I want you to invent the following…

I have a problem in need of a solution. I think I can best describe my problem through interpretive dance by showing you this photograph:

Power bar spaghetti.

It's not so much the idea that boggles, it's that someone actually thought this scene worthy of a photograph.

In this age of mobile, rechargeable devices, the travesty illustrated above is not uncommon. There are actually two problems with this power strip arrangement:

  1. there is not enough space between the outlets to directly plug-in the transformer blocks; and
  2. either all of the transformers are receiving power or none are, and if all of them are, they're drawing current even when not used and heating up as a result.

Problem #1 has already been solved in various and ingenious ways.

Problem #2 is what concerns me. I would prefer to turn on the sockets individually, so that only the transformers in use would draw electricity. I also don't want to spend the day plugging and unplugging like a one-ringy-dingy Ernestine.

Since I've been unable to find such a device anywhere, I've put together this mock-up to entice prospective inventors. Behold, the SwitchPlex™:

The SwitchPlex

Okay, I also have a problem with photo-editing software.

My SwitchPlex™ mockup does have a few shortcomings. For one, the outlets should be facing sideways. For another, it needs more outlets. Looking more closely, the switches should read On/Off not Reset/Off, but what can you do?

Noble inventor, your task is set before you. In exchange for your work, I hereby surrender all intellectual property rights to the SwitchPlex™. I'll expect to see it in finer stores everywhere by Christmas.

Archived Comments

  1. YukonDar on 20100612.Saturday:
    The wiring would be easy enough (switches and plugs). Wish I had a way of making the case... Brilliant idea though! It's one of those obvious ones that makes me say doh!
  2. Dave on 20100612.Saturday:
    I agree, it should be simple enough. What I'd really like is one that could tell whether current to a device (beyond any transformer) was being drawn, and if not, turn off the socket automatically. That way you wouldn't need any switches. But I'm not sure that's actually possible, since it would have to close the circuit just to tell whether it should then be opened, which basically means it would have to be on all the time anyway, just like regular power bars.
  3. YukonDar on 20100612.Saturday:
    I dunno. It might be easy. A circuit could be made with some simple enough logic (using a comparator or some such) which would measure when current is flowing. One could preset the "how much" and the circuit would auto-shut on it's own. I've made things similar in the distant past when I actually remembered my electronics. But any kind of circuitry which does any kind of sensing requires a constant source of power to power the sensing...now I have a headache.
  4. Dave on 20100613.Sunday:
    That's sorta what I figured. You could use a timer to check if a device was drawing current beyond the transformer every few seconds or something, but the constant on-off-on-off for the testing might not save all that much electricity in the long run (depending on how long would it take to detect the threshold), and I suppose could even damage some devices. Also, you wouldn't be able to use the totally cool name SwitchPlex™ if there weren't any switches. So there's that.