Have you ever considered objective standards? Imagine how difficult it would be to compare things with no universal measure, or, to put it another way, imagine how chaotic portable data would be if every hardware maker used a different port configuration (not USB).
Standards are what give seemingly different objects a comparative value, standards are why most documents end with .pdf or .docx, but how these standards are developed is today’s word.
Simply put, standardisation is the process of developing and implementing standards.
Coming from the verb standardise, the root word is, of course, standard (from the Old French estandart ‘military standard, banner’), in the late 14th century meaning of ‘weight, measure, or instrument by which the accuracy of others is determined,’ though how standard reached this meaning from a more military-defined meaning is somewhat obscure.
The first known usage of the term comes from Sir Thomas Clifford Allbutt’s 1896 work, System of Medicine, where, noting medicinal standards, he states that: “The process of ‘standardisation’ which has been already adopted in two instances in the British Pharmacopœia.”
Aside from just weights and measures, Hubert Montague Crackanthorpe notes in a January 1900 issue of 19th Century that standardisation can apply to concepts like justice as well, pointing out that, “The ‘standardisation’ of punishment is not the same as its ‘equalisation’.”
Interestingly, standardisation can be standardised, with the 4 distinct levels being compatibility, interchangeability, commonality and reference.
As we all know, standards are created by consensus of different parties, whether it be governments, trade groups, users, or standards organisations; however, standardisation itself is a modern phenomenon that largely emerged from the Industrial Revolution.
Though certain rudimentary measures have existed since antiquity, large-scale standardisation actually began with Henry Maudslay’s invention of a screw-cutting lathe in 1800, allowing for standardised screw thread sizes and creating a basis of interchangeability.
From nuts and bolts changing the microeconomic landscape, the macroeconomic landscape was soon changed as well, due to globalization and trade: not only were national standards being created by the early 1900s in order to standardise domestic production, but within several years, in order to facilitate trade by easing the movement of goods and creating common weights/measures, international standards also emerged, starting with the first international standards body, the International Electrotechnical Commission which held its first meeting in London, in 1906 with representatives from 14 countries.
The International Organization for Standardization was founded in 1946 to turn into the most important international standard-setting body.