Sunday, December 06, 2009

Plug in, baby

Why has no one thought of this before, eh?

The venerable three pin plug has been with us for many years: whilst we all know that our plugs are better, safer and generally brilliantly British, nothing can alter the fact that they are a bit cumbersome—especially as gadgets get smaller and smaller.

As such, surely this must be the best re-invention of anything ever?
The multiple plug adaptor.

The Royal College of Art's graduate show has opened, and this year, the show-stopper was a plug. Min-Kyu Choi impressed every passer by with his neat, apparently market-ready plug that folds down to the width of an Apple MacBook Air. "The MacBook Air is the world's thinnest laptop ever. However, here in the UK, we still use the world's biggest three-pin plug," says Choi.

Choi's plug is just 10mm wide when it is folded. To unfold it, the two live pins swivel 90 degrees, and the plastic surround folds back around the pins so the face of the plug looks the same as a standard UK plug. The idea produced a spin off, too. Choi created a multi-plug adaptor, a compact standard plug sized unit with space for three folded plugs to slot in, as well as one that charges USB devices.

This is, quite simply, genius.

Let's hope that we get to see this on the market before wireless power takes over, eh?


microdave said...

On the face of it it seems a marvelous idea, but I can't see any sign of a fuse, and I am desperately trying to imagine how he carries the power from the swivelling pins to the main body of the plug.

For connecting low power devices such as laptops it is clearly a vast improvement, but for a 3Kw kettle?

I also assume that it will need to be fitted at the factory.

I wonder if it has got BS approval?

Still, full marks to the guy.

Anonymous said...

Umm - I think the Sony X Series is the thinnest laptop ever...

Devil's Kitchen said...


"... I am desperately trying to imagine how he carries the power from the swivelling pins to the main body of the plug."

That's not exactly difficult (yes, i thought about this too): I would imagine, the two live wires run together through the pivoting centre and then part company to run to the two pins. Pretty easy.

I must admit that I hadn't thought about the fuse element, but I don't think that would be too difficult to solve.

Although the plastic is melded, I would imagine that it would be easy enough to ensure that the plug split into two halves—to allow for home wiring and fuse replacement (although this last might need fuse-wire rather than pre-made fuses)—and then snap back together.

Whether the student has allowed for any of this in the prototype is unknown, but I don't see any of these objectives being problematic to solve, let alone product-killers.


Devil's Kitchen said...

P.S. If you look at the full load of pictures, you'll notice that the plug has a red section to it—the circular red bit looks like its about the right size to fit a fuse into, doesn't it...?


Devil's Kitchen said...


The Sony Vaio is 13.9mm whereas the MacBook Air (at its thinnest point) is 4mm. Admittedly, it is 19.4mm at its thickest point, but that gives an average thickness of 11.7mm.

I know it's splitting hairs but Apple still claims the thinnest, whereas Sony does not.


13eastie said...

Perhaps I don't come here often enough, but this is the first article I've read here that has actually cheered me up!

And all done without any profanity, too!

What a cuntingly brilliant invention.

marksany said...

Nice, but a waste of time. Under the Lisbon treaty we have agreed to switching to the two pin Euro plug by 2014

Anonymous said...

Two pin plugs by 2014 ?

Oh shit that means a bloody great stock of UK 3 pins to see me out. I can store them next to my life time supply of sensible light bulbs.

Devil's Kitchen said...


1) Have you got a reference to the clause in the Treaty that says that?

2) It's not going to happen. There is simply no way that we can replace the entire electrical infrastructure of this country within 4 years. Nor can production lines be switched that quickly.

3) Although that would usher in the final revolution, methinks. So bring it on, EU babies: bring it on...


marksany said...

No, I was having a laugh.

Believable, though (and possibly still true, as I haven't read the Lisbon treaty)

Costello said...

"Believable, though (and possibly still true, as I haven't read the Lisbon treaty) "

Aye. The fact that we can read your first post and not realise immediately that you're kidding illustrates rather well how immune we've become to the EU's incessant bullshit.

_Felix said...

One nice thing about this is that it comes with an evolutionary path. I mean, the plug works as a plug in both modes, so if these plugs become standard, it is then risk-free to start marketing compact-style sockets, and if those become standard, compact-only plugs are the next inevitable step. A fairly major infrastructure change, but nobody would at any stage have to take a big risk investing in a thing that might fail due to lack of compatibility or lack of widespread use.

The other nice thing about it is the reduced potential to function as a caltrop.

paul said...

Its nice and all, but the reason no one has done it before is that space isnt at that much of a premium that a 3 pin plug takes up too much.

mister_choos said...

The power could be carried through the swivel by the individual cores, or by slip rings perhaps. Using the cores would mean they would move every time the plug was swivelled. That could leave to mechanical failure over time.

They wouldn't be able to use fuse wire as I'm prety sure IEE regs rules that out in new installations. The red dot does look like it could be for a fuse. It may be too small for a normal 1" UK type plug fuse, but there are smaller fuses that could fit.

And we couldn't just switchover to European style plugs as they aren't fused. To do so, we would all have to have our houses rewired to get rid of ring mains. And they can stick that right up their arses! We've already changed our voltage from 240V to 230V to harmonise with them, which puts our plugs close to their limits for high power appliances.

mister_choos said...

I just noticed as well that the live and neutral sockets on the 3-way extension plug aren't shielded which is also a no no.
But its still a good idea, and any problems could be worked around quite easily I would have thought.

Celteh said...

The little red section is indeed for the fuse.

This youtube video demonstrates the plug.

microdave said...

Yes I did wonder about 2 wires, or slip rings, but either of these would not work long term, particularly for heavy loads. For that I will stick to M.K. or Crabtree.

The comment about EU harmonisation is also a good one, and I second mister_choos opinion of that scenario!

Since the U.K. electrical industry has introduced new 17th edition regulations, I shudder to think that this was agreed without considering our wonderful "partners".....

Anonymous said...

It's not a 2-pin plug in Europe. It is a 3-pin plug but with the sticky-out bit for the earth connection built into the wall unit, so that the European plug becomes 2 male power lines and 1 female earth, compared with the UK plugs 3 male lines. safety-wise, they are equal, size-wise the European walks away with the prize. I thought the Euorpean plug was inferior at first, but after years of use, have come to the conclusion that the European one is better.
Peter Melia

Anonymous said...

PS to my earler "sticky-out" post.
In general any none-moving part device, which works well, is to be preferred to any device which does the same job, with moving or a moving part. Reason:- no moving parts means fewer things to go wrong, mean more reliability. This, in electricity, could well be a critical matter.
Peter Melia

Antoine Clarke said...

"Its nice and all, but the reason no one has done it before is that space isnt at that much of a premium that a 3 pin plug takes up too much."

Paul, you've never walked around with a laptop charger in your coat pocket.

paul said...

Antoine, correct, you could always get a job in clairvoyancy if things dont work out. :p
Because the laptop charger plug is connected to a transformer the size of a house brick, so the plug is the least of those worries, which goes in the pouch of the laptop case.

HrothgarOfHeorot said...

This is what all the cool kids are using: