Archive for August, 2010

Banking technology from the past

August 11, 2010

I share my first name, Martin, with a town in Slovakia.  Spelt backwards, it’s the name of a fertiliser.  And until 1970 Martins Bank was a High Street bank based in Liverpool but with branches .  My grandparents, who had lived in Merseyside, had been customers of Martins Bank.  When it was absorbed into Barclays, my grandfather, who never liked change, was disappointed that not only had he become a customer of the much bigger, impersonal, Barclays bank but they tried to encourage him to get one of their then-new credit cards.

There is now an archive of Martins Bank material on the web and it is remarkably informative on the bank’s use of technology in the 1950s and 1960s – click on the ‘technology’ entry on the menu on the left to find out more.  I’m particularly interested to see that Martins were early adopters of ATMs but not at all certain whether the public would ever accept them


Information numeracy and literacy

August 11, 2010

Another of this summer’s press stories was one of the tabloid papers announcing that petrol prices were going up and that this would add £20 per month to drivers’ fuel bills.  My reaction to this is to wonder how much the notional driver referred to in the headline was in fact spending.

Admittedly I use my car fairly lightly, but I typically fill up with petrol about once every three weeks and buy about 50 litres each time.  So that’s just about 70 litres per month on average.  I’ve recently been paying £1.18/litre: the article mentioned prices going up to £1.20 and let’s make the charitable assumption that it’s talking about an increase of 5p/litre since I have seen prices as low as £1.15 in a few places.  So that would mean an increase in £3.50/month in my fuel bills.

Of course there are doubtless people who buy six times as much petrol in a month as I do, which would lead them to spend an extra £21/month.  But I’d suggest that they are the exception, and that this is a news story which needs to be read with some thought given to the numbers involved.


August 10, 2010

One of the distinctions between generation X (people born 1964 and 1982) and generation Y (born since 1982) is that generation X-ers are likely to have some memory of the cold war.  Which also means that they may remember the Kremlin as being synonymous with the most secret machinations of the Russian government.  So it’s interesting to see that the Kremlin now has a twitter account

MPs and email

August 10, 2010

It’s August, which is traditionally when the British media turns its attention to inconsequential stories, and the case of one of this year’s new MPs not publishing his email address has surfaced, for example at

the risk of annoying everybody I think Mr Raab is wrong not to put his email address on the site – though as he points out parliamentary email addresses follow a standard format so it’s easy to work out what it is.  Even if he prefers to be contacted through an online form, it should be possible to send an email as a fall-back, not least because if all your sent emails go into a sent items then it’s easy to keep track of exactly what you have sent to others.

But I also can’t help feeling that the response of the 38 degrees website and the media is excessive.  Essentially, the decision to use a website form rather than an email address to invite responses seems to be a technical one about how to deal with vast amounts of email.  I get email from various conference organisers, and bizarrely from a dance theatre in Chicago, which might be regarded as borderline Spam but probably originated through somebody having a sincere belief that this might be of interest to them.  Apparently Mr Raab gets emails from numerous pressure groups who aim to include every MP on their circulation list, and I can understand that he might want to keep these separate from emails from his constituents.  A superficial reading of the story would suggest that he doesn’t want to hear from his constituents and/or doesn’t want to use electronic communication, neither of which appears to be true.  If anything, his preference for comments on his blog suggests that he’s working in a web 2 world, and not a web 1 world where everybody relies on email,