We need standards. When an industry standardizes things that we need to use, it makes our life a lot easier. For example, if every television station broadcasted with a different system you would have to own a television for each channel.
and the ELECTRIC CHAIR
When a new technology emerges there are usually a number of competitive incompatible systems to choose from. This causes a battle to determine which one will come out on top.
There was Betamax vs. VHS videocassettes. There was IBM computers vs. Apple.
In the 1880s, it was the war over electrical power. Thomas Edison vs. Westinghouse. Their war got dirty and the invention of the electric chair resulted from a stunt from a negative publicity campaign.
Thomas Edison was the first person to establish himself in the electrical service industry by introducing a DC (direct current) system. Westinghouse developed AC (alternating current) which he had acquired from the inventor Nikola Tesla.
DC had the disadvantage of being able to provide service for only a few miles from the generator and required thick copper wire.
AC could be transmitted over long distances and with the price of copper rising-it was cheaper to string power lines.
Edison knew (and admitted many years later) that AC was superior, so he started a campaign against Westinghouse's system by claiming that AC was unsafe to use.
In 1887, Edison held a public demonstration in West Orange, New Jersey. He set up a 1000 volt Westinghouse generator and connected it to a metal plate. He then executed a dozen animals with it. The press found plenty to write about and coined a new word- "electro-cution" to explain what had gone on.
A year earlier, the state of New York had established a commission to find a more humane form of capitol punishment than hanging, which they considered too slow and painful.
The New York legislature passed a law in 1888 making electrocution the state's method of execution, but there were two designs for an electric chair- one using AC and the other DC. A committee was set up to decide which was better.
Thomas Edison furiously campaigned for the Westinghouse AC chair. He believed that no one would want the same kind of electrical service used for an "electrocution" anywhere near their house and he would win the power war.
Edison hired inventor Harold P. Brown, who had written a letter to the New York Post describing an accident where a young boy died touching an exposed telegraph wire operating on AC.
Brown and his assistant, Dr. Fred Peterson, began designing a DC electric chair for Edison. They would invite the press in to watch their experiments using dogs, horses and cows. The DC current would not kill the animals, it only tortured them. Then, they would hook them up to the AC and showed how quickly it killed them. The press gave the experiments plenty of space in their newspapers.
Dr. Peterson, still on Edison's payroll, was on the electric chair selection committee, so not surprisingly, he helped steer the committee into choosing the AC electric chair. The electrical execution law went into effect on January 1, 1889.
Westinghouse refused to sell AC generators to the New York state prison authorities. Edison went around Westinghouse and provided the AC generators the state needed.
Westinghouse paid for the first few appeals for the people sentenced to death by electrocution. The appeal was on the grounds that "electrocution was cruel and unusual punishment."
Edison and Brown testified that it was a "quick and painless form of death."
The state of New York won. For many years, people referred to being executed in the electric chair as being WESTINGHOUSED.
Thomas Edison's won the public relations war- planting the negative image he wanted, but despite his shenanigans it became clear that AC was overwhelmingly superior to DC, and AC became the standard for electrical service.