Electrical fun

Firstly, for those who may have missed it, check out N’s first blog post further down – Blogged up.

Both N and I have been bemused since we arrived by the disparity between the sophistication of American society (videos that know what you want to watch, crossing lights that tell you how long you have left before the lights change, etc.) and the stone-age nature of certain other aspects, most notably their financial and electrical systems.

Consider the humble plug. Being Brits, we can be smug in the knowledge that the UK plug design is one of the most over-engineered designs in the world. However, let’s start from scratch and think about the qualities you would like from a plug that connects you to a highly dangerous 110 volt electricity supply. First you would want it to conduct electricity and actually connect you to the supply. Well, there are relatively few problems here, although if you wiggle a US plug a little, you can get the lights to flicker quite satisfactorily. Secondly, you’d probably look for some sort of safety feature that would prevent you from electrocuting yourself. Nope. Nada. The US is quite happy to leave two bare metal prongs dangling out of the wall, that can be easily grasped should you wish to end yourself. And thirdly, you might ask for a certain degree of robustness, such that a gentle tug on the cable wouldn’t disconnect you (or expose those live metal parts). Again, the US plug fails on this dimension. Even high power devices like the iron will happlily dangle from the socket given the slightest provocation. What is even more amazing is that the heavy power supply transformers that are required for many electrical devices, and which are usually connected to UK plugs by a separate cable, are part of the plug here. So you have a heavy power supply literally hanging from two spindly metal prongs on the wall. Not good.

So my mum asked me at the weekend what things I missed about the UK. That’s what I miss. Electrical safety.

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