by Frank Trotter
As frequent travelers, we have acquired and dedicate a full desk drawer to electrical converters. We think we have found a couple that are ideal, with the perfect dials and flexible extensions that will allow us to twist or turn the various prongs into the right configuration for each country. Still, sometimes our computers vaguely vibrate as though alive as we charge them and, on occasion, a hair dryer more or less explodes in our hands. But for the most part, they work great.
Standards like electrical current characteristics or plug configurations are mostly helpful. At home, all of our appliances function every single time. Behind the scenes, however, there is often a battle royal between firms competing to own the standard. Sometimes a winning technology may be covered by patent, providing the firm in question with a near-monopoly level of dominance until the protection runs out.