Why didn't the United States go to the metric system?
Probably, each of you has been surprised more than once by the fact that the size of the screens of digital devices is indicated in unusual units. It has even become a tradition and it never occurs to anyone to ask why not use ordinary centimeters instead of inches, which, it would seem, have long and firmly taken their place in the history textbook?
The thing is that the United States and several other countries (unlike the rest of the world) have not switched to the metric system, preferring their traditional units of measurement to international meters and kilograms. And since many of the largest technology corporations are located in the United States, inches familiar to this country have spread in products all over the planet. After all, everyone knows in which country the city of Cupertino is located, where the head office of Apple, the company that created the first mass smartphone on Earth, is located. There are other corporations in the United States that are pushing high technology forward. And along with high technology, they are moving into the broad masses and old inches.
At the very beginning of our story, some clarity should be introduced. There is an opinion that the SI system was never approved in the USA. She is so invisible in this country that a person who does not go into too much detail can get such an impression. But it is absolutely not true! A number of acts have been adopted that approve it as the official system of weights and measures of the United States. How, then, did it happen that Americans still use the old units of measurement? The fact is that all the adopted acts are advisory (rather than mandatory) for private business and ordinary residents of the country. And this means that every American has the right to measure in familiar inches and weigh in pounds familiar from childhood. And this right is used not only by people, but also by giant corporations.
Metric system in the USA today
In 1975, the Metric Conversion Act was passed by Congress, the essence of which was the same as the recommendations of standards specialists, but with only two important differences. Rigid time frames were not set, and the transition to the metric system itself assumed voluntariness. As a result, the country's schoolchildren began to pass the SI system, and some companies attempted "metrification", which turned into fruitless propaganda, since there were no real actions to switch to metric units of measurement.
It turned out that in the United States units of measurement are used, which are already forgotten in the rest of the world. An increasing number of consumers of American products began to demand that the goods supplied be accompanied by a specification in the metric system. As American companies opened more and more manufacturing facilities in Europe and Asia, it became necessary to decide which units to use: metric or traditional American.
Recognizing these complexities, in 1988 Congress amended the Metric Conversion Act to make the metric system the "preferred United States system of weights and measures for trade and commerce." As of late 1992, federal agencies were required to use metric units when measuring quantities related to purchases, grants, and other matters related to business activity. But these instructions concerned only state structures. Private business remained free to use the usual system of measurement. Attempts have been made to interest small businesses in the metric system, but little progress has been noted.
Today, only about 30% of products manufactured in the USA are “metrified”. The pharmaceutical industry in the United States has been referred to as "strictly metric" because all specifications of the country's pharmaceutical products are specified exclusively in metric units. On drinks there are designations both in metric and in traditional for the USA systems of sizes. This industry is considered "soft metric". The metric system is also used in the US by film, tool and bicycle manufacturers. Otherwise, in the USA they prefer to measure the old fashioned way. In ancient inches and pounds. And this applies even to such a young industry as high technology.
What prevents a highly developed industrial country from switching to a system of measures and weights generally accepted on our planet? There are a number of reasons for this.
Conservatism and costs hinder the transition to the metric system
But the high costs of transition alone cannot explain the cool attitude of Americans towards the metric system. Psychological factors play their own, and by no means the last, role in holding back the country's transition to the international system of weights and measures. The stubborn conservatism of Americans makes them resist any innovation, especially those that come from foreigners.