Everyone knows that question And what do you do?, so useful in a casual meeting after other topics have proved unpromising. In my case, when I say that I work at the British Standards Institution I have often observed in my questioner a half‐guilty recollection that he or she may have seen a British Standard or Kitemark somewhere. But just where, exactly? Look next into the corner of your car windscreen, or the letters and number inside the ‘stars’ at the petrol pump. Do you use a bank credit card? Surely recently you have unplugged an electrical appliance or replaced a lamp? All these are made to a standard specification for size, composition or quality. You are in fact reading from a printed page of A4 paper — an international standard size. A standardized range of sizes leads to direct economies because it reduces unnecessary variety. In the case of paper sizes the production of a rational range of envelopes, files and reprographic machines follows from the initial internationally‐accepted standard sizes for sheets of paper.
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