Member Story - Jock McIntyre
Jock McIntyre 1As one of those “baby Boomers” born in the mid forties, I have formed part of that large group of people who are an embarrassment to all of those who are not baby boomers. Probably one of the most embarrassing subjects for politicians through the years has been old age and superannuation, a subject which has been addressed (badly) by successive governments as well as those who thought they had a right to govern. No one has ever had any idea of how we will all retire with dignity and no one can agree with what age we should be when we retire. Answer? retire before you can really afford to just in case one of the efforts to kill you off actually works.

There have been many attempts to rid the world of baby boomers; some were designed to frighten us into suicide, some designed to promote heart attack or lung cancer and we all have a story.
We all know that the motor vehicles we bought when we were 16 to 20 were totally unsafe and remained that way until the next generation insisted issues be addressed. In the fifties and sixties there was almost an insistence that we should smoke cigarettes, a luxury that once we had become addicted to it, we were told it was antisocial and could even kill us if we weren’t very careful. Heroin, LSD and cocaine were going to be the ruin of a generation, but that never happened. Then suddenly we were presented with children that had rights! Surely that would send us to an early grave but no.
My story concerns my own dilemma, the metric system and the Metrication of Jock.
Like most baby boomers when we went to school, we learned about pounds, shillings and pence, pounds and ounces, feet and inches and we squared and cubed these to find acres and cubic feet. We even used British Thermal Units to tell us how warm we were. I can still remember that there is 2240 pounds in a ton or 1760 yards in a mile.  – but no one wants to ask me that any more.

Perhaps we should have been a little wary when the RAC horse power of our cars suddenly became irrelevant and we talked of cubic centimetres instead. Our power was suddenly being sold to us in “units” (kilowatts/hour) rather than therms – 100,000 British Thermal Units if anyone is interested – but no one wants to ask me that any more.

In 1964 I left school and joined the Bank of New Zealand and shortly after joining, discussion started concerning decimal currency. I was a teller in the Wellington branch the day Australia changed to decimal currency about a year before we did. I was presented with the first Australian dollar notes brought into the country and was asked to change them for New Zealand currency. They looked like play money (and still do) and I wasn’t stupid enough to fall for that. I sent him packing without any of our good money! I can still count pounds shilling and pence in my head all at once – but no one wants me to do that any more.
I left the bank and joined the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation to train as a radio technician where I met metrication square on. First, New Zealand changed to decimal currency that year – 10 July 1967 and I was busy learning about valves and transistors – oh oh yet another thing - no one wants to ask me about any more.

This was the time for me to learn a new language – the language of  metrics.

The electronic industry had nearly always measured in metric quantities and they used words like joule, newton-metre, henry and weber. Even kilogram (common enough today) was then a new expression to me but used in the industry. With all the determination in the world, I mastered the new language just in time to realise that I wanted to marry and there was no way I could afford to marry on the meagre wage I was earning. I joined a record company and sold 12 inch and 7 inch records for a year. Much more sensible and rewarding however the constant travel wasn’t really conducive to a happy marriage.
Eventually I moved into the world of engineering hand tools, lathes, extruders, punches and milling machines. The company I worked for had its roots somewhere back in the 19th century. This was my sort of company. No metrics here until I received a promotion to branch manager of Lower Hutt branch where at this time most of New Zealand’s auto industry was based. I was right at home when the manager of CB Norwood (tractor assembly plant) asked me to source all of the British Standard Whitworth nuts and bolts available in the country. This was my sort of bloke.

Then one day I woke to find the Japanese had invaded. Not the way they had intended 25 years earlier and while the influence was small to start with, it soon became quite noticeable. At first if you wanted a ½ inch drill bit, you asked for a 12.8 mm bit. “Why the change of name?” I thought. I’ve never quite figured out why we had to have such ridiculous drill bit sizes. The next arrivals were the new Isometric bolts and nuts but interestingly, they were 12 mm  no sign of a 12.8 mm bolt (or a 12mm drill bit).  Our company embraced the “new technology” and soon half our stock was imperial and half was metric so that half of our customers thought half of our stock was useless. The problem was, defining which was which.
I had a couple of small and successful businesses once I left the engineering company and before, in 1980 joining the craziest industry of them all. I’m even still silly enough to still be involved however the industry has evolved considerably since those early years.

The air conditioning industry is ruled by a few very large companies worldwide and while product from China and India is starting to make traction they have a long way to go. The really big companies, Daikin, Carrier-Toshiba, and Mitsubishi Electric have the lion’s share of the business. Back in the 1980s the American influence was more pronounced – forget Mitsubishi Electric, Daikin and Toshiba and add other Americans, Lennox and Trane. As you can imagine at that time practically all of the engineering data and information available was therefore American. The USA is just about the only country never to have embraced the metric system so the jumble of terms used in this industry was beyond belief. Even into the 1990s the only computerised engineering programmes written for the industry were written in imperial. I had converting rulers so that I could take off metric building plans converting them to feet and inches as I went. The output of the computer programme gave me the cooling and heating requirement in British Thermal Units which I then converted back to kilowatts so that my customers could understand the result. Once I had sized the piece of equipment required (in BTUs, Kilowatts and Kilojoules) I was then able to select from a range; from Australia and the middle-east in Kilowatts, from Japan in Kilojoules and from USA in BTUs.
I would then set about designing the associated ductwork and grilles or diffusers required. Most of the formula had been designed by Carrier engineers from USA although as the industry evolved, we started to receive technical books written in isometric from continental Europe and eventually from Japan. Initially I would design a system with a 12” x 12” diffuser (imported from USA) to achieve a throw of 4 metres at a speed of 25m/s from a duct outlet of 250mm square with a static pressure of 0.7” of water gauge. We used the measure inches of water gauge rather than the Japanese measure at that time which was mm of aqua (and I never found anyone who understood that measure). We eventually standardised on pascals. How simple! In New Zealand, we measured temperature in Celsius however in USA it was still measured in Fahrenheit and guess where all our quality thermostats came from?

All of these problems have gradually solved themselves through common sense and modern extremely fast computers. Most of the equations we did by hand are now just a matter of feeding in data and deciding what output is required. Push a button and there it is.  World sourcing during the 90s saw a change in the manufacturing base of most manufacturers and today much of the air conditioning equipment used in New Zealand is designed in Japan and a lot of it is even still made there. We manufacture some of the best grilles and diffusers in New Zealand now and sell them throughout the world. We manufacture top of the line air conditioning units and they compete in many countries (including China) in the world. Ducting is usually manufactured in New Zealand from insulated sheet metal although the introduction of high density styrofoam is making inroads so really the industry has given up on its mission to rid the world of baby boomers like me.
But, life’s biggest puzzle is why 40 years later we can still buy a 12.8 mm drill bit. .........................For the life of me it might be this dilemma that finally does away with me.