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Screw standards

Tuesday 26 March 2002

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.

Screw tap

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…
filed under Technology + Tools

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