• Yazeran (unregistered)

    Wow!! Talk about 'going with a bang', but apart from the humor of it, quite some people could have been hurt by that blast.

    Never EVER mess with the voltage of the mains systems in a building unless you are a certified electrician for crying out loud!

    But I guess having a few spare adapters was too much for them....

    Yours Yazeran

    Plan: To go to Mars one day with a hammer

  • Halo (unregistered)

    Whoa!

    This story defines the essence of WTF for me. At least in "Engineering/Electrical" category, and "Massacre" level.

    I mean, what kind of electrician that had to be? Crazy, possessed or straight from hell?

  • Drew (unregistered)

    I lol'd just a bit.

  • Mike D. (unregistered)
    Unfortunately, the circuit breakers didn’t quite function correctly and took quite a while to break the circuit.
    The circuit breakers functioned correctly.

    A power supply set to 120V but plugged into a 240V main doesn't look like a short circuit to the 240V main until it fails short, which is after it burns up.

    The mains circuit breaker is there to protect the building wiring from a short. The loads themselves should either have their own input protection (overvoltage, fast fuses, something), or die honorably.

    I wish more companies switched to 85-240V supplies like Apple did in the late 80's, but that would have involved spending money.

  • Alargule (unregistered)

    Ahhh...so THAT's what it's for...

    <evil> Heh heh heh... </evil>
  • stEvil (unregistered)

    In a previous job I used to wire machines for a number of applications in the recycling industry. One batch contained a machine for Belgium and my boss informed me it needed a star-delta starter (it starts the motor off on a different configuration for current drain reasons). Having not wired this type before I asked for guidance. "Look, it's bloody simple!" he ranted "Just wire the six contacts to the six terminals" ...so I did. I did exactly that. What he didnt tell me is that the motor needed to have its connector bars removed. The sound of that controller exploding as it shorted 415V polyphase was worth it to see his sheepish look as the company owner (his older brother) pointed out his mistake.

  • Bob (unregistered)
    "...we just put in a few switches that allow electric currents..."
    "I am one of the few that cannot change current on the PC itself."

    I thought this was making fun of the "idiot" user... alas it would appear, Alex, that you confuse 'current' for 'voltage'.

  • Kaijuu (unregistered)

    TRWTF is why on earth did the building have such an elaborate power grid? Getting a few step-down converters and placing those on strategic points in the building would have cost them peanuts.

    I have a small 100 volt grid in my house for my Japanese equipment, along with the regular 230.

  • Yazeran (unregistered) in reply to Bob
    Bob:
    "...we just put in a few switches that allow electric currents..."
    "I am one of the few that cannot change current on the PC itself."

    I thought this was making fun of the "idiot" user... alas it would appear, Alex, that you confuse 'current' for 'voltage'.

    Well technically you also change the current when you switch from 120 Volt to 240 Volt Especially if you put the same resistive load on :-)

    In that case you get exactly 4 times the 'bang for the money' (2 for the voltage and 2 for the current) :-)

    Yazeran

    Plan: To go to Mars one day with a hammer

  • steenbergh (cs)

    Been there... Once plugged in a new adapter without checking the little red switch, which was set to 115v instead of the 230v that comes out of our outlets.

    Bang.

  • Renan "C#" Sousa (cs)

    What in the nine hells? Every single equipment sold around here (Brazil) can work both with 120v and 240v currents. No need to use a switch, and they'll even withstand a quick change of voltage. The last think I bought that needed a converter was an old Super NES back in 1994.

  • Anon (unregistered) in reply to Bob
    Bob:
    "...we just put in a few switches that allow electric currents..."
    "I am one of the few that cannot change current on the PC itself."

    I thought this was making fun of the "idiot" user... alas it would appear, Alex, that you confuse 'current' for 'voltage'.

    Since those are quotes of somebody else speaking, it is quite possible that Alex is fully aware of the difference between current and voltage, but that the speaker wasn't. Would you expect Alex to correct somebody's quote?

