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The History of Standardization

Starting with the foundation of standardization organizations to the first German industrial standards through to current developments with a view to the future. Many significant events tell the history of standardization and continue to write it today.


DKE Deutsche Kommission Elektrotechnik Elektronik Informationstechnik in DIN und VDE

How did standards come into being?

The history of standardization started thousands of years ago, even before the first proper standards were created. Around 1,000 BC, the bible exacts a standardized life of justice and order:

“Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin [...]” (3rd Book of Leviticus, Chapter 19, Verse 35-36).

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When more and more need for standardization arose during the Industrial Revolution with respect to the increased use of machinery, the history of standardization really started picking up speed and the first ideas for standards were developed. Standardization efforts in the electrotechnical sector started in the mid-18th century with the objective of improving cost efficiency, interchangeability of machine components and optimized mass production.

The history of standardization at a glance

The History of Standardization

Significant historical standardization events in Germany and worldwide shape the history of standardization.


What was the first standard in Germany?

A important milestone in the history of standardization was the creation of the first standard, published in 1918. The first DIN standard, at that time known as a German Industrie Norm (German Industrial Standard), defines the dimensions of and materials for taper pins under the title DI-Norm 1. Taper pins are conical connection elements used to hold machine parts together. The first standard was published only a few weeks after DIN was introduced.

When was DIN founded?

DIN was founded on December 22, 1917 as the Normenausschuss der Deutschen Industrie (German Industrial Standards Committee) and was renamed as the Deutscher Normenausschuss (German Standards Committee) nine years later. Today, we know DIN as DIN Deutsches Institut für Normung e.V. (German Institute for Standardization) This name was introduced in 1975 after the so-called “Standards Agreement” was concluded between DIN and the Federal Republic of Germany and thus DIN was officially recognized as the competent standardization organization for Germany; a major step in the history of standardization.

Historical events pertaining to VDE standards

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First safety rules are created

  • In 1893 , the first VDE technical committee developed "Regulations for the installation of low-voltage electrical systems". These were followed, two years later, by safety regulations for high-voltage electrical equipment.
  • In January 1896, the Elektrotechnische Zeitschrift (ETZ) published the forerunner of today's DIN VDE 0100 "Low-voltage electrical installations".
  • In 1904, VDE presented its first "Standards Book".

Electrical engineering in Germany becomes organized

  • In 1879 Werner von Siemens and the Imperial Postmaster General Heinrich von Stephan founded the world's first "Electrotechnical Association". It covered all areas of electrical engineering and its tasks were to promote and develop the technical applications of electricity and to maintain the scientific basis. Further electrotechnical associations were founded.
  • In 1893 the representatives of the electrotechnical associations merged their organizations to form:  "Verband Deutscher Elektrotechniker" (VDE).

National and international standardization organizations form

  • In 1901 , the first national standards institute, the Engineering Standards Committee (now the British Standards Institution), was established in the United Kingdom.
  • In 1906 , the "International Electrotechnical Commission" (IEC) was established with the participation of the VDE.
  • In 1917 , the "Normenausschuss der Deutschen Industrie" was established in Germany and renamed the "Deutscher Normenausschuß" nine years later.
  • In 1920 Austria laid the foundations for the "Österreichische Normungsinstitut".
  • In 1970 DIN and VDE united all German electrical engineering associations in the Deutsche Kommission Elektrotechnik Elektronik Informationstechnik (DKE). It is the only body responsible in Germany for electrotechnical standardization and for representing German interests at the international level.
  • Since 1975 , the position of the DKE has been legally recognized in the "Normenvertrag" (“Standardization Treaty”) concluded between DIN and the FRG, and DIN is now called "Deutsches Institut für Normung".

Historical standards

In the history of standards, in addition to the first standard for taper pins, there are other standards that still exist today and are significant both in private and professional daily life. One historical standard in this case is the well-known DIN Standard 5008. Standard 5008 contains writing and layout rules for text and information processing in order to communicate in a standardized and efficient manner in daily professional life and other relevant areas. DIN published the first edition of Standard 5008 in 1949.

Standardization Day

Also referred to as Weltnormentag or World Standards Day, Standardization Day is celebrated annually on October 14 in honor of the resolution passed in London in 1946 to found an international organization to simplify standardization. In the wake this idea, one year later, the international organization ISO was founded, a significant day and step in the history of standardization.

Latest news from the world of standardization

Like every story, the history of standardization will end one day, too. From historical standards like the first German Norm DI Norm 1 to the foundation of new standardization organizations through to the establishment of commemoration days, the history of standards continues to write itself in the present day. Today, new ideas and innovations are being developed for the future. News is continuously coming from the world of standardization, both with respect to the newest standards projects and new publications, services and events. With our newsletter, you are always up to date with the latest from the world of electrotechnical standardization.

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