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Roman Digital Watches?

Roman Numerals always fascinate me, especially their inconsistent representations which would frustrate any algorithm-user.

A common quandry is the representation of the number four: Should it be IIII or IV? I was taught to use the latter, while the former is what appears for four o'clock on clock faces. Why the difference?

In support of IIII, some claim that Roman Numerals developed from finger mathematics, where the number for four would use four raised fingers (visually akin to IIII).

Others, such as science fiction author Isaac Isimov, claim that the notation IV was "outlawed" because it represented the Roman god Jupiter, whose Latin name IVPPITER begins with IV. Note: people tended to avoid writing out the gods' names.

Or, some claim that the presence of the two numbers VI and IV would be visually similar and therefore confuse young children. Seems a stretch!

Other claims involve either radial or vertical symmetry, clock-maker concerns, and tradition. We will never know, unless digital watches start using Roman Numerals....

Luckily, calendars do not use Roman Numerals. For example, think back a few years ago. How should the year 1999 be written: MDCCCCLXXXXVIIII, MCMXCIX, or MIM? All are legal!

Source: Adapted from D. Feldman's A World of Imponderables, 1992, p. 541