  • Anon (unregistered)

    Bryon should appreciate the exercise he gets from the quarter mile trip to switch the one room over. A few months of that and he'll be in peak physical condition.

  • Thg (unregistered) in reply to Yazeran
    Yazeran:
    Bob:
    "...we just put in a few switches that allow electric currents..."
    "I am one of the few that cannot change current on the PC itself."

    I thought this was making fun of the "idiot" user... alas it would appear, Alex, that you confuse 'current' for 'voltage'.

    Well technically you also change the current when you switch from 120 Volt to 240 Volt Especially if you put the same resistive load on :-)

    Well, technically that doesn't make current the same as volts, or gravity the same as weight, or pressure the same as temperature.

    But thanks for letting us know that you know V=IR.

  • Patrick (unregistered) in reply to Anon
    Anon:
    Bob:
    "...we just put in a few switches that allow electric currents..."
    "I am one of the few that cannot change current on the PC itself."

    I thought this was making fun of the "idiot" user... alas it would appear, Alex, that you confuse 'current' for 'voltage'.

    Since those are quotes of somebody else speaking, it is quite possible that Alex is fully aware of the difference between current and voltage, but that the speaker wasn't. Would you expect Alex to correct somebody's quote?

    And while technically Bob is correct, given the context of the story, that little detail is inconsequential.

    Besides, the current IS also different.

  • uzytkownik (cs)

    The real probably >100 years real WTF is - who designed 2 compatible plugs with different voltages? Shouldn't they be idiotproof?

    In Europe there are 2 standards ('British' and 'continental') both running 230V.

  • Patrick (unregistered) in reply to Anon
    Comment held for moderation.
  • Thg (unregistered) in reply to Anon
    Anon:
    Bob:
    "...we just put in a few switches that allow electric currents [sic]..."
    "I am one of the few that cannot change current [sic] on the PC itself."

    Since those are quotes of somebody else speaking, it is quite possible that Alex is fully aware of the difference between current and voltage, but that the speaker wasn't. Would you expect Alex to correct somebody's quote?

    problem solved

  • Rodnas (unregistered) in reply to Patrick
    Comment held for moderation.
  • JoJo (unregistered)

    Since the guys come form the US, how would they be able to plug in if they forgot their power adapters as the article says - their plugs wouldn't fit into European sockets.

  • noone (unregistered) in reply to Patrick
    Comment held for moderation.
  • Patrick (unregistered) in reply to Rodnas
    Comment held for moderation.
  • sabbott64 (cs)

    From what I recall looking at the power converter kit that I had while traveling for work, there is a 240v receptacle that has the same configuration as a non-grounded (no third prong) US plug.

    But given that the circuits were wired for 120/240 I would bet that there were both outlet types on the same circuit, especially since visitors could plug their 120 devices into outlets that handled both 120 and 240.

    Or they were running 240 through a US style outlet, which the ones in the US aren't rated to handle. That too would be a bad thing.

    That would explain the last part of the article about not being up to code.

  • Chris (unregistered) in reply to uzytkownik
    Comment held for moderation.
  • Steve the Cynic (unregistered) in reply to stEvil
    stEvil:
    In a previous job I used to wire machines for a number of applications in the recycling industry. One batch contained a machine for Belgium and my boss informed me it needed a star-delta starter (it starts the motor off on a different configuration for current drain reasons). Having not wired this type before I asked for guidance. "Look, it's bloody simple!" he ranted "Just wire the six contacts to the six terminals" ...so I did. I did exactly that. What he didnt tell me is that the motor needed to have its connector bars removed. The sound of that controller exploding as it shorted 415V polyphase was worth it to see his sheepish look as the company owner (his older brother) pointed out his mistake.
    Wow! Three-phase motors... Last time I heard about them was my dad telling me about the time someone (not him) wired one up with a switch from the powerful configuration (for startup) to the efficient configuration (for continuous running), but this person got the two modes rotating the motor in opposite directions...

