It shouldn't be this hard, but all I want is a power strip with switches on each outlet. In my garage I have no less than six different chargers, and I don't want or need them to be on all the time. If I still lived in the UK, I could find such a device anywhere. However, as I live in the USA, the concept of switches on power outlets is against the constitution or something and impossible to find.
Digression: Terminology Translation
For the benefit of British readers, here is a table to translate the rest of this post between the two languages:
|Power strip||Extension lead|
|Power cord||Mains lead|
|Wall wart||Power brick/Mains adaptor|
Part of the problem is the incredibly bad US standard for such things. The US system for connecting devices to electricity seems to have been invented about 3 days after the electric light bulb itself. It is incredibly primitive and gratuitously unsafe, especially compared with the fabulous UK system (in use since 1962). The idea of mandatory earth pins, a strong physical connection, fuses, difficulty of inserting metal objects into the sockets, all these things are expected and standard in Britain but seemingly unconsitutional in the USA. Considering the incredibly litiguous nature of America, you'd think someone like Ralph Nader would have sued the standards body (NEMA) for being so asleep at the wheel for so long.
The problem with switches is more than just on power strips: I have never seen a switch on a US outlet. Ever. To turn something off, you are expected, nay required, to yank the cord from the outlet. You actually get sparks when you do this, and of course it places extreme strain on the cable that connects to the plug, but hey: its only 110V so no-one cares.
I think another part of the problem is the stereotypical profiligate energy usage of Americans: why put a switch on an outlet, when you can just leave the device turned on permanently instead? It has been estimated that wall warts consume 4% of electricity in the USA - even George W Bush knows it! Despite this the concept of switches on outlets remains foreign to the American electrical industry.
In summary: if anyone knows of a US power strip with individual switches, please post a link in the Comments section. Save my sanity (and a little bit of my electric bill).
For details of all the different standard plugs & sockets in the world, see the great page on Wikipedia.