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Friday 23 December 2011


I was listening to the radio this morning and happened to hear the song "Billion Dollar Babies" by Alice Cooper. A track that was released in 1973 and a song i vivdly remember from my school days.

Apart from transporting me back to those days, as music so often does. It also struck me that back then a billion was a huge and pretty much unimaginable number.

I have no doubt that when i first heard that song, i probably didn't know exactly what a billion actually was and had to look it up. I can even remember discussions as to what a billion really was. Was it a thousand million, or a million million?
Even a million was a pretty big number to a fresh faced 15 year old, so a billion was mind boggling!

Fast forward 38 years and a billion is a number that is so well known now that just about everybody could tell you what it means. We all seemed to settle on a thousand million as the definition of a billion by the way.
I realise that inflation means that a billion dollars is worth nowhere near as much as it was back in those heady days of 1973, but even so....

Since the banking crash of 2008, we have all grown used to hearing the word billions being bandied about, day after day, by the media and economic commentators. And not just a billion either, but hundreds of billions. So much so, that the word billion just doesn't have the same impact that it once did. Even a few years ago.
We have become numbed to just how much money these people are actually talking about. Which is a rather scary thought in its own way.

These days though, those same commentators now regularly talk about trillions. That's a thousand billion to you and me. Now, that is a huge number. But, how much longer will it be before we have to start thinking about a thousand trillion?
How many noughts is that? It makes my mind boggle just thinking about it.

And talking about noughts. I wonder when we will need to start writing down the number 1 followed by one hundred noughts? That's called a Googol (sic) by the way.

Now, where have i heard that word before?


  1. That also brings to mind the magical hold that certain other numbers had on our imagination back then - particularly the far-off fantastical year 2000 - or the equally monumental but foreboding 1984. Both, of course, have also lost their meaning...

  2. Not so much a comment about "Billions" but about our friend Alice. Yesterday I heard several songs by Mr Cooper on the radio. More than I've heard played in one day for years, it seems. Is there a revival? Or is it just a reaction against all the wholesome holiday music being played everywhere else?

  3. Rich: I think i wrote a blog post before about 2001 & how we were all supposed to be riding around in spacecraft by then.
    I remember 1984, both as a novel & also the year. It turned out to be a bit of a damp squib really. Parts of it are coming to bear now though!

  4. Ken: Alice Cooper does seem to be having a bit of a revival doesn't he? I put it down, at least in part, to the syndicated radio shows that he does. That encourages those same stations to play his music.
    But, as you say, at least his music is a welcome change from the usual dross that we have to put up with.