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Three-Pin Plug

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Three-Pin Plug

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Three-Pin Plug

Electricity began to be used to light people’s homes in the late 1800s. With the advent of electric heating and new fangled labour saving devices, a new form of connection had to be found for them (that wasn’t just your light sockets). The American Harvey Hubbell patented the first plug and socket in 1904; his invention meant that you didn’t need an electrician to connect everything for you. So, plugs and sockets – a great idea. But what’s the deal with the number of pins?Originally plugs had two pins: one live one, one neutral. The third pin is what distinguishes British plugs from the standard fittings in the rest of the world. The third pin is known as the ‘earth’ and its job is to conduct electric current safely away in the event of the appliance itself becoming live. This was particularly important in the days when so many appliances (irons, toasters etc) were made of metal rather than plastic! Round three-pin plugs were introduced to Britain before the outbreak of the Second World War and the familiar square pins followed in 1957. Another clever safety feature of our third pin is that it has a longer arm than the other two. When inserted into a socket this opens an internal guard, there to prevent little fingers going exploring!


Your comments


leon Menezes

It is not generally know that the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE) produced the world's first regulations about electrical wiring and they are still the world's best after over 100 years and many revisions. The standards of electrical wiring and equipment in Britain is the finest in the world and the clever three-pin plug is just one eaxmple. Did you know, by the way, that if you pull on the flex hard enough for it to come loose from the connections, the plug is designed so that the live wire comes off first? Clever indeed.
Richard English

let's say that where the english have been since electricity became a major part of a nation's infrastructure, there is a three pin plug. similarly where the americans have been, there is a coke machine.
edward walpole-brown 111

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My favourite Icon of England has to be the Cornish Pasty.

Ian Baldry