Of Standards and Shower Curtains

I’ve been investigating home automation systems lately; partly because I like to overcomplicate things, but also because automated lighting and HVAC seems like a good idea. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I’ve been dissuaded by the fact that the many systems that exist are mostly incompatible with each other.

On the other hand, we recently bought a new shower curtain and, with my tendency to notice utterly inane details like these, I was surprised to see that shower curtains all have 12 holes, and all shower curtain rings come in 12-packs.

This presumably happened without any regulatory oversight or standards body. But… how? How did every shower-curtain and curtain-ring company settle, seemingly organically, on 12 rings? And if they were able to do that, why does the home automation industry keep tripping over itself with a plethora of standards – zigbee, z-wave, BLE, wi-fi, X10, insteon – rather than settling on one and making everyone’s life easier?

This is the case with almost every new technology, from Betamax and VHS to Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. What is it about technology companies and devising their own inscrutable standards? Perhaps we can all learn a thing or two from the shower curtain industry.