Universal standards

When I was attending film school many years ago I used to marvel at the one universal standard I was aware of; 16 mm film. It’s probably the only thing we have to thank the nazi’s for (they didn’t invent it, but they produced a lightweight camera that made news gathering so much easier).

You could take a 16 mm film to practically anywhere in the world and chances are, you would be able to find a 16 mm projector on which to show it. Universal standards are rare.

What about numbers then, surely they are universal – how can they not be?

Well you would think so, after all they need numbers to transfer funds around the world, send people to the moon, plot global positioning points..

But how about this; if I said, what is five plus four and you had to ask ‘is that an American five or a British five?’ you would think it was some kind of joke. And if I said, it’s an American five, which is equivalent to a four in British terms, you’d quite rightly think it was some kind of joke in a surreal comedy sketch.

But that is the case with millions, billions and trillions.

Say a Nigerian general wants to transfer one billion dollars to my bank account, I have to ask him is that an American billion or a British billion?
An American billion is one thousand millions whereas a British billion is one million millions (so always ask for the British billion if being paid).

It’s insane. Even numbers are not a universal standard (odd that). Anybody think of anything that might be?

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