I wasn't sure whether it was more appropriate to post here or rather on electronics SE, but please bear with me...

Why was the 120 VAC outlet and the pinout of the plugs shaped the way they are?

enter image description here

I thought it would be obvious to anyone working on the layout that this outlet is a depressing looking design. Other countries, for example like Denmark, have a design which is much more pleasing to look at and makes me feel like I'm having a good day. A simple modification of the design of the outlet/plugs proposed below seems to provide this same perk, without compromising functionality in any obvious way.

enter image description here

  • 4
    This is done to make a kid think twice before putting anything stupid into the happy smiling outlet... May 24, 2013 at 7:19
  • +1 Exactly my thought. I wonder if there are studies on how many accidents per child happen with outlets in the US versus Denmark?
    – David K.
    May 24, 2013 at 7:36
  • @DKOATED - let's be frank. This was supposed to be a joke (dunno, maybe once in a blue moon a joke is true); the real problem lies with the parents, not electrical engineers - however, there are specifically kid-safe outlet designs (U.S. Patent 3990758, 1976 by Tor H. Peterson - probably a Dane :) ). May 24, 2013 at 7:48
  • 1
    Still ;) ... My point is valid. I'd like to see statistics on how many accidents happen with US outlets versus Danish outlets...
    – David K.
    May 24, 2013 at 8:07
  • Because they're installed upside down! Having the ground pin on the top is theoretically safer, because anything falling on a partly exposed plug will not short hot and neutral together. May 24, 2013 at 14:10

1 Answer 1


Because, more often than not, an engineer is made solely responsible for something that has a visual component. I'm sure no one considered bringing a visual or product designer into the mix when the basic structure of this interface was conceived.

For the record, I have no historical reference to back this. Just experience ;)

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.