While the field of electronics has made stellar advances in the past half century, electrical systems for homes, like so many other aspects of building, have remained firmly mired in the 19th century. Other than adjusting to our seemingly boundless appetite for energy -- the average electrical capacity of our homes has increased tenfold in the past century -- the apparatus of home electrical systems has changed so little that Edison would easily understand it. In this era of miniaturization, our light switches are still primitive, clumsy affairs that are many times bigger than necessary. Installing home electrical devices like switches and receptacles still means wrestling with a recalcitrant jumble of wires and contacts little different from the ones your great-grandfather might have wrestled with. In the same span of time, mind you, we've gone from man's first flight at Kitty Hawk to the International Space Station. A brief glance at the history of electrification underscores how lit...
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