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2003-02-19 22:10:54+00 by petronius 8 comments

My rant of the week: power cords for computer equipment.

I just installed a new HP Deskjet 5550, which is a nice, cheap machine. However, the power transformer is an oblong box about 6 in. long, 2.5 in wide, and maybe 1.25 in thick, with the three power prongs sticking out of on of the long sides, about 10% of the way down. When plugged in, it covers at least two other outlets on the power strip. I don't need them right now, but the shape is ridiculous. My last HP had a box with a short power cord and plug connected to the power strip, and another line going to the device. But this new one is stupid.

Yes, I know HP builds the same printer for use in many countries that use varying power suplies, but why does this always have to be so clumsy? Why not have internal modules for each power standard that can be easily swapped out. Thus, the factory in Lesser Goonrat can make a million printers, and load the ones destined for North America with one module (and, most important, its attached cord), and load the next 10k with Mongolian 5-prong modules, etc.

Actually, this is not a new problem. Almost 30 years ago I was pissed at open-reel tape decks I used for conference recordings that had detachable power cords. These are not optional items, so why make them detachable?

I feel much better now.

[ related topics: User Interface Invention and Design ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2003-02-19 22:48:50+00 by: Dan Lyke

Hear Hear. Especially given that power cords are available in stores for $1.50, I think the rule should be: Use more than 1 slot on a power strip, 5-10 with time off for good behavior.

I do like that new power supplies handle 100-240V, 50-60Hz, but I wish that there was a standard plug for this so I don't have to carry a bag full of plug adapters when I go overseas.

#Comment made: 2003-02-19 23:00:35+00 by: baylink

I can answer one part of the question:

Most national safety evaluation agencies (UL, TUV, CE, etc) have *much* less stringent standards if the wall-current doesn't make it inside the box. That's why external supplies are so common.

But you're right; warts are the Devil's Work.

#Comment made: 2003-02-19 23:12:02+00 by: Dan Lyke

I don't mind bricks, and that presumably lets you get your easier UL or C(hinese)E(xport) listings.

#Comment made: 2003-02-19 23:39:36+00 by: phoffman

See www.cyberguys.com, item 121 257. For $3, you get a 1-to-2 power splitter with enough flexibility to put two large bricks on a *single* female plug on a powerstrip. The even have discounts for 10.

#Comment made: 2003-02-20 00:58:45+00 by: Dan Lyke

Cool: 121-2550 and 121-2570. That looks like a handful are in order.

#Comment made: 2003-02-20 04:26:31+00 by: anser

You can order the Cyberguys part, or you can visit any Home Depot or True Value hardware and buy a "wallwart buster" - 12" long, heavy duty, with three outlets. I have a drawerful of them.

#Comment made: 2003-02-20 19:03:46+00 by: other_todd

  1. I like detachable power cords. My ideal piece of equipment folds up into a shockproof box with no tender exposed areas (i.e shatterable screens, breakable keyboards) and no dangling anythings. This bias comes from a time when I moved four computers to new homes several times a year.
  2. But once upon a time the detachable power cords on computers were the only true universal hardware standard known. The transformer bricks have really put a dent into that.
  3. I have a Belkin 10-outlet strip. Two rows of five, facing in opposite directions. The outlets are deliberately placed far enough apart to accomodate all but the most unwieldy brick. You can plug in ten rather large transformers, if you like, and they will all fit. This isn't the only example - a lot of power-strip makers are moving their outlets further apart for just this reason. Shop around. I got mine at Home Depot.

#Comment made: 2003-02-20 19:15:02+00 by: Dan Lyke

The other thing to point out here is that the new standard for 2 pin power cords into bricks, the one with the two joined cylinders on the (female) plug, seems to be universal for "takes anything" inputs. Thus I can also get along with just switching out a handful of cords when I travel to Hong Kong.