When decimalisation was first introduced in the UK in 1971, I for one was delighted. Sadly I’m not the world’s most gifted mathematician, so for me, struggling to get my 7-year-old head around the apparent eccentricity of the ‘old’ tripartite currency system of lsd – libra, solidus, denarius, or pounds, shillings and pence – was seriously problematic when it came to doing (or more accurately failing to do) even the most straightforward of money-related sums at school.
There was just so much complicated stuff to remember – there were 12 pennies in a shilling, and 20 shillings in a pound, so 240 old pennies made a pound. That meant three columns, and lots of different complex (for me) calculations in order to find the correct answers when working out basic adding up. Then in early 1971 everything changed – everything began to be counted in multiples of ten, there were now only 100 new pence in a pound, and suddenly calculating sums made a modicum of sense at last.
Money finally started making sense – in the abstract as well as the concrete – and I found a whole new world opened out for me after that. I suppose it was the particular timing as much as anything, but the memory of the absolute enlightenment I felt in the delightful clarity of decimalisation has always remained a firm watershed moment in my mind… 🙂