    (Star: the three lives are connected to neutral through the coils of the motor. Delta: the three lives are connected to each other through the coils in an A->B->C->A configuration, and neutral is not used. In both modes there is no net current in the neutral line.)

  • hjd (unregistered)

    I've done this myself... and yes it is a big bang!

  • Steve the Cynic (unregistered) in reply to uzytkownik
    uzytkownik:
    The real probably >100 years real WTF is - who designed 2 compatible plugs with different voltages? Shouldn't they be idiotproof?

    In Europe there are 2 standards ('British' and 'continental') both running 230V.

    Actually, there is British running 240+/-10 and Continental running 220+/-10 both of which conform to the EU-wide standard of 230+/-20... The plugs are not compatible, even if the equipment is.

    [2]

  • Rootbeer (cs)

    A quick skim of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AC_power_plugs_and_sockets doesn't turn up any plug designs which are physically compatible but use different voltages regionally.

    Either this story has been anonymized past the threshold of plausibility, or the electrical WTFs in that warehouse are even worse than imaginable.

  • Carioca (unregistered) in reply to Renan "C#" Sousa
    Renan "C#" Sousa:
    What in the nine hells? Every single equipment sold around here (Brazil) can work both with 120v and 240v currents. No need to use a switch, and they'll even withstand a quick change of voltage. The last think I bought that needed a converter was an old Super NES back in 1994.

    That's a lie. A lot of equipment here (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) is still either specific for 110 or 220 or has a switch. This includes most UPS devices, common power supplies, laundry machines, aircondicioners, alarm clocks, etc. Low voltage devices like laptop power supplies, cell phone chargers, etc. are mostly bi-volt.

    Brazil can be pretty confusing since it uses several power standards, so you always have to be aware what the voltage is of the outlet you want to plug stuff in to.

  • MichaelM (unregistered) in reply to Renan "C#" Sousa

    Yeah, but that's because Brazil has (used to have?) both 120 and 240V as standard home voltage in the same country!

    In 1998 I traveled from Minas (Central Brazil) where they used 120V to Belem de Para (Northern Brazil/the Amazons) where they used 240V.

    The plug shapes were the same, but you certainly couldn't just plug in whatever electronics you had. Adapters were necessary.

  • Anon (unregistered) in reply to Thg
    Thg:
    Anon:
    Bob:
    "...we just put in a few switches that allow electric currents [sic]..."
    "I am one of the few that cannot change current [sic] on the PC itself."

    Since those are quotes of somebody else speaking, it is quite possible that Alex is fully aware of the difference between current and voltage, but that the speaker wasn't. Would you expect Alex to correct somebody's quote?

    problem solved

    I did consider suggesting the use of [sic], but then I remembered that only arrogant douchebags would insist on pointing out everybody else's mistakes in such a passive aggressive way.

  • Keith (unregistered)

    "Heh, you don’t know how many representatives used to plug their laptops into a 240v outlet!"

    Actually, ignoring the already-pointed-out issues regarding physically plugging into these outlets, laptop power supplies are usually quite happy to run at 240v.

    ... As is almost every other AC->DC adapter that's been made in the last 2 decades.

  • Hindustani (unregistered) in reply to Keith
    Keith:
    "Heh, you don’t know how many representatives used to plug their laptops into a 240v outlet!"

    Actually, ignoring the already-pointed-out issues regarding physically plugging into these outlets, laptop power supplies are usually quite happy to run at 240v.

    ... As is almost every other AC->DC adapter that's been made in the last 2 decades.

    I thought so too, when I lived in India for a year and a half.

    You see electricity there was spotty; sometimes you had it, sometimes you didn't; there was at least one short power outage every single day.

    The other thing was that the electricity was low quality. It could easily be 175V one day, and then 280V the next night. The power supply for my laptop experienced a 280V night, and then promptly died.

  • Merus (unregistered)

    ...I read this story, and had the sudden urge to blow up a factory floor full of computers via feeding them too much electricity.

    Apparently, I should never be allowed near power boxes.

