Reading Sin-Yaw's blog about power plugs and the need for a conversion 'dongle' last night, I started wondering what other examples of "a choice of standards" there are. Looking around the house I realised there were quite a few. Since it's a holiday for lots of my readers, I'll take the next few days to tell some stories about what I found.
So let's talk light bulbs. I pulled the box of spares out of the cupboard and took a look. There were red, green, blue spotlights; 60W and 100W bulbs; 25W and 40W candle bulbs; some 6W low-energy bulbs; a great halogen-in-a-bulb that gives a brilliant room-filling light; and plenty more. Having a choice of light bulbs is good. I can decide to put the 25W candle bulbs in the light fittings in the hall, for example, and save energy and money out there. Then I realised that I can't use the 25W candle bulbs in the candelabra in the lounge in place of the 40W bulbs I usually use.
The reason? The lounge fitting takes small bayonet connector (SBC) bulbs, but the hallway fitting takes small edison screw (SES) connector bulbs. Similarly, the reason the low energy bulbs (delivered free of charge at one point by the electricity company) are still in the box is that they have a full-size bayonet connector (BC) but the lights that need them in the kitchen all have a full-size edison screw (ES) connector.
There are similar stories for the rest; the great halogen has an ES connector but the socket where I'd like to use it in the study is BC, for example. The outside light has an ES fitting but all the weather-proof low-energy bulbs I can find that are the right shape for the casing have a BC so I am forced to continue using something incandescent. Having a choice of connectors like this simply leaves me with redundant bulbs in the cupboard. It also means when I buy a new lamp I probably can't use the spare bulbs I already have in stock. A choice of standards for bulb connectors reduces my choice as a customer since I find I am unable to buy bulbs in bulk and unable to use old bulbs in new lamps.
That doesn't mean choice is bad. I want a choice of colours, of energy technologies, of wattages, of shapes, of reflector styles and so on. But I want them all with a common connector so that when I'm shopping I know any bulb will work. Choice that serves the customer is choice of bulb, not of connector.
Part 2: Choice and Flash Memory
Part 3: Choice and Power Supplies