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Path dependence and the Korean keyboard

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  • Choi, Young Back
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    Abstract

    This paper recounts the evolution of the Korean keyboard as a case in which the disadvantages of the inherited standard turn into a nonissue with the advancement of auxiliary technologies. The persistence of an inherited standard, when a superior alternative is available, is usually regarded as market failure. However, if the transition costs to the new standard are such that the net gains from the transition are insufficient, the situation is unfortunate, but not market failure. The situation may change over time. If the net gain from the alternative standard increases, or transition costs to new alternative decrease, or both, the situation turns into one in which entrepreneurs can profit by making the transition. Where appropriate, an institutional reform may lower transition costs substantially. This paper suggests an additional possibility of technological changes that make the transition unnecessary. In the case of the Korean keyboard, changes in auxiliary technologies have rendered the disadvantages of the inherited standard innocuous. The case provides a cautionary tale against the temptation to drastically alter a seemingly hopelessly inferior inherited standard. The lesson of the Korean keyboard applies to Japanese and Chinese keyboards with even greater force.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167268111001296
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

    Volume (Year): 88 (2013)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 37-46

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:88:y:2013:i:c:p:37-46

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

    Related research

    Keywords: Path dependence; Technological change; Korean keyboard; Mechanical typewriter; Word processor;

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    1. Cowan, Robin, 1988. "Nuclear Power Reactors: A Study In Technological Lock-In," Working Papers 88-33, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
    2. Liebowitz, S J & Margolis, Stephen E, 1995. "Path Dependence, Lock-in, and History," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 205-26, April.
    3. David, Paul A, 1990. "The Dynamo and the Computer: An Historical Perspective on the Modern Productivity Paradox," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 355-61, May.
    4. Choi, Young Back, 2008. "Path dependence and the Korean alphabet," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 185-201, February.
    5. David, Paul A, 1985. "Clio and the Economics of QWERTY," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 332-37, May.
    6. Cowan, Robin, 1991. "Tortoises and Hares: Choice among Technologies of Unknown Merit," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(407), pages 801-14, July.
    7. S. J. Liebowitz & Stephen E. Margolis, 1994. "Network Externality: An Uncommon Tragedy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(2), pages 133-150, Spring.
    8. Liebowitz, S J & Margolis, Stephen E, 1990. "The Fable of the Keys," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(1), pages 1-25, April.
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