Today when you easily get light bulbs to fit you lamp; when 35mm is the universally accepted film size for all cameras; and your ATM card works internationally in all ATM machines, its hard to imagine a time when almost nothing was standardized.
Based on relics found, standardization can be traced back to the ancient civilizations of Babylon and early Egypt. The earliest standards were the physical standards for weights and measures. As trade and commerce developed, written documents evolved that set mutually agreed upon standards for products and services, such as agriculture, ships, buildings and weapons. Initially, these standards were part of a single contract between supplier and purchaser. Later, the same standards came to be used across a range of transactions forming the basis for modern standardization.
After the industrialization of the early nineteenth century, the absence of standardization was causing significant inefficiencies and endangering public safety. Some examples include varying railroad track widths, causing timely delays due to changing of wheels at connecting points; boiler explosions reaching a high of 1,400 in 1910 and incompatible fire-hose connectors between citieshindering fire companies from surrounding cities to assist fighting massive fires. These and other events resulted in successful standardization efforts from which we benefit.
As time and technology progressed so did standardization. Today, standards setters seek to achieve uniformity at great precisionthe smallest micro-deviation from perfect tolerances can cause sattalites to go off course and airplanes to malfunction.
In todays society, standardization provides order and convenience. Its the reason why our PCs and laptops can be networked, our phone calls go through, our power stays on, and so much more.
Over the past 100 years, standardization has expanded beyond manufacturing to service industriesfrom engineering departments to executive offices. Per the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), standardization today goes beyond product specifications and requirements to include global issues such as healthcare, environment and safety. Standards are fundamental to ensuring success for organizations that use them and creating a better way of living for all.
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