Sunday, 6 May 2018

Electrifying Edison

-Brian Mendonça

A stitch in time,  saves nine.
                           English Proverb*

I connected my laptop power cord to a multiplug and put the multiplug into the socket in the wall. To the multiplug I stuck in the two-pin plug for my light-emitting diode (LED) desk light – so the light would shine on my keyboard.  A few minutes later we were startled by the sound of a small explosion.

The wire for the desk light had for some days been recalcitrant. There was a loose contact somewhere. Whenever I tried to plug it in, it sometimes refused to light up.  I shrugged it off saying I would attend to it later. Until this happened.

Frightened out of my wits, with the light going off, I moaned the fact that my stylish appliance with its ‘minimalistic design’ had been damaged beyond repair. Why oh why had I let matters deteriorate like this?

I soon discovered that the altar light and a couple of other lights too were not working.  When I called up the electrician, he calmly asked me what the problem was.  ‘Go to the door,’ he said. ‘On your right is a fuse box. One of the fuses will be down. Push it up and the lights will come on.’ I did that and the hall lights were restored.

But my desk light still needed attention.

When the electrician came he showed me that the wires were partly frayed. When the current passed through, the circuit was broken and the fuse tripped.  The circuit breaker immediately shut down the power supply for the connections to that switch so that the rest of the wiring would not go up in smoke.

The electrician pulled out a rather nasty knife out of nowhere and expertly sliced off the plastic coating on the wire. He cut away the offending segment and proceeded to pin down the wires in the crevice of a new two-pin plug I had procured. The lamp is working fine now.

My seven-year old son hastened to inform me, to trip is to fall.

‘A circuit breaker is an automatically operated electrical switch designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage caused by overload or short circuit. Its basic function is to detect a fault condition and interrupt current flow,’ notes SS Verma in his blog post on electrical circuit breakers featured in the website

The circuit breaker was the brain child of Thomas Alva Edison in 1879. ‘With the installation of lighting in large cities, Edison realized that short circuits that raised the current to very high levels could damage the filament of the bulbs and destroy them. He explored a couple of options to mitigate this.’ (Nathalie Gosset in

Enterprising companies have devised plastic supports which can be fixed on to the one inch or so of wire cord emerging from the two-pin plug to prevent the wire from bending leading to short circuit.
*Thomas Fuller's Gnomologia, Adagies and Proverbs, Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British, 1732. Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 6 May 2018. Pix courtesy

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