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10:45am on Sunday, 20th November, 2005:

Touching Money


The DEC-10 mainframe I grew up on had two hard drive packs accessible by users. DSKC was the main one, backed up every night; DSKB was a temporary one, not backed up so regularly. Furthermore, if you left files on it for too long without accessing them, they would be swept (ie. deleted). There was a lot more space available on DSKB, so it was an ideal place to keep large programs such as the MUD1 sources, but if we didn't access them every few days they'd be swept. So as not to suffer this indignity, we hackers therefore wrote outselves batch jobs which ran every night "touching" the files (normally by renaming them to the names they had already or setting the file protections to the ones they were already, either of which updated the last-accessed time).

Fancy having to do that to your bank account?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer is concerned that there are billions of pounds tied up in bank accounts that are dormant. These accounts are never used by their owners. The Chancellor wants the banks to close the accounts and give the money to charity.

OK, so you can see where an account that hasn't been access for 150 years but has been steadily accumulating interest might be a candidate for this. The owner isn't going to complain, unless they're a company. Maybe even a 50-year limit might work. The Chancellor doesn't want a 50-year limit though: the Chancellor wants a 3-year limit.

What?! If you don't access an account for 3 years, your money is taken and given to charity? That's outrageous. The banks are holding out for 10-15 years, but even that's not really fair. "We've given the money to Colchester Cat Rescue" is not going to work as a response to "My mother has died, and I need to withdraw the money she set aside for her funeral". If only she'd read the small print.

There's a solution, of course, which is to touch your bank accounts automatically every, say, 30 months. Enact a direct debit from one of your accounts to another and vice versa. Voila! Your accounts will last unswept until the accumulated bank charges reduce one to nothingness (which, in my experience, is when the amount in it is lower than the cost of the stamp on the letter telling you the bank is closing it).

I have books in my attic I haven't read for 15 years, but I know they're there and I may read them again. I don't think that the government should be able to insist I give them to charity for being "dormant", and I don't see that they should be able to do the same with my money. If I had any.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).