Looking for Examples of Stupid Standards

I’m researching standards — how they get set, adopted, rejected — and am on the prowl for examples of stupid standards. The real dumb ones don’t even get footnoted, so they are rare and a true prize to find.

Here’s an example I caught one night, bored out my mind, watching some antique appraisal show on PBS. A guy brought in an old phonograph — the kind with the big horn that the RCA dog listened to. The appraiser said the record player was given away by a record label (I think it was Columbia) for free to customers who agreed to buy something like a dozen records.

The catch was that the spindle that held the record on the platter was smaller in diameter than the holes on all the other records sold. Hence, the only music the customer could play was music from the record label.

It didn’t catch on.

Sort of reminded me of Intel’s old approach to peripherals. They insisted through Intelian hubris on inflicting garbage standards like the CAS Fax Modem or strange video-teleconferencing formats that only worked with their gear. The world voted with its feet and stuck to the good old Hayes AT command set and H-whatever.

When you look at the history of standards — an inch was defined as “three barley corns; a yard was the distance from King Henry the First’s hose to the end of his index finger — and then look at the politicking that goes on in a modern technology standards committee ….

Can anyone tell me why countries all use different electrical sockets and plugs? I spent a year working literally on the border of Switzerland and Italy on Lake Lugano and there was no way, no how, anybody could convince me why the Swiss plug and socket was better, safer, cheaper than the Italian version. I think I spent $500 at the Logan airport Brookstone everytime I forgot my bag of adapters.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

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