Ergonomic Nightmare of the Week: Electrical Outlets

Powering up your latest gadget often involves an adventure into a hard to reach crevice, maneuvering through tangles of cords and awkwardly shaped plastic squares to cram a couple of metal prongs into plastic slots.

outletstrip2.jpgoutlet strip

under my desk and by my bed

Since all the free slots are probably covered up by bulky AC adapters, you also have to engage in a game of musical chairs with the adapters in order to free up a slot in which the new adapter can fit. In some cases (this has happened to me), things get mixed up during the switcheroo, resulting in a fried network router…

outlet stripTroubleshooting that same gadget a few months later means returning to the dreaded crevice, deciphering the correct unmarked AC adapter and yanking the metal prongs out of the slots without disturbing the delicate balance that keeps the rest of your gadgets alive.

It’s fair to say that dealing with outlets is nothing less than an ergonomic nightmare. Fortunately designers recognize it as a problem and have addressed it in a variety of ways. Obviously the best solution would be to do away with outlets and plugs altogether but running all our gadgets on wireless power is still a ways off.

In the mean time, there are outlet stips like this one:

outletstrip3.jpgPlacing additional outlets on the side of the strip allows extra room for bulky adapters. This strip attempts to solve one problem, but it still looks like quite a mess.

Here’s another example of an alternative outlet featured on Design Matters designed by student designer Julia Burke: plugin outletI like the concept behind this design; the outlets are better positioned for easier reach and if properly spaced could also help to solve the AC adapter problem.

This particular design seems especially suited to outlets hiding behind furniture, eliminating the problem of having to blindly reach into the dark to scrape the prongs along the wall in order to feel the slots.

Any other solutions to this problem?

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