30 October 2010
Aerial electricity
Brian Micklethwait

Internet connections when on the move are nice, but increasingly, as Michael J told me would happen several years ago, people now have their own.  What they don’t have is their own everlasting mobile power supply.  Or not yet.  So, the fact that these are now appearing in more and more British train carriages is very welcome.  Few use them.  I seldom use them myself.  But I like it that they’re there.

That’s not so difficult to arrange.  But in the air, where every ounce counts, supplying electricity is, as James Fallows reported some days ago, a lot harder.

Question: will ever cheaper and more fequently used international travel, combined with arrangements like this, eventually create demand for a global standard in electric plugs?  Or are we stuck with state-imposed confusion for ever?

Remember when it was said that only Government could sort out the mess of conflicting computer and computer plug and computer storage (etc. etc.) standards.  Imagine the permanent bedlam that actually existing governments might have imposed upon all that, also.

RELATED: Tube Wi-Fi trial at Charring Cross.  The point being, presumably, that our regular internet connections don’t work down there.

Glasgow is there already.

  1. When I am in and around London, power in a train is rarely that useful to me, because I am usually going from home to office, or to a friend’s house, or anyway I will be somewhere where I will be able to recharge within a few hours. It’s useful if I am coming back from a day out somewhere where I have used my batteries up, though. It’s more useful when I am on a long distance train and I want to use a laptop on the whole journey, or particularly when I am in a foreign country and my opportunities to charge the batteries of my gadgets are limited.

    With respect to aircraft, I think James Fallows is (as so often) largely talking crap. He talks about passengers drawing 2 Amps from a 120V socket. Assuming that is 2A 120V RMS (which it must be), that is 240 Watts of power. Depending on the laptop, power consumption for a laptop peaks at 40-80W. Peak only occurs when you are using the laptop heavily and charging the battery at the same time, which we are certainly not doing all the time. Mobile phones, iPads, gaming devices use a lot less than that. I cannot really see the average power usage of an aircraft passenger being more than a tenth of the number stated. As it is, we have private video screens / gaming devices etc for each passenger in economy in most long haul aircraft these days. A high percentage of these often are in use at the same time, and each must draw about the same power as a laptop. Using laptops instead would not be a much larger draw of power than is happening already.

    Power sockets in the back of seats have finally started to become common in economy when you fly long haul. It is like power sockets in trains: most of the time most people are not using them, but they are very nice to have when you need one.

    Posted by Michael Jennings on  30 October 2010 at 06:03 pm

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