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I often quote values in base 120, as well as in base 10. This little note will assist you in understanding stray forms that may appear in the text.

The numbers are written in groups of four, or in pairs, separated by a dot, eg 985 1016 or Sometimes, these will be followed by (dec: 16777216). All of these numbers are the same.

The radix ("decimal point")for the base is the colon, so 3.5 would be written as 3:60

Numbers that are in decimal written 100 to 109 are in twelfty, written V0 to V9, and called "teenty" to "teenty-nine". This prevents confusion between *tenty and twenty.

Numbers that are in decimal written 110 to 119 are in twelfty, written E0 to E9, and called "elefty" to "elefty-nine". This prevents confusion between *eleventy and seventy.

The number 1.00 or 100 is called "one hundred", the nunber 1.0000 or 1 0000 or 1.00.00 is called "one thousand". The next two powers are called "one cention" and "one million", although the "cention" may also be said as "hundred thousand". The twentyfourth power of two is then, nine cention, eightyfive thousand, ten hundred and sixteen, or just the places, "nine, eightyfive, ten, sixteen".

Digits are always read out in pairs, so one says pi is "three point sixteen, eleftyeight, eleftythree, ..." , never "three point one six eleven eight eleven three ..."


The ancient Germanic nations had a system where a hundred is 12 decades. This is a variation on the indo-European decimal tradition, but the celts and the Iranians also varied from this.

In Germanic reckoning, a hundred was six scores, and the thousand is 10 such hundreds. The word thousand means "ten hundred". Old English and Gothic have words to refer to whether the count is done in decimal or 120, where "short", or "teentywise" meaning the decimal forms, and "long" or "twelftywise" meaning the base-120 forms.

Long hundreds (120) and long thousands (1200) survive as count units to this day.

My interest in the base stems from the factors, not only of this number, but also of 119 and 121. Taken together, a very large number of numbers have terminating recriprocals, and a lot more have relatively short periods. For example, 1/10! is 0:0000.0057.1717.1717.1717.....

Copyright 2002 Wendy Krieger

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