Plugs And Sockets For Different Countries
If you’ve ever travelled to a different country, there’s a high chance that you find that the power plugs and sockets there are not the same as the ones back in your home country. And if you fly to another country, you might find that they have their own power plugs and sockets as well. Why can’t every country just use the same standard for all the power plugs and sockets? Well, it turns out there is a long story behind this.
In the beginning, there was electricity…
Electricity has been around for a very long time, even before human existence. It was discovered from human observations of lightning and electric fish over thousands of years ago, but it was only harnessed as a power source for appliances in the late 19th century. Because it was a fledgeling innovation at the time, most household appliances were cabled directly into the house wiring, until manufacturers realised that a more practical way to connect their devices without any risk of electrocution to the average user needs to exist.
As long as it works!
At that point in time, there were too many manufacturers worldwide who came up with their own standards for plugs and sockets. Americans didn’t care that Europe has different plugs and sockets as long as American appliances worked in American homes, and vice versa. International travel wasn’t common for another few decades, so such concerns were close to non-existent. As a result, there are now about 20 different standards for plugs and sockets across the globe, not including many obsolete types that continue to exist in older appliances and buildings.
One socket to power them all?
It wasn’t until 1906 that the International Electrotechnical Commission was formed, and at one point there were talks to standardise the plugs and sockets for all countries worldwide, but then World War II happened, which put a damper on discussions until the 1950s, by which it was too little too late. The electrical infrastructure of most countries had already been established by that point. Manufacturers are also reluctant to overhaul their entire industry just to accommodate the new standards.
I can just use a travel or socket adapter, right?
Whoa there, not so fast! An adapter can allow a device to plug into a socket from a different standard, but that does not mean the voltage or frequency is matched to your device. A mismatch in voltage or frequency can damage your appliance and even cause it to explode or catch fire. You need to ensure that the travel adapter either has a voltage converter built-in or at the very least the power supply of the country you’re in uses the same power supply that your appliance is rated for.
For a list of the 15 most common plug and socket types, you can refer to the World Standards website on plug & socket types. The US and Japan use Types A and B, while Malaysia uses Type G, which is also shared by the UK, Ireland, Singapore and quite a few others.
What’s the most interesting plug or socket you’ve seen? Have you encountered any issues related to this during your travels? Let us know down in the comments below!
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