Simply wonderful sockets with attitude

Posted on by Mike Evans

I've made no secret of my love/hate relationship with The Great British Plug. Over engineered for a postwar age when appliances and gadgets were relatively massive, the plug is now quite often bigger than the device to which it is attached. Muli-socket extension leads and power adaptors are all equally elephantine.

  One of the neat solutions covered in this Living Impressive article

One of the neat solutions covered in this Living Impressive article

Unsurprisingly, many of the neatest devices in this Living Impressive article are based on the tiny US system. By strange happenstance the once-outdated US 110-volt supply has come into its own in these days of multitudes of tiny gadgets. The opportunities to minaturise 220- or 240-volt systems are relatively limited, admittedly. The Australian system is probably my favourite after the US plug, but even the German standard, which is used in many European countries, is better because it allows the use of two-pin, ungrounded plugs for low-power devices such as lamps and gadgets.

There is now no approved two-pin solution in Britain and every applicance, however tiny or low powered, must be attached to a massive three-pin standard plug which is capably of supplying washing machines, tumble driers or, even, small stoves. Unlike most systems in the world, the British plug contains a replaceable fuse which can be rated at 3, 5 or 13 amps depending on the use. It is unquestionably over-engineered and unwieldy. On the other hand, it is arguably the safest system in the world so I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies.

I admire the advances being made in miniaturisation of plugs in the USA. Just compare the standard iPhone charger and its fold-out pins with the three-pin adaptor sold in the UK. Apple has done a wonderful job in slimming down the adaptor but it is still massive in comparison with its American cousin (or, even, its European two-pin nephew).

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