Tripping up dead elephants on chains or interop converters

I have an affection for the stories about great standards battles, like the ones around the battle betwen AC and DC (including particularly the electrocution of an elephant). I also have an affection for all the plumbing we build to convert between forms. The adapters from this to that. I particularly love the attachement for your PC that provides it with a cigarette lighter plug, like the one’s found in automobiles, so you can then plug in all those gadgets for your car. So it is with some delight I pass along this letter from the IEEE spectrum magazine.

Can there be any more absurd idea than the Coleman Powerworks power inverter for cars [Resources, November]? There’s something very wrong with this picture: the engine’s alternator generates alternating current (ac), which is converted to direct current (dc) to recharge the battery and is also distributed to a cigarette-lighter receptacle, into which we’re supposed to insert a cigar-shaped plug to send that dc power to an inverter to change it back into ac so that we can plug in our laptop’s power converter, which changes it back to dc to power the laptop! To recap: ac to dc to ac to dc. That doesn’t seem like sound engineering. It’s more like Edison and Tesla are still fighting it out in the backseat of my car.

You can get a gadget (with cup holder) to put in one of your PC’s drive bays so as to provide a cigarette lighter plug on the PC. So there is hope of making this chain longer. A quick search shows I can find many adaptors from a cigarette lighter to a power’d USB cable, but I’ve not found an adapter from a USB cable to cigarette lighter plug.

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