 8 become fashionable again, and prime time TV viewing starts at 817. Try to get to bed by 975 though, because 257 comes early.