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Treebeard's Stumper
10 January 2003

Plugged In

Many holiday toys need power from batteries or plugs. Batteries are DC direct current, and you better get the plus and minus right. Household electricity is AC alternating current with no plus and minus, but the plugs are still complicated. There are 2-prong unpolarized plugs that go in either way. There are 2-prong polarized plugs that only fit one way. And there are 3-prong grounded plugs that give no choice, along with GFI "ground-fault interrupt" sockets. People lived with simple unpolarized plugs for many years. Why do we need polarized and grounded plugs and GFI sockets now? Are the "cheater" adapters dangerous?

Left to right, the photo shows a few electrical plugs and sockets I found at home:

A 2-prong unpolarized plug will fit either way into a polarized or grounded socket or extension cord. But a polarized or grounded plug won't fit into an unpolarized socket unless you help it with a cheater. It says something that I couldn't find an adapter at home, but I know these common fixes:

Are these cheats really dangerous, even though AC power has no plus and minus polarity, and we've lived with unpolarized plugs and sockets for so many years?

I thank David Riehm for this stumper idea. As a bonus stumper, why do these all these plugs have holes drilled in the prongs?!

Answer


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Copyright © 2003 by Marc Kummel / mkummel@rain.org