I heard someone on the radio on Saturday sying that on the 14th February 1961 was when South Africa moved off the UK's Lsd (Pounds, shillings and pence) system to the decimal currency that we know today. The person worked in a bank at the time and all banks were closed over the weekend to effect the changes to the bank records.
This was something they had to do manually because they did not have computers in those days.
It was not a particularly difficult thing to do (back then) as everyone would have been used to the Lsd system. For those of you who have been saved it here is a quick summary. 12 pence one shilling, 20 shillings one paound. Easy right?
However they would have had to update all the bank records by hand and then update the client's passbok which was their record. For days it must have been a little chaotic.
Australia went decimal on the 14th February 1966 with the UK on the 15th February 1971.
Did we need to do it? Well no but it does make for an easier life. What intrigued me is that the banks here closed for a weekend to do the changeover. Back in 1961 the population was some 17.9 million and we know that most of that would not have had a bank account or even afford it. Even many "whites" would have received physical pay packs and not a cheque at the end of the weeks work. So my best estimate is that 10% of the population would have had a bank account.
That still means 1.7 million records of individuals to update apart from all the bank accounts of the companies.
Assuming we had to do the same today would we be able to do it? well 17million people voted in the 2009 elections and that took 5 days to get the result out and with computers to assist with the tabulating of the results.
I believe it would have taken at least a week because today the brains we are turning out of school need a calculator to do basic arithmetic.
So my closing thought for you: Has the digital age improved the brain of mankind or reduced it's effectiveness?
Incidentally February was chasen as the month to convert because it is traditionally the bank's quietest month or at least it was in the 1960s