Standards gone wrong

In researching my project on the history of technology standards I came across two interesting random standards disasters.

The first is the 1904 Baltimore fire. A massive conflagration in the downtown district forced the call for backup fire fighters to go out to Washington D.C. and surrounding communities. A special train was made up in Washington to rush assistance to the overwhelmed Baltimore fire department. Upon arrival the out-of-town firefighters learned their hose couplings wouldn’t fit on the Baltimore hydrants. Lots of capacity, but no connections. This lead to the national standardization of fire hydrant couplings.

The other random disaster was the loss of the $125 million Mars orbiter in 1999 when one group of engineers used the English standard of measurement and the other groups used the Metric system. When navigational commands were transmitted to the spacecraft it spazzed and was lost forever.

Anyone know of any other significant SNAFUs due to incompatibilities where loss of life, property or sanity ensued because of plugs that didn’t fit, rulers that didn’t measure, or IT systems that couldn’t communicate? I bet there are some amazing tales of corporate mergers that foundered on the rocks because of the latter.

The Complete Mozart — 170 CDs for $150

The NYT Arts Section points to a Dutch music label’s shoebox full of CDs containing the complete works of Mozart on 170 CDs. At $150 this sounds like the bargain of the century. Here’s the Amazon link.

I’ll put this one of the wish list along with the complete unabridged Oxford English Dictionary and the complete archives of the New Yorker on an external hard drive.

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