Why in The World Are There So Many Different Plugs?

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If you like to travel, you probably have a few international power converters lying around. It seems like almost every country has their own electric plugs and voltage limitations. Leave the dangerous Chinese-made converters in your online shopping cart and make the better choice. ACUPWR is here to provide you with safe, effective voltage transformers and plug converters to protect all your electronics, no matter where you are in the world. The real question, though, is why do we need international voltage transformers and plug converters?

A War for Power

It starts with the dawn of electricity. Thomas Edison, commonly known as the inventor of the light bulb, was the first person to effectively harness electricity for household use. He championed the use of direct current (DC) electricity, and built his entire company around providing families with DC power. Direct current wasn’t perfect, though. It’s biggest problem was that it couldn’t carry voltage for more than a few miles. Nikola Tesla, who began as a brilliant employee of Edison’s, emerged as a direct competitor. Tesla developed alternating current (AC) electricity, which was far more effective at providing electricity over long distances.

To try and save his business, Edison launched an extensive smear campaign against Tesla, peaking with the attempted electrocution of an unfortunate circus elephant to prove how dangerous alternating current was. In the end, it didn’t matter. Tesla’s alternating current was more efficient and effective, and the United States implemented his form of electricity rather than Edison’s.

This is when the United States chose 110 volts as their standard voltage. Edison had chosen it as the voltage for his direct current invention, and since Tesla was directly challenging him, that was the voltage he chose for alternating current as well. When alternating current was accepted as the standard form of electricity, 110 volts became the standard in the same swoop. Around the world, other scientists were making their own breakthroughs and choosing their own voltages.

Electricity in the Home

Household electricity became widely available in the late 19th century, and as time went on, more gadgets and appliances needed electricity to work. Time-saving devices like vacuums became popular, and people needed a way to power them. At the time, your only option was to plug your device directly into your home’s wiring, which was exactly as dangerous as it sounds. Harvey Hubbell invented the “separable attachment plug,” which let non-bulb devices, like the handy vacuum cleaner, pull power from a light socket. He refined his design into a two-prong plug that eventually evolved into the three-prong plug we know today.

People around the globe were coming up with their own solutions, without a thought to how their neighbors might be going about it. The International Electrotechnical Commision (IEC) was eventually formed to create international standards, but they didn’t have the authority to force countries to adopt a universal electric plug. Their work was interrupted by World War I, and things spiraled further out of their control after World War II. Rebuilding efforts after the war led to more plug designs because countries like Britain had to work around shortages of common materials, like copper wire. They completely reinvented their standard electric plug out of necessity, now called a “Type G” plug, without any regard for the IEC’s recommendations.

Friends, Neighbors, & Colonists

There are about 14 different plug and socket systems used throughout the world. The type of plug that a country uses is often dependent on their history and the types used by surrounding countries. India, for example, uses a “Type D” plug, which was invented in the United Kingdom and distributed while India was still a British colony. Britain withdrew from India before their current “Type G” style was widely available, which is why the “Type D” plug persists in India. “Type D” plugs are also used in the countries around India, such as Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Regions like Bangladesh and the American Samoa support four or five types of plugs, reflecting their relationships with several different countries. The IEC is still in operation, but their focus has shifted away from trying to implement a universal plug. The designs for their suggested “Type N” plug are still available, but the futility of convincing the world to change their systems is clear: Brazil and South Africa are currently the only countries using the IEC’s plug design.

There is a crazy amount of variety in the plugs and outlets used around the world, with plenty of crazy history behind it. If you’re traveling or moving abroad, make sure you get the right adapter or transformer for your electronics. Cheap, foreign-made converters are so ineffective that many companies recommending getting higher wattage converters than your device should need, and they can explode or catch fire when overloaded! ACUPWR’s Tru-Watts converters are lifetime guaranteed for 120 percent of the advertised wattage and its high-quality materials will prevent any dangerous overload situations. Make sure your appliances will work no matter where you are in the world. Check out our selection of voltage transformers and international power converters today!

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  • Anik chadha
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