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Which impractical standards we use only because of inertia?

  1. Sep 18, 2012 #1
    I'm curious which standards that are being used are only outcome of need of backward compatibility that, if we had to select once again would be selected differently. Any ideas?

    1) Keyboard? Dvorak vs. Qwerty? Or is it a myth? (Or should there be a separate keyboard layout for every language?)

    2) Is the voltage properly set (in my country AC 230V 50Hz)? I know that with lower voltage there is higher loss, while with higher voltage electrocution is more dangerous. Which would be optimal under contemporary technology?

    3) Any other ideas?
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 18, 2012 #2
    metric system, for the USA
  4. Sep 18, 2012 #3


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    There already are different layouts for many languages. Even US Englsih and UK English keyboards are differnet! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyboard_layout
  5. Sep 18, 2012 #4

    Chi Meson

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    For the 230V standard, are all the plugs those ridiculously large, fist-sized behmoths still? I remember seeing a power strip at my cousin's house in Glasgow, and it looked like freaking radiator.

    Score 1 for the 120V standard.

    And also to point out, with the 120V standard we can have 2-phase 240V wherever we want.

    Besides, other than electric water heaters and electric ovens, everything could operate on 24V or less. Electricity ought to enter a house at about 600V, then immediately transform down to 24 V or 12 V DC for most household things. But I'm fine actually with the way things are.

    Bravo Tesla.
  6. Sep 18, 2012 #5
    I agree that it would be better to transmit electricity at 600V. There would be less i^2R losses which would mean cheaper electricity.
  7. Sep 18, 2012 #6


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    I'm not certain, but I think some people still use the old, proprietary iPhone interface instead of the new, proprietary iPhone interface. :devil:
    While I like the fact that the US has both 120 and 240, I don't think there is any real drawback to running just 240 or 50hz vs 60hz, but after the Fukushima thing, I found out that half of Japan is 50hz and half is 60hz. That's just crazy.
  8. Sep 20, 2012 #7
    Well, I've seen such, my friend tried give me one as a gift. The only problem was that it was in German (with all those beautiful "ß" and umlauts), while I normally write in Polish or English. (Read: nice of him but not very useful) On the other hand in Poland standard qwerty is used, while Polish font is simply achieved by alt+letter.

    I'm curious whether there is significant difference in speed of writing, justifying using different layouts.

    So which other standards are used by inertia? I've read about ships which size is limited by passage in certain canals, while example Panama Canal is going to be widen, thus leaving such size more historical matter.

    Is there any optimal width for rail? Or the size of shipping container?

    Or maybe are some computer standards that are clearly used only because of reverse compability?

    How big switching to 24V/600V saving would bring? So there would be required in a flat two types of plugs, one of which would only be used for heating, right? (what about wash machine/ dish washer?)
  9. Sep 20, 2012 #8
    Death by electrocution seems not to be of great concern and loss is loss
  10. Sep 20, 2012 #9


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    If you were typing up handwritten notes, Dvorak should be faster than QWERTY. That, in itself, is an obsolete concept. People don't write handwritten notes for a typist to type up for them anymore. They type their thoughts directly into a computer using a keyboard. Assuming one thinks about what they want to say instead of spewing incoherent thoughts as fast as they occur, any speed advantage of a Dvorak keyboard is negated.

    On the other hand, a Dvorak keyboard does cause less stress on the finger and hand muscles, meaning you can post to PF 24 hours a day without having taking those annoying breaks to rest your fingers. And being able to post 24 hours a day on PF with no breaks is certainly a worthwhile benefit, seeing as no one in Politics and World Affairs would realize they were wrong if not for you.

    And a Dvorak keyboard is absolutely essential for those that want to maximize the number of incoherent posts in PW&A 24 hours a day!

    Of course, with voice recognition software, the keyboard itself could be obsolete. And then when a post was in all caps, you'd know the poster was literally yelling at you.
  11. Sep 20, 2012 #10


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    Another impractical standard due to inertia is having 360 degrees in a circle, 60 minutes in a degree, and 60 seconds in an minute.

