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'Transformers'

Discussion in 'Electrics UK' started by JohnW2, 1 Jul 2021.

  1. JohnW2

    JohnW2

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    In another thread, the oft-revisited Friday evening discussion about the semantics of "Transformer" has showed itself and, as usual, has confused the thread in which it arose.

    To recap, and then continuing with a response:

    If you were invoking that 'secondary' definition of the word, then, it wouldn't be "wrong" - any more than it would be "wrong" to describe a food processor, compost bin or lathe etc. etc. etc. as "a transformer". However, in none of those latter cases would anyone dream of doing that, since it would be silly, confusing and certainly an impediment to 'clear communication'. The same would be true if someone invented something that hitherto hadn't existed which changed/transformed something in some way - even if "correct" in terms of your definition, it would be totally ridiculous (and unhelpful) to use the word "transformer" to describe that brand new type of product as "a transformer", wouldn't it?

    More generally, what is arguably "wrong" is to move away from, and confuse, long-established use of terminology. For many decades before anyone had even dreamed of SMPSUs (in the days when the only "transformers" were wire-wound components), there were countless things which changed AC voltage into DC (usually/often of a different voltage), but such things were never called "transformers" (not the least because of the confusion it would have caused).

    So, a few decades ago, and despite the dictionary definitions (which probably haven't changed much), I think many/most people would have said that it was "wrong" to describe something which turned AC into DC as a "transformer" (and would not have dreamed that something called a "transformer" was designed to change AC into DC) - so what has changed over the decades to turn that "wrong" into a "right"?

    Kind Regards, John
     
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  3. SFK

    SFK

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    The general public who were not given a name for that 'black block' that was between the plug top and the small plug that went into the back of their device.
    As it had no specific name general users gravitated towards a name from an object that looked similar to it and operated in a similar manner.
     
    Last edited: 1 Jul 2021
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  4. EFLImpudence

    EFLImpudence

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    No. Now you are being ridiculous - especially after having quoted two other things that are called transformers.

    The trouble with the electrical "transformer" is that it is said to be limited to a device which changes voltage in only one particular way.

    I think Winston has said that he thinks it is even further limited to the original weighty lump that changes AC to AC and not even modern devices which do the same.
     
  5. winston1

    winston1

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    The general public should have been corrected
    at the outset, particularly as a black block looks nothing like a transformer nor does it operate in a similar way.

    I am now going to correct you and tell you that a plug top is the cover or lid of the plug.
     
  6. JohnW2

    JohnW2

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    We know that it sort-of 'what happened', but I think the real question is 'why?'

    However, as I said, there were 'black boxes' which converted AC into lower voltage DC around for decades before SMPSUs appeared, and 'normal users' did not generally call them "transformers" back then (ironically, even though most of them were simple transformer-based PSUs!), so what changed?

    It seems primarily in terms of lighting that this issue has arisen. Although they sometimes get called "transformers", most mains-fed 'black boxes/blocks' which produce ELV DC for devices are still most commonly called (as they always have been) "power supplies", "power adapters", "chargers", "battery eliminators" or whatever. Why is not 'everyone' also calling them 'transformers'?

    Kind Regards, John
     
  7. SUNRAY

    SUNRAY

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    To confuse the issue a little further a popular name for batterychargers and certainly the term commonly used by BT for mains powered DC supplies associated with batteries (a slightly different thin to a battery charger) was and possibly still is a 'Rectifier'.

    Personally I use transformer to describe a WW iron cored device and PSU or power supply for a DC output device. Wall wart covers both.
    However I'll happily accept whichever term is being used by the other person in the conversation in the same way as fuse box in lieu of consumer unit.
     
  8. JohnW2

    JohnW2

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    I obviously don't think that. It was you who suggested that it was "not wrong" (aka "correct"?) to use the word "transformer" to describe "anything that changes itself or something else" - and I was merely pointing out how ridiculous a situation that view could create - since it could be used as a word for a compost heap, lathe, petrol engine etc. etc. etc.
    To the best of my knowledge there is only one other "thing" (actually a fictional concept) that I mentioned as being commonly called a "transformer" - and that is a very fictional cartoon character/toy/whatever. If you cannot think of any non-fictional "thing" which is commonly called a "transformer", then I think my point will have been made.
    Well, I suppose I could point out that such is precisely how it was/is very commonly defined.

    However, that's not really my main issue. Technological advances/changes in the way we implement functionality can be dramatic. To cite but one example, both the concept and details of what is inside a modern TV would essentially be totally unrecognised by, and incomprehensible to, someone who was familiar only with a TV of the 1950s/60s. However, because the functional bottom line is the same (a 'programme' displayed on a screen and sound coming out of speakers) I/we have no problem in still using the same word for it ("television") as we did all those decades ago.

