A definition or format that has been approved by a recognized standards organization or is accepted as a de facto standard by the industry. Standards exist for programming languages, operating systems, data formats, communications protocols, and electrical interfaces.
From a user's standpoint, standards are extremely important in the computer industry because they allow the combination of products from different manufacturers to create a customized system. Without standards, only hardware and software from the same company could be used together. In addition, standard user interfaces can make it much easier to learn how to use new applications.
Most official computer standards are set by one of the following organizations:
- ITU (International Telecommunication Union)
- ISO (International Standards Organization)
IEEE sets standards for most types of electrical interfaces. Its most famous standard is probably RS-232C, which defines an interface for serial communication. This is the interface used by most modems, and a number of other devices, including display screens and mice. IEEE is also responsible for designing floating-point data formats.
ITU defines international standards, particularly communications protocols. It has defined a number of standards, including V.22, V.32, V.34 and V.42, that specify protocols for transmitting data over telephone lines.
In addition to standards approved by organizations, there are also de facto standards. These are formats that have become standard simply because a large number of companies have agreed to use them. They have not been formally approved as standards, but they are standards nonetheless. PostScript is a good example of a de facto standard.