For an alarming number of times, I have seen the fear of change in different software companies and resistance to adopting new technology, and the excuse would often be:
“But we’ve always done it that way and it worked, why would we change it now?”
To which I find no better response than referring them to the origins of the width of the railroad gauge, here’s the story:
The Stephenson gauge, also called the international or uniform gauge is 1435 millimetres and that’s used for most railroads around the world including Australia (Distance between the railroad tracks)
Why was that gauge used in Australia?
Because that’s the way they built them in England
Why did the English use that gauge?
Because the people who built the railroads used the same equipment and tools that they used for buildingwaggons, which measured that wheel spacing.
Okay! Why did the waggons have that particular odd wheel spacing?
Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the waggon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that’s the spacing of the wheel ruts.
So who built those old rutted roads?
Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. Theroads have been used ever since.
And the ruts in the roads?
Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their waggon wheels.
Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.
The uniform railroad gauge of 1435 mm is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses
And here’s an interesting story:
When we see a Space Shuttle sitting on the launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are the solid rocket boosters or SRBs. Thiokol makes the SRBs at a factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site.
The railroad from the factory runs through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than a railroad track, and the railroad track is about as wide as two horses’ behinds.
So a major design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was originally determined by the width of a horse’s ass!
Disclaimer: This story is in fact not the full reason the uniform gauge being what it is (it’s fun to think so though); however, there is an element of truth in it.