When I first saw Apple’s new MagSafe power adapter on their MacBook and MacBook Pro computers, I thought “Smart idea! Why hasn’t anyone thought of doing this before?”. It turns out others had…
For those who don’t know, the MagSafe Power Adapter uses a magnetic connection instead of a physical one to connect power to the computer. The idea is that, if you trip over the cord, the power cord comes away cleanly with little force, so your new computer doesn’t fall to the floor. Brilliant! Apple’s website has a great little animation to show this in action. It also makes it easier to plug in the cord, as you put the adapter near the connector and the two are attracted to one another and snap together cleanly.
So, I was a little surprised while visiting Japan earlier this year. My brother-in-law brought over a second hand Humidifier (pictured) he had picked up. It was winter, and as usual I had a cold so he thought this might help me out (thanks Yukio).
When I went to plug it in I discovered that this device (built in 2003) had a magnetic power cord connector. Certainly not as small or elegant as the Apple MagSafe, but the same basic idea. The cord has two magnets between the power pin connectors, and the magnets attract and hold the adapter in place on the humidifier.
So there you have it. It turns out that there are other devices in Japan that have these magnetic adapters (deep fryers, heaters). Not sure about the rest of the world – I’ve never seen any (other than the MagSafe) in Australia. So it’s an old idea, but a clever one – one that would seem ideal for other devices too. Think about it next time you’re fumbling behind some device blindly trying to plug in some cable.