Ionic Column     in exile
by David Parry
Englishman David Parry lived, worked and played in Tokyo from 1980 to 1994 and was a member of TPC from
1986. He was Newsletter Publisher from late 1988 to early 1990. The Ionic Column has been going since
early 1992. It even won a prize and an honorable mention back in 1992. Currently based in Düsseldorf
and working as a translator, David Parry returns to Japan electronically via the Internet.
The Deutschmark ceases to be valid as of today, as I write. The Dutch guilder has already
become part of financial history, expiring on January 31st, and the French franc joins the
Deutschmark and the other departing European currencies on February 28th. The changeover
phase has not been that remarkable, since the old money virtually disappeared within a
couple of weeks of the introduction of the Euro. The hapless cashiers at the bank counters
and supermarket tills bore the brunt of the change. At the beginning of January, it was a
common sight to see people tendering the old familiar DM notes in shops and receiving a
handful of bright and shining new coins in exchange, generally after long delays while the
cashier hurriedly figured out how much of the new money was to be given back after being
given Deutschmarks. Since this was only going to be for a short time, nobody bothered to
set up the tills to calculate between the currencies. From a computing point of view, that
kind of thing is not all that difficult, but the devil is in the details, as always, and I
have grave doubts that the majority of cash registers can be programmed in this way.
Perhaps the shops catering to tourists in the UK will go to the trouble, since the Euro
will now form the vast majority of the foreign currency that they will get from European
Talking of tourist money, in many parts of the world the US dollar is a de facto emergency
currency, but also one of the most often counterfeited. The old 50 dollar note was a
favorite for forgers, since it did not have the various devices such as a metallic thread
to thwart attempts at copying it. I believe that it was even copied by means of a color
Xerox machine, the results being good enough apparently to fool the less alert. Now that
really shows how much progress has been made in copiers over the years. Evidently there
must be a new 50 dollar note in circulation, as I saw an interesting scene at a filling
station near Brunswick on my way back to Düsseldorf just after New Year, before the Euro
notes were widely available. At that time the Euro notes were not available in Poland, but
the money changers refused to take the Deutschmark after December 31st. A girl from the
Ukraine was trying to pay for a tankful of best German fuel with a picture of General
Grant, and the cashier was explaining (in English, evidently the only common language in
this case) that he would not accept the old notes, and for that matter, he only wanted
German money, be it the trusty old Deutschmark or the shiny new Euro. I left before the
little contretemps was resolved, so I don't know how it ended.
A comment in passing; the Deutschmark note that was commonly forged was the 20 DM note,
and the best fakes came from Bulgaria. Needless to add, machines to check banknotes are
doing a good business. Yet another application of computer technology, which relies
heavily on pattern recognition as far as I know. The newer banknotes use metallic strips
to weed out the more simplistic fakes, such as those produced on color copiers.
As in the UK in 1971, for a short time all the money was brand new. The new and somewhat
gaudy banknotes with a broad silver strip; I must say that I preferred the more satin-like
finish of the old banknotes, and the Euro banknotes seem to get crumpled rather quickly,
but the banks say that they are easier to handle by machine. And these days, money is
increasingly handled by machine. The Euro looks somewhat like the last issue of the French
franc, which I encountered on a trip to Alsace about four years ago. The coins are
somewhat confusing; the UK always had at one least one odd-shaped coin, such the seven-
sided 50p coin that was discontinued a few years ago because it was physically too large
and heavy, and currently there is the more petite multi-sided 20 p coin. The 1 and Euro
coins are two-color, gold and silver, and the colors are reversed for the two
denominations, but I have trouble telling them apart, even though the 2 Euro coin is
slightly larger. Incidentally, the 1 Euro looks very much like the Polish zloty, which is
also a two-color coin, and I cannot help wondering if some Slavonic soul has not noticed
the same when trying to feed a vending machine. Back in Japan, I seem to recall that some
foreign coin--was it an Iranian one?--fooled vending machines into thinking that a 100 yen
coin had been fed into its maw. Since a Euro is worth about four zloty, it would be a
problem here if the machines cannot tell the difference, but to date I have not heard that
this is the case.
It is not all just e-payments, of course, and payments by computer. I got my first Euro
notes the same way nearly everyone else, out of a bank ATM. Unfortunately it is not easy
to generate small change or to get coins in this way, and some of the vending machines had
problems with the changeover. One example: the ticket machines for the local buses and
trams (the same tickets for all types of transport) would not accept the new 20 coin and
would not give change if you paid too much. Most people did not have enough small change
to feed the machines, and not surprisingly they gave up. By now there seems to be enough
small change in circulation, and in any case the machines were adjusted again after a
couple of weeks. The one thing that I miss here is the type of machine in Japan that
swallowed a thousand yen bank note and spat out yen 100 yen coins in exchange.
