Here are some examples of technological standards:

• Dvorak versus Qwerty keyboards. Qwerty won despite yielding lower word-per-minute rates of average users.

• Betamax vs VHS. VHS won despite the fact that Betamax had better resolution, better sound, and more stable picture.

• Blu-ray versus HD-DVD. Blu-ray won even though HD-DVD was backwards compatible with DVD.

This is probably not a complete list. Please inform me of any others, especially if older than the 20th century.

The question is, is there a historical reason for this apparent trend?

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    You do not have a trend, what you have are a handful of examples where you think the inferior has dominated the superior technology. For it to be a trend you would have to show that the inferior winning over the superior technology was in some way more common that one should expect. The problem is you are blind to the cases where the superior technology wins. – Conrad Turner Oct 1 '15 at 20:46
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    Any supposed trend is strongly a matter of opinion. Technology is often a matter of tradeoffs; one might be "worse" in some respects but possess a decisive advantage elsewhere. Besides, it's hard to make equal comparisons. For example, (1) QWERTY was designed in the 19th century and was good for its time & purpose of preventing typewriter jams. It didn't "beat out" DVORAK; DVORAK came decades later and wasn't good enough to displace it. (2) VHS was cheaper and had much longer recording times. (3) Actually, Blu-ray has a substantially higher capacity than HD DVD. – Semaphore Oct 1 '15 at 20:47
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    Unix vs Windose. TeX vs all other font setting systems. Examples are abundant. – Alex Oct 1 '15 at 20:48
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    @DrZ214, re: DVORAK, is the words-per-minute rate even an issue these days? With everyone using their own computers and printers, there's no need for a typing pool churning out documents. The limit on word rate is how fast people can think and put together their thoughts rather than the rate at which they can type. – Steve Bird Oct 1 '15 at 21:09
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    @DrZ214 A lot more than "if we spend weeks retraining our typists they might type up to 10% faster assuming they don't bottleneck on something else". – Semaphore Oct 1 '15 at 21:31

There's a few possibilities, the first and most obvious is inertia.

Let's take a look at metric vs imperial.

By adoption, the overwhelming majority of the world and the scientific community uses metric. It is widely acknowledged that metric makes conversions and calculations much easier, and conversions have even taken out a NASA orbiter, costing the agency to the tune of $125 million

However, Imperial is not dying out any time in the United States.

Why is that?

  1. There's a significant cost to switch. At the minimum, all 100,000 miles of highways in the US has to have all its signage replaced.

  2. Just like the NASA incident, the transition is all but guaranteed to cause a lot of damage due to human error.

  3. Old equipment cannot be magically recaliberated, so even if you accomplish the 1st two, you probably will still end up with the old units hiding in the new, which makes metric's "easy to convert" advantage useless. You can see this from gun calibers - 5.56mm, 7.62mm, 11.43mm, 12.7mm - these are .22, .30, .45 and .50 inches respectively. Just because you "converted it" to metric does mean the old chambers and barrels will magically give you nice round numbers (except maybe .40 and 10mm), and small arms will keep those relics up for a long time and you'll still have to do awkward math - now with 4 digits!

Also, it helps that the United States is the world's foremost economic power, so most people are willing to accommodate the US than vice versa.

The second is simply what you think is the superior standard may not be - all techs have drawbacks, and what you think might be a minor inconvenience might be a dealbreaker for most, or that something you find useless may be very important to others (Windows and Backwards Compatibility comes to mind for this one).

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