    There should be 365.25 degrees in a circle, 60.875 minutes per degree, and 60.875 seonds in a minute. And, obviously, the number of minutes in an hour and seconds in a minute should be likewise adjusted for time, as well.

    That way, the stars in the sky would shift exactly 1 degree per night instead of only .9856 degrees per night.
  12. Sep 20, 2012 #11
    Good point, however, the link that you gave merely kept it among aggregated other accidents, thus was proving your point rather indirectly. Yes, when I found at different site death rate then I got was indeed low.

    Does it change conclusion to concerning voltage at home? Or anyway if devices are to convert current to lower voltage for their own needs it would be simpler and efficient to do that centrally for whole flat?
  13. Sep 21, 2012 #12


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    Minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries and millenia.

    Too much to remember, let's just stick to seconds, kiloseconds, megaseconds...:tongue2: at time of posting I am 739962897 seconds old which is much better to use. Damn inertia keeping things in the past.
  14. Sep 21, 2012 #13
  15. Sep 21, 2012 #14


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    I like grams. I even break my gram crackers up into 1 gram pieces.
  16. Sep 21, 2012 #15
    What about binary bits in computers? I think I read somewhere that ternary trits (internal ternary representation of numbers) have been proved to be most efficient in terms of computing speed and power usage. But I guess it's too late now...

    Feet, feet per minute, miles used in motorized aviation everywhere, but meters, meters per second, kilometers used by gliders everywhere

    Also, the "American floor" unit you use for counting floors on the other side of the ocean, where the 11+1=12 and 12+1=14 :uhh: :rofl:
  17. Sep 21, 2012 #16


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    Measuring moment of inertia in units of lb-ft^2.

    Pounds is a unit of force, not mass, and it's annoying to express mass in pounds.

    Not to mention it's a source of confusion for introductory physics students that are taught to convert from pounds to kilograms as if they were similar units, then suddenly be confronted with what a person weighs on the Moon. And a source of confusion for things such as rocket equations where when we say 'g', we mean acceleration due to gravity on the surface of the Earth, even if we happen to be on Jupiter.

    It all stems from this strange attachment to pounds - a habit Americans seem to be close to breaking off, seeing as how most Americans feel they have too many of them and would like to lose a few of them.
  18. Sep 21, 2012 #17


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    In the days of analog brodcast TV, the USA continued to use the NTSC standard ("Never Twice the Same Color") even though PAL was arguably superior. Now for digital broadcast TV we use ATSC with MPEG-2 encoding even though DVB-T with MPEG-4 is superior. That's what we get for being first. :frown:
  19. Sep 21, 2012 #18


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    Car power is still rated in terms of hp and torque still rated in ft-lb. I know that many newer publications do the conversion to kW and Nm respectively, but isn't it time to ditch the obsolete units?

    Sticking with cars, the most quoted metric of a car's acceleration from a standstill used to be the 0 to 60 (mph) time in seconds. Since "metricisation" (if that's even a word), the preferred metric is 0 to 100 km/h. But some publications still insist on calling that 0 to 62 mph, where 62 mph is really, really close to 100 km/hr but not quite.

    Then there's the quarter mile timing. Why don't they just "metricise" to 400m exactly instead of 1320'? (I know some have, but many have not).

    Final pet peeve about cars - enough with the stupid psi for tyre pressures. I'm fine with kPa, why isn't everyone?

    Enough about cars. An example of a poor tech standard that's nevertheless monopolised formats is mp3 audio, when people should be using lossless codecs like FLAC instead, especially since flash storage is now really cheap.
  20. Sep 21, 2012 #19


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    There's actually a term for that: handicap of the headstart. It's very interesting and important in terms of infrastructure technology. For example; the relatively low bandwidth and high costs of internet access in the UK compared to developing countries in the far east (trillions of pounds worth of copper exchange is pretty costly to get rid of versus just building fiber optic into your shiny new cities).
  21. Sep 21, 2012 #20


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    I wonder why slugs never caught on
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