But at least you don't have to worry about small change to make a phone call over here;
the number of phone boxes diminishes daily, thanks to mobile phones, and most of those
still in place only accept phone cards. And yes, the old ones became useless on January
1st. I have a couple of old phone cards that I was not able to trade in, but at least one
of them was a present, and I hardly ever use the public phones now that I have a mobile
For the moment shops are mostly showing prices in both DM and Euro, but that will cease
now. The Dutch only had a month to make the changeover, and perhaps that was long enough.
The whole thing reminds me of decimalisation in the UK back in 1971, when the money
changed overnight. But not entirely; the pound remained the same, and two of the larger
coins remained in use for about another 15 years. We still had to adjust to a new system
of calculating prices, and there were a number of opportunists who did some sharp
calculations at the expense of the long-suffering public. I have noticed here that in some
cases prices have been calculated on a 1 : 1 basis, which is a bad joke in view of the
fact that the Euro is worth almost exactly twice as much as the trusty old Deutschmark.
And back to computer-related topics.
Once again Outlook Express is refusing to receive e-mail except with considerable
prodding, although it sends e-mails quite happily. I got Lotus Notes installed quite
easily, but setting it up is another matter. It is a bit different from the average e-mail
program, and I am finding that it is far easier to have such programs set up by somebody
who is familiar with them rather than mess around for hours. I know that the AJ is a
publication for people who love to play around with computers, but I find increasingly
that much of the technical stuff is very time-consuming and not always successful. I spent
the best part of a Saturday last month reinstalling Windows on both PCs, which temporarily
resolved the Outlook Express problem, but in the end it did not produce anything much.
My next task is to upgrade the e-mail PC with a new motherboard and CPU to get it to run a
bit faster. I bought a new motherboard via eBay Germany and will hunt down a Pentium III
chip in the next few days. It seems clear that the prices jump quite a bit for a PIII at
the 450 - 500 MHz mark, so that is what I expect to get. The same applies to a complete
system, which I will also look for before too long. The price difference between a
motherboard and CPU on the one hand, and a complete PC on the other hand, is not all that
great in view of the extras that you get as well, such as the case and power supply, not
to mention CD-ROM drives and maybe a hard disk drive as well.
And when work permits, I need to get my new domains up and running. At the moment I get
nagged from time to time by the company that sold me the domains to pay to get them ready
for use, which is a bit odd, as I made one payment already. I need to check my credit card
statements to see what is up.
A matter of concern for me at the moment is Trados. I have used it a bit more, but cannot
get the terminology module to work properly. For that reason I have arranged to go on a
training course organized locally by someone who is familiar with the program, and I hope
to be able to work with the program more effectively before long. But the comments I heard
confirmed my fears that Multiterm, the terminology module, is a real beast to use if you
want to add terminology, and it is very time-consuming to add large numbers of new terms.
Or small numbers, for that matter. Some of the other programs out there are much better in
But Trados looks set to become the WinWord of the Translation Memory world. The main
competitor was Transit, which costs about as much and was quite widely used, but now it
seems to be slipping in favor of Déjà Vu, which is highly recommended by many users. Both
of these programs are compatible with Trados and it is possible to use Trados terminology
databases in these programs. It all sounds a bit like editing files within Word Perfect
and saving them again in DOC format.
A commitment to Trados means that I can rule out any thoughts of using Linux and Star
Office, since Trados uses WinWord macros and supplies a set of its own when it is
installed. Star Office does not have the macro facility, so I would have to use one of the
other TM programs. No doubt the same applies if one wishes to use Wordfast, which again
relies entirely on WinWord macros.
For the moment, Trados does not run under Windows XP, or more precisely, under Office XP,
since the macro feature has been changed yet again. That is another reason for me to hold
off from Windows XP. And the final reason is that my new Grundig electronic dictation
system does not seem to be supported by Windows XP either, but it works just fine under my
Windows 98. And really fine: I love it. But time and space are running out, so I'll
comment more on the Grundig next month.
Comments or feedback or more information? A burning desire to be quoted in print?
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March , 2002
The Newsletter of the
Tokyo PC Users Group
Tokyo PC Users Group,
Post Office Box 103,
Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo 150-8691, JAPAN