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There is a trade-off.

German society (compared to some others) seems to do much more enforcement of industry-wide and society-wide standardization (e.g. of measurement systems, part compatibility, common procedures, ...), with an expectation that everyone should “follow the rules”.

This has the advantage of increasing interoperability and compatibility and making many things more predictable and easier to assess/audit, at the expense of sometimes fixing poor choices and forcing them into contexts where they should be discarded.

* * *

As one example, most of the design features of computer keyboards sold worldwide from the 1980s–1990s were forced to conform to a (not especially well considered, in my opinion) German standard, which was adopted by IBM and then copied by everyone else, and later became the basis of an ISO standard.

Beige or gray color with matte surface texture and dark labels (no colors allowed), cylindrical keytops with primary symbols in one corner to make room for standard German labels, low keyboard height (which did not fit many of the keyswitches from the 1970s), a shape precisely accommodating the standard German key layout, ...

At some point companies started ignoring this standard (e.g. producing black keyboards), and I don’t think there was ever enforcement. But we are still stuck with many of those design choices now, a dramatic difference from the extreme diversity of designs from the 1960s and 1970s.

Arguably many of the keyboards of the 1970s were better than almost anything produced at mass scale since.




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