    As far as I am concerned, much the same with what we are talking about. IF we had 'black boxes/blocks' which, functionally, did the same thing as a (wirewound) transformer did/does (i.e. change AC voltage/current, without changing frequency) then, for the above reason, it could reasonably be described as a "transformer".

    So long as the things originally known as “transformers” are still around, I would prefer it if the modern ones were always qualified as “electronic transformers”, to avoid confusion by making it clear what one was talking about (just as we talked of “digital TVs” during the overlap period), but I have no problem with, per se, a thing with such functionality (no matter how achieved) being called a "transformer".

    Where I have more of a problem is when the word is used to describe something whose functionality (as well as technology) is different from that of a traditional (wire-wound) transformer - e.g. if the functionality involves conversion from AC to DC, or a change in frequency of AC, as well as a change in voltage/current.

    Furthermore, as I’ve say, “way back then”, there were plenty of things whose functionality “involves conversion from AC to DC, or a change in frequency of AC, as well as a change in voltage/current”, but we did not call them “transformers” then, so why do/should we now?

    Kind Regards, John
     
  9. ericmark

    ericmark

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    An electrical transformer when I was a kid, would transform voltage, current, turn current into voltage, or simply isolate, not sure how an isolation transformer can be called a transformer? With the electrical trade it is common to call a new device after the device it replaced, with transformer as least electronic was added so we have an electronic transformer.

    We also have power supply, driver, ballast, reactance, choke, auto transformer, battery eliminator, battery charger, switch mode power supply, pulse width modulated power supply, and USB outlet all which in some way seem to merge together in some way to a black box, OK some times silver.

    I see no real problem between electronic transformer and transformer, the word electronic divides them, same as bike and motor bike and e-bike.

    It is ballast which causes the problem, the word electronic does not seem to be used, and LED tubes don't seem to like being fitted to electronic ballasts, at first they were called HF ballasts, but seems HF has been dropped.

    To my mind a driver is a current regulated power supply used for lighting, but is seems any DC power supply designed for lighting is not called a driver, be it current or voltage regulated.

    To my mind a bulbous replacement for the wick or mantel in a lamp is called a bulb, and still called a bulb if it replaces a bulb as with a CFL not sure why CFL I would have said CFT as a compact fluorescent tube, it is not a lamp, it is only part of a lamp, in fact I remember ordering a head lamp and got everything except for the bulb. But the manufacturer seems to select the name, mainly from tradition, although names are stolen, Nikola Tesla it is claimed made an electric car, using radio waves to get the power to it, he also tried lighting a village using radio waves, although a fire means no one quite sure what he did invent, but the Tesla car was nothing like the Tesla car of today, it is like a new company selecting the name Austin or Morris, both now gone,
    would that be what we now call a fluorescent lamp?

    We do have a problem with English used in electrics, for example “qualified person” means a person competent to undertake the inspection and testing required under regulation 3(1) and any further investigative or remedial work in accordance with the electrical safety standards; and “electrical installation” means fixed electrical cables or fixed electrical equipment located on the consumer’s side of the electricity supply meter; the fact that the laws need to define these phrases does show the problem.

    So “extra-low voltage” means voltage not exceeding—
    (a)in relation to alternating current, 50 volts between conductors and earth; or
    (b)in relation to direct current, 120 volts between conductors;
    Is what law says, but BS7671 says:- Voltage, nominal. Voltage by which an installation (or part of an installation) is designated. The following ranges
    of nominal voltage (rms values for a.c.) are defined:
    - Extra-low. Not exceeding 50 V a.c. or 120 V ripple-free d.c., whether between conductors or to Earth.

    Not quite the same, I would have thought (b) should say "(b)in relation to direct current, not more than 120 volts ripple-free between conductors and/or earth;"
    Why they couldn't have simply copied what BS7671 said I have no idea. It seems they can for what ever reason tried to write gobbledygook.
     
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  11. bernardgreen

    bernardgreen

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    Qualified means they have the qualification, it does not mean they are competent. They may be found to be competent on the day they were tested but they may then, a few days after getting the paper qualification handed to them, have forgotten what they were taught.
     
  12. ericmark

    ericmark

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    I have to agree, dementia is a problem, and I can still put up my qualifications even when suffering from alzheimer's disease, this was a point made when the Part P regulations were relaxed, I could see the flaw in argument, but they pointed out less people were thrown off the scheme membership than suffer