To metric or not to metric? Is that (still) the question?

Recently, in response to an article headline that included our good ol’ Fahrenheit temperature unit, a reader took us to task for not using the international Celsius standard.

That sparked a conversation about the U.S.’s continued use of the imperial system of measurement, both in the wider culture but especially in the design engineering world.

So what do you, our Engineering Exchange members, think? Is it worth it to revisit the subject of using only metric units, or do we continue to accommodate both metric and imperial units?

And what about the wider culture? Do we start with teaching our children only the metric system from a very early age and let them lead the way? Do we begin to calculate kilometers per liter instead of mpg?

Tell us what you think.

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Comment by Ross Huber on June 15, 2011 at 1:46pm


What does the White House have to do with units?  This is the "engineering exchange", not the  "knee jerk political rambling exchange".  You are patriotically defending a British system of units anyway. 

Comment by Roger Davies on June 15, 2011 at 12:57pm

Andrew: What has this to do with going metric? Oh, that's right. NOTHING!

To answer your question, YYYY-MM-DD, because of the COMPUTER! Of course, I'm sure a good programmer could come up with a way to do it MM-DD-YYYY.

Don't ya just love "gotcha" questions?

Comment by Dana Patelzick on June 15, 2011 at 12:31pm

Inch or Metric:

In the military artillery range in meters, grenade have a killing diameter in meters,  bullets in mm and etc.

Autos foreign and domestic are metric.

Airplanes - inch-pound-sec

our business - metric

Some semiconductor equipment manufactures - inch-pound-second, others Metric

In space we have some metric and some inch and some robots buried on Mars because of confusion.

What do other people do?  Let me know and I will compile it.

Comment by Andrew Dreasler on June 15, 2011 at 12:27pm
Roger, let me ask you a quick question; when you include a revision date in a filename on the computer, how do you type it in? MM-DD-YYYY (American style), DD-MM-YYYY (European style), or YYYY-MM-DD?  Also, which of those systems appear best for keeping files organized by date in a file browser window?
Comment by Karl Zemlin on June 15, 2011 at 12:23pm

Is there any benefit to sticking with current standards, beyond the fact that it means we don't need to change?  Does anyone really feel we are better off with the US as an island of inches in a metric world?

Comment by Roger Davies on June 15, 2011 at 11:54am


I'm all for the metric system. It's the changing things that do not need to be changed, just to comply with SI.


And I WILL NOT apologize for being PATRIOTIC! If you want apologies for being American, look only to the White House!

Comment by Leszek Szostak on June 15, 2011 at 11:15am
Comment by Andrew Dreasler on June 15, 2011 at 6:44am

Exactly, Miles, it all boils down to inertia, and 'fear of change.'


What was that line Abe Simpson had against new measurement systems?  Something like 'My car gets eight chains to the hogshead and that's the way I likes it.'

Comment by Miles Budimir on June 15, 2011 at 6:25am

@ Donald: Are you sure your name isn't Colbert?  :)


So it sounds like the biggest obstacles to making the full switch to metric are inertia, the perceived costs to business and society, with a nationalist frosting on top. To Andrew's point, maybe the best solution is, again, to start fresh and let "legacy" equipment become obsolete. It's a slow process, yes, but no massive change like this happens overnight. 


And then, in a few years, we'll see swap meets where folks bring out socket sets in inches and marvel at the strangeness of our ancestors...

Comment by Karl Zemlin on June 14, 2011 at 6:21pm
There are costs either way.  Big changes in business, regardless of their nature, can be costly - but necessary.  Changing CAD systems, implementing PLM, changing MRP systems - we've all seen them - and we've all survived.  How can the US win in a global economy by refusing to adopt the dominant, global standard?  From what I can see, the reasons to NOT convert are all VERY short sighted.  Many other countries have converted to metric and the world hasn't come to an end for them.


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