Geek? Moi?

Is it geeky of me to find this history of ISO paper sizes absolutely gripping? I suppose it is… Here’s an entertaining Slashdot thread on the same topic. Why are geeks so pro-standards? I guess there must be some primitive comfort in their predictability. Dare I say it: standards are a borderline-autistic response to a messy, non-compliant reality?

Categorized as geek


  1. I will bear this in mind next time I’m writing a letter. And to think that calculating the weight of books is ‘equally trivial’.

    If you prepare a letter, you will have to know the weight of the content in order to determine the postal fee. This can be very conveniently calculated with the ISO A series paper sizes. Usual typewriter and laser printer paper weighs 80 g/m². An A0 page has an area of 1 m², and the next smaller A series page has half of this area. Therefore the A4 format has an area of 1/16 m² and weighs with the common paper quality 5 g per page. If we estimate 20 g for a C4 envelope (including some safety margin), then you will be able to put 16 A4 pages into a letter before you reach the 100 g limit for the next higher postal fee.

    Calculation of the mass of books, newspapers, or packed paper is equally trivial. You probably will not need such calculations often, but they nicely show the beauty of the concept of metric paper sizes.

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