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Why Aren't There Universal Sockets in Every Country?

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Why aren't there universal sockets in every country?

Balaji Viswanathan:

While the Americans developed the power delivery systems and the modern electric plug, other countries didn’t find the American standards—60 Hz, 110V, and their plug system—as efficient.

Thus, on their own, each country started improving on what they thought was an inefficient way to deliver electricity. Germans liked the 50Hz (which fit nicely with the metric system) and 220V (which provided more efficient power transmission) much better. Englishmen improved upon on the American plug with a much safer (and bulkier) plug.

Unfortunately for the Indians and Pakistanis, their innovation came after they left India in 1947, leaving the subcontinent in the older English standards and the English in newer plug standard. England and Europe don’t talk very much, and thus Europe didn’t adopt the English standard either.

Before that the world wars came in and pushed back all talks of standardization: "Oh you want to use the plug system of the Germans? No way."

Then there were the unique ways in which electricity was delivered and charged. For a long time, Italy had different systems for delivering electricity for bulbs versus non-illumination use. They just developed their own plug system to work with that requirement. Thus, each system of plugs had their own advantages suitable for their system and countries didn’t accept one system to be better than another.

Once you have picked one system of electric plugs, it is not easy to switch (no pun intended) to another. You need to rip apart all the wall sockets in every home, office, and factory, and also change stuff in your electrical appliance production. You need to do it all at once to prevent accidents and that will be very painful and expensive. That shock (again, no pun intended) and pain is not usually worth it. Most countries found that there weren't that many travelers who wanted to carry their electrical equipment around—why would you take your microwave oven or TV during your travels?—while there are easier workarounds for charging electronic equipment through USB standards. Thus, there is not really a push to accept the global standards (the Type N plug).

In summary, every country evolved its own system in parallel to replace what they thought was an inefficient American system and by the time they talked to each other there were two world wars, pushing out all talks of standardization. By the end of World War II, electricity was ubiquitous and it was very painful to switch to a common standard and there was very little demand for such a switch.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Big Questions
Who Was Chuck Taylor?
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From Betty Crocker to Tommy Bahama, plenty of popular labels are "named" after fake people. But one product with a bona fide backstory to its moniker is Converse's Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers. The durable gym shoes are beloved by everyone from jocks to hipsters. But who's the man behind the cursive signature on the trademark circular ankle patch?

As journalist Abraham Aamidor recounted in his 2006 book Chuck Taylor, All Star: The True Story of the Man behind the Most Famous Athletic Shoe in History, Chuck Taylor was a former pro basketball player-turned-Converse salesman whose personal brand and tireless salesmanship were instrumental to the shoes' success.

Charles Hollis Taylor was born on July 24, 1901, and raised in southern Indiana. Basketball—the brand-new sport invented by James Naismith in 1891—was beginning to take the Hoosier State by storm. Taylor joined his high school team, the Columbus High School Bull Dogs, and was named captain.

After graduation, instead of heading off to college, Taylor launched his semi-pro career playing basketball with the Columbus Commercials. He’d go on to play for a handful of other teams across the Midwest, including the the Akron Firestone Non-Skids in Ohio, before finally moving to Chicago in 1922 to work as a sales representative for the Converse Rubber Shoe Co. (The company's name was eventually shortened to Converse, Inc.)

Founded in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1908 as a rubber shoe manufacturer, Converse first began producing canvas shoes in 1915, since there wasn't a year-round market for galoshes. They introduced their All-Star canvas sports shoes two years later, in 1917. It’s unclear whether Chuck was initially recruited to also play ball for Converse (by 1926, the brand was sponsoring a traveling team) or if he was simply employed to work in sales. However, we do know that he quickly proved himself to be indispensable to the company.

Taylor listened carefully to customer feedback, and passed on suggestions for shoe improvements—including more padding under the ball of the foot, a different rubber compound in the sole to avoid scuffs, and a patch to protect the ankle—to his regional office. He also relied on his basketball skills to impress prospective clients, hosting free Chuck Taylor basketball clinics around the country to teach high school and college players his signature moves on the court.

In addition to his myriad other job duties, Taylor played for and managed the All-Stars, a traveling team sponsored by Converse to promote their new All Star shoes, and launched and helped publish the Converse Basketball Yearbook, which covered the game of basketball on an annual basis.

After leaving the All-Stars, Taylor continued to publicize his shoe—and own personal brand—by hobnobbing with customers at small-town sporting goods stores and making “special appearances” at local basketball games. There, he’d be included in the starting lineup of a local team during a pivotal game.

Taylor’s star grew so bright that in 1932, Converse added his signature to the ankle patch of the All Star shoes. From that point on, they were known as Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Still, Taylor—who reportedly took shameless advantage of his expense account and earned a good salary—is believed to have never received royalties for the use of his name.

In 1969, Taylor was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The same year, he died from a heart attack on June 23, at the age of 67. Around this time, athletic shoes manufactured by companies like Adidas and Nike began replacing Converse on the court, and soon both Taylor and his namesake kicks were beloved by a different sort of customer.

Still, even though Taylor's star has faded over the decades, fans of his shoe continue to carry on his legacy: Today, Converse sells more than 270,000 pairs of Chuck Taylors a day, 365 days a year, to retro-loving customers who can't get enough of the athlete's looping cursive signature.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
What Is the Difference Between Generic and Name Brand Ibuprofen?
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What is the difference between generic ibuprofen vs. name brands?

Yali Friedman:

I just published a paper that answers this question: Are Generic Drugs Less Safe than their Branded Equivalents?

Here’s the tl;dr version:

Generic drugs are versions of drugs made by companies other than the company which originally developed the drug.

To gain FDA approval, a generic drug must:

  • Contain the same active ingredients as the innovator drug (inactive ingredients may vary)
  • Be identical in strength, dosage form, and route of administration
  • Have the same use indications
  • Be bioequivalent
  • Meet the same batch requirements for identity, strength, purity, and quality
  • Be manufactured under the same strict standards of FDA's good manufacturing practice regulations required for innovator products

I hope you found this answer useful. Feel free to reach out at www.thinkbiotech.com. For more on generic drugs, you can see our resources and whitepapers at Pharmaceutical strategic guidance and whitepapers

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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