Why So Many Different Plugs?

I went to China and took an electrical adapter with eight different plug-ins, and still managed to stay at one hotel in which none of them fit. Why are there so many types of electrical plugs and sockets in the world? When household electric use began in the late 1800s, different areas of the world settled on basically two voltage systems, 110-120 and 220-240 (with some exceptions). Then each nation had their own reasons for developing the plug-in system they have.
But once they were set up, who cared what style plug their customers used? What were you gonna do, lug your new vacuum cleaner across the ocean on a boat? Early efforts to standardize the plug by organizations like the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) had trouble taking hold—who were they to tell a country which plug to adopt?

For example, Britain incorporated fuses in the appliance plug instead of the wiring system because of a shortage of copper at the time.
You know how the British had control over India for, like, ninety years? Well, along with exporting cricket and inflicting unquantifiable cultural damage, they showed the subcontinent how to plug stuff in, the British way! Problem is, they left in 1947. The BS 1363 plug—the new one—wasn't introduced until 1946, and didn't see widespread adoption until a few years later. So India still uses the old British plug, as does Sri Lanka, Nepal and Namibia. Basically, the best way to guess who's got which socket is to brush up on your WW1/WW2 history, and to have a deep passion for postcolonial literature. No, really.

Despite widespread global travel, the expense of rewiring electrical grids all over the world means there won't be any standardization of plugs anytime soon. Read the whole story at Gizmodo. Link -via Geeks Are Sexy

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NorwegianBlue - that's true, but in the implimentation of a ringmain there's considerable savings in metal over having each circuit run back to the fuseboard individually.

Must admit I rather like ringmains and BS 1363 plugs. They're safe, reliable and easy to use. Until you tread on one barefoot.
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It becomes fun in countries like Cambodia where both voltages are used and whoever built the house used whatever plugs were cheapest at the time. So I've seen 230V on American edison-style plugs, and 120 on Schuko.
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I noticed at Century Hotel Melacca they had a three prong outlet that was of course 220. You could not access the outlet with a two prong because of a built in saftey feature. Then I noticed all the pencil marks on the third hole. People were bypassing the safety feature to use any appliance. I was a little afraid of using 220 being accustomed to 110. Everytime the tv was turned on I could feel the electricity wanting to arc through my fingers.
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"For example, Britain incorporated fuses in the appliance plug instead of the wiring system because of a shortage of copper at the time"

FAIL. The British system of having a fuse in the plug is for additional protection to the fuse in the ring main, not as an alternative. Often the plug will have a 3A or 5A fuse while the ring main will have a much higher rated fuse. So the fuse in the plug should go before the fuse in the house wiring. That way only the appliance loses power and not every appliance on the ring.
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