Almanac

Viewpoint - May 5, 2010

Letter: How many digits needed to track a customer?

A bit of "tongue-in-cheek" observation on the status of the identification of the water meters in our fair city.

Due to the recent change in the management of our water district, it was necessary to put my account number on a check to pay the bill. Lo and behold, the number was 19 digits long! Now how does that work?

Menlo Park has a population of around 32,000. Add in the commercial parcels (I will assume 5,000) and using two as the average population per home (16,000 homes) adds up to around 21,000 water meters in the city. But to identify these 21,000 meters, 19 digits are used?

I would like to point out that 19 digits is in the order of a "quadrillion!" And that number is about 100 times the total population of our planet.

Dan Goodman, Trinity Drive, Menlo Park

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