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Some things I collect avidly and with great pleasure, like detective stories. Others I accumulate reluctantly and with increasing distaste, like power supplies.

As with most twenty-first century households, we have an ever-growing collection of power supplies for various devices which have broken, been stolen or simply retired from old age. ‘I’ll keep the power supply!’ I think. ‘It may work for something else!’ But it seldom does. Each new manufacturer feels duty-bound to require some new combination of voltage and jack size which renders every previous power supply totally useless.

I recently acquired a new ten-inch Android tablet as part of a phone deal. It charges through what looks like an iPod jack, but it can’t be an iPod jack, because no iPod cable in the house fits it except the one supplied with the tablet. If that cable breaks, the tablet breaks with it. Of the five remaining tablets in the house, three of the smaller ones—amazingly!—use the same power supply; the fourth charges through a mini-USB port; and the fifth, my original ten-inch tablet, charges through a larger jack which matches only one other device in the house. Meanwhile my wife’s Kindle and my daughter’s iPad recharge through genuine iPod cables plugged into USB ports.

I could tolerate this rich diversity if the power supplies were actually powering the devices, but they’re not: they’re simply recharging them. Is it really beyond the capability of modern science to come up with a single jack and a single voltage to recharge all devices from, say, a mobile phone up to a netbook computer?

And it doesn’t end there. Because some of my tablets are sourced from overseas, the power supplies have US plugs, with two parallel prongs, while Australia, where I live, uses prongs at an angle. I need a prong adaptor to make them fit an Australian power socket. This is fine when the plug and the adaptor fit snugly and hold together, but this is rarely the case, and what usually results is a top-heavy Rube Goldberg arrangement, held together with rubber bands, which droops dangerously out of the socket. However, the new ten-inch tablet supplier has done the sensible thing, and provided an Australian power supply with a USB socket, and a cable with a USB plug. Separating cables from power supplies is clearly the way of the future.

Then we have the power supply which is so big that it hides the power sockets on either side, or sticks out to the right or left, and won’t fit a socket which is up against the wall on that side. In Australia we lay out power boards and multiple wall sockets horizontally, and so—as far as I know—does the rest of the world. What kind of maniac would design a power supply that deliberately blocks access to the one next to it? Up, down, left right—make up your minds, folks!

Mobile phone manufacturers have, I understand, agreed to standardise their power supplies. Isn’t it time tablet and e-reader manufacturers did the same thing?

 
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