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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 German Commission

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 already 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?

An 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), defined 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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The first safety regulations are created

  • In 1893, the VDE’s first committee developed “Regulations for the erection of electrical low-voltage systems”. Two years later, “safety regulations for high-voltage systems” followed.
  • In January of 1896, the Elektrotechnischen Zeitschrift (ETZ (Electrotechnical Magazine)) published the precursor to the current DIN VDE 0100 standard “Erecting low-voltage electrical systems”.
  • In 1904, VDE presenteds its first “Normalien-Buch” (Book of Standards).

Electrical engineering in Germany begins to organize itself

  • In 1879, Werner von Siemens and the Imperial Postmaster General Heinrich von Stephan founded the first “Elektrotechnischer Verein” (Association of Electrical Engineers). It covered all areas of electrical engineering and set itself the task of promoting and further developing the technical applications of electricity and cultivating the scientific basis. Other electrotechnical associations are formed.
  • In 1893, the representatives of the electrotechnical associations merged their organizations into one: the “Verband Deutscher Elektrotechniker” ((VDE) Association of German Electrotechnicians).

National and international standardizations are formed

  • The first national standardization institute, the “Engineering Standards Committee” (today the the British Standards Institution) was founded in Great Britain in 1901.
  • In 1906, with VDE’s participation, the “International Electrotechnical Commission” (IEC) was launched.
  • In 1917, the “Normenausschuss der Deutschen Industrie” (German Industrial Standards Committee) was founded and renamed as the “Deutscher Normenausschuß” (German Standards Committee) 9 years later.
  • In 1920, Austria laid the foundation stone for the “Österreichisches Normungsinstitut” (Austrian Standardization Institute).
  • In 1970, DIN and VDE merged all German electrotechnical associations into the Deutschen Kommission Elektrotechnik Elektronik Informationstechnik ((DKE) German Commission for Electrical, Electronic and Information Technologies). The only competent body for electrotechnical standardization in the then Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and for representing German interests on the international level.
  • Since 1975, DKE’s position has been legally acknowledged in the “Standards Agreement” concluded between DIN and the FRG and from then on, DIN has been called the “Deutsches Institut für Normung” (German Institute for Standardization).

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, for example, 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 of 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 in terms of the newest standards projects and new publications, services and events. With our newsletter, you are always up to date regarding electrotechnical standardization.

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