James Surowiecki has written a history lesson about technological standardisation for Wired. He claims that standards have had large economic and technological effects. OK, I agree. But he gives too much credit to just one man, William Sellers, who he calls a legend and the finest tool builder of his time.
Surowiecki makes out that Sellers’s proposal for a new screw thread standard was a revolutionary advance on the established Whitworth design, but I am not convinced. And was the introduction of yet more incompatible standards such a triumph? Still, I enjoyed reading this ripping yarn — here’s a quote from the introduction:
William Sellers knew that the end of the hand-tooled machine age was nigh. So he grabbed the manufacturing elite by the nuts and bolts and dragged them into the mass production era. A case study in the power of standards…