The great British plug meets its Waterloo

Posted on by Mike Evans

WE HAVE LONG been admirers of Apple's diminutive iPod/iPhone power US power adaptor with its minimal volume and folding prongs. Michael even bought a couple on his recent visit to Washington and has equipped them with euro-plug adaptors. Even with this add-on, they are smaller than the normal adaptor.

So we were pleased to see  the UK version of this minimalist approach appearing in the Apple Store this week. This is slim and makes the best of the bad job of the massive triangle of pins we have to put up with. The whole is slimmer than the normal 13-amp plug.

Britain has the world's largest industrial-strength plugs, complete with internal fuses and every safety precaution known to man. You could power all the lights of the Titanic from just one of these gems of over-engineering. Time was, we had neat two-pin plugs and even mini three-pin plugs especially for low-power devices, but they have all been banished by our 'Elf 'n Safety gauleiters. It is encouraging, therefore, to find Apple doing its bit for us mortals owning devices that consume less than 5 Kilowatts.

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Our over-size and over-kill domestic electrical arrangements have so far withstood the conformist pressure from the European Union. While a changeover would be a costly nightmare, I am a great admirer of the standard European two-pin plug system. Sockets take either a round, heavy duty plug with side earth contacts or a simple slim two-pin unit which satisfies the majority of computers and peripherals. 

Meanwhile we British struggle on with our muli-sockets the size of a London bus with a cable of a diameter normally reserved for 20 KW electric cookers. 

The back of your 40-in TV or the underneath of your computer desk normally houses several of these hippopotomi basking in complete safety and capable of dealing with anything that lightning, kids or the downright foolhardy can throw at them. At least we're safe, even if we were to plug in the Titanic by mistake.

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