Saturday, July 22, 2006


I recharged three small machines today. At the unhurried pace at which I now live my life, this qualified as a good day's work.

In my defense, there was a fair amount of study involved before I took the calculated risk of plugging the first charger into the wall outlet.

Standard electrical outlets in the United States provide about 120 volts of current at a frequency of 60 hertz. The U.S. standard has been more or less adopted in North America, the Caribbean and about half of South America, as well as in Japan and Taiwan. (Japan's situation is screwy; although the entire country operates at 100 volts, the juice is delivered at 50 hertz in eastern Japan and at 60 hertz in western Japan.)

Most of the rest of the planet operates at 220 to 240 volts, usually delivered at 50 hertz. My current location of Thailand operates at 220 volts delivered at 50 hertz.

The adapter kits you can buy in the airport gift shop have nothing to do with volts and hertz. They only adapt the end of the charger's plug so that the two- and three-pronged flat vertical plugs we use in the U.S. can physically fit into the round or slanted outlets found in other countries' walls.

Nothwithstanding the physical "adapter," if you plug a machine designed only for the U.S. standard of 120 volts at 60 hertz into an outlet delivering 240 volts at 50 hertz, you have just turned your expensive gizmo into a wicked-looking tray or coaster. Think of it as the electric chair for your laptop.

Fortunately, many electronics companies have decided to create one physical product to sell worldwide. It also makes sense that small, portable devices which a traveller could pack should work around the world.

Consequently, many chargers and power converters are "switching" or "universal," meaning that they have been engineered to work most anyplace where the local power supply isn't truly weird. The relevant information is often printed directly on the charger.

The chargers for my iPod, PDA and digital camera all bear the notation "Input 100-240V 50/60 Hz," meaning that the chargers can operate at any current between 100 and 240 volts delivered at either 50 or 60 hertz.

So, at 1:43 p.m., I took out my digital camera battery charger, added the physical adaptor which turned the two flat pins into two round pins, and plugged it into the wall. No explosions. No zapping sounds. No scent of burning plastic. The battery re-charged, and the indicator light went from red to yellow to green. I did the same with the PDA and the iPod.

Drained of energy, I called it a day and decided to read a book to recharge my batteries.


Anonymous tgk said...

peter: you flew 17.5 hours and semicircumnavigated the earth to read to yourself in a hotel room.

4:26 AM  
Blogger Paul Karl Lukacs said...

This is coming from the guy who lived in South Korea for three months and ate at Wendy's almost every day?

In any event, please to note that, as it states in the epigraph, Knife Tricks is about travel, politics, revelry and _literature_.

12:06 AM  
Anonymous tgk said...

come to think of it, i did force myself to read 30 pages of "ulysses" every night while in Korea, a rate that allows you to finish the book in just under 11 years. your point about my not choosing to take dog salad every noontide is nonsequitur to my post however, as going to wendy's got my out into the mix with the locals, namely cabbies.

1:15 AM  

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