  • uzytkownik (cs) in reply to Steve the Cynic
    Steve the Cynic:
    uzytkownik:
    The real probably >100 years real WTF is - who designed 2 compatible plugs with different voltages? Shouldn't they be idiotproof?

    In Europe there are 2 standards ('British' and 'continental') both running 230V.

    Actually, there is British running 240+/-10 and Continental running 220+/-10 both of which conform to the EU-wide standard of 230+/-20... The plugs are not compatible, even if the equipment is.

    [2]

    Not quite. Some time ago Poland switched from 220 V to 230 V - and it was said it was to confirm EU standard - but IANAL/IANAE. Anyway my point was that incompatible voltages should have incompatible plugs (compatible voltages having incompatible plugs is a mere annoyance).

  • RBoy (unregistered)

    Wow, the electrical wasn't to code? Who'da thunk.

    The whole setup sounds full of decet to me.

  • Carioca (unregistered) in reply to MichaelM
    MichaelM:
    Yeah, but that's because Brazil has (used to have?) both 120 and 240V as standard home voltage in the same country!

    In 1998 I traveled from Minas (Central Brazil) where they used 120V to Belem de Para (Northern Brazil/the Amazons) where they used 240V.

    The plug shapes were the same, but you certainly couldn't just plug in whatever electronics you had. Adapters were necessary.

    It still has 110-127 and 220 ;) Apparently there are even places using 240. In Rio a lot of houses and apartments have both 110 and 220. 220 for the air conditioner(s) and 110 for the rest.

  • Sean Baggaley (unregistered)

    The wall socket isn't an obstacle: you only need to have some spare IEC ("kettle lead"), "Figure 8" and "cloverleaf" cables in the office for your visitors.

    I keep both a UK and a two-pin "figure 8" cable in my laptop bag for trips abroad, though I also take a single adaptor and a UK 8-way surge-protected trailer for longer stays. (The surge-protection is useful in countries like Italy, where the power supply can be quite unstable.)

  • frits (cs)

    I call BS. There is this thing called a fuse in every piece of electrical equipment that plugs into a wall outlet. For those of you who don't know, they are designed to break the circuit before damage occurs from overcurrent conditions.

  • Jim (unregistered)

    Ah, the little red switch! I fondly remember that while still in secondary (high) school I received a phone call from a friend who had decided to flick it while unboxing his father's new computer to see what it did. He was hoping that there was a quick fix before his father arrived home :P

    captcha: acsi (bizarro ascii?)

  • Bob P (unregistered)

    I remember working in a facility in Riyadh where they had mains power from two power plants - one 240V/50Hz the other 120/60Hz, plus their own on-site backup facilities in both flavors. There was no common ground so we had ground loops that would fry your arm off when touching two cabinets in the same room. Made for lots of fun keeping signal processing electronics usable. And back then changing voltages usually required going inside of the equipment and re-wiring something. You always had a voltage tester handy to check outlets.

  • hikari (cs) in reply to uzytkownik
    uzytkownik:
    The real probably >100 years real WTF is - who designed 2 compatible plugs with different voltages? Shouldn't they be idiotproof?

    In Europe there are 2 standards ('British' and 'continental') both running 230V.

    Technically they were 230V -10%/+6% and 230V -6%/+10%. I believe the Europe wide standard has been 230V +/-10% since 2003.

    It amuses me that this bit of standardization didn't actually require anyone to do anything. It was actually really well thought out.

  • pitchingchris (cs)

    so in this story an IT Generalist = (not so) Certified Switch Flipper ?

  • pitchingchris (cs) in reply to frits

    Sorry.. messed up the quoting.. quote frits

    true, they probably blew the fuse in the power supply. Thats not to say they didn't have a bang while blowing the fuse, and other (non-fused or improperly-fused) equipment was causing further safety issues.

  • MikeDI (unregistered) in reply to frits
    frits:
    I call BS. There is this thing called a fuse in every piece of electrical equipment that plugs into a wall outlet. For those of you who don't know, they are designed to break the circuit before damage occurs from overcurrent conditions.
    Yes, but this wasn't an overcurrent condition, it was an overvolt condition.

    If you had half an idea how a desktop PSU works, you would know that what had happened was that the electrolytic smoothing capacitors on the 'high' (input) side on the AC / DC conversion circuit had exploded - spreading mylar, tin and electrolyte gel everywhere (and causing the god-awful stink you can only get from a burst electrolytic!).

    This happens when a capacitor rated for a certain voltage is badly overvolted, it overheats and bursts - in this case explosively.

    The fuse in a standard plug (or in the wiring distribution) is NOT there to protect the device - it is there to protect the wiring TO the device. As was stated elsewhere, electrical equipment is expected to contain internal protection mechanisms to protect itself from such occurrences.

  • the beholder (unregistered) in reply to MichaelM
    MichaelM:
    Yeah, but that's because Brazil has (used to have?) both 120 and 240V as standard home voltage in the same country!

    In 1998 I traveled from Minas (Central Brazil) where they used 120V to Belem de Para (Northern Brazil/the Amazons) where they used 240V.

    The plug shapes were the same, but you certainly couldn't just plug in whatever electronics you had. Adapters were necessary.

    No need to go that far. Every time me and my family left Sao Paulo to spend our vacations in Caraguatatuba (some 60 miles away) we had to be really careful to not fry our videogame, hair blower or whatever other equipment we brought with us.

    I asked around and it looks like 220V is the standard voltage throughout the whole coastline, as opposed to most of the interior. I figured it was because: 1- they need a more reliable power supply by the coast, and 2- 220 volts would be less susceptible to power outages

  • Paulista (unregistered) in reply to Carioca
    Carioca:
    MichaelM:
    Yeah, but that's because Brazil has (used to have?) both 120 and 240V as standard home voltage in the same country!

    In 1998 I traveled from Minas (Central Brazil) where they used 120V to Belem de Para (Northern Brazil/the Amazons) where they used 240V.

    The plug shapes were the same, but you certainly couldn't just plug in whatever electronics you had. Adapters were necessary.

    It still has 110-127 and 220 ;) Apparently there are even places using 240. In Rio a lot of houses and apartments have both 110 and 220. 220 for the air conditioner(s) and 110 for the rest.

    As long as you use different plugs, it does make sense to have both 110V and 220V. As mentioned before, the current is half at 220v (as long as the resistance is constant). This means that thinner wire can be used to get the same power. When both 110V and 220V are available, typically wall sockets are 110V and 220V is only used in a few places in the house.

    Btw, you don't have to travel far in Brazil to find a different voltage. We got 110V in São Paulo and 220V in Santos (45 miles away). Both are important cities in the same state.

    The good thing is that this helped popularize switching power supplies that not just work from 80-240 but also are more efficient. Little red switches are so 80's in Brazil!

  • nB (unregistered) in reply to Thg
    Thg:
    Yazeran:
    Bob:
    "...we just put in a few switches that allow electric currents..."
    "I am one of the few that cannot change current on the PC itself."

    I thought this was making fun of the "idiot" user... alas it would appear, Alex, that you confuse 'current' for 'voltage'.

    Well technically you also change the current when you switch from 120 Volt to 240 Volt Especially if you put the same resistive load on :-)

    Well, technically that doesn't make current the same as volts, or gravity the same as weight, or pressure the same as temperature.

    But thanks for letting us know that you know V=IR.

    that would be E=IR, not V=IR

  • ctw (unregistered)

    TRWTF is...

    ...wait, no. This story is absolutely, certainly, 100% a WTF. That is pretty well Worse Than Failure.

    In an awesome-story kind of way.

  • Zapp Brannigan (unregistered) in reply to nB
    nB:
    that would be E=IR, not V=IR
    I don't get the nuance of E vs V. Could you explain?

Leave a comment on “The Little Red Switch”

Log In or post as a guest

Replying to comment #:

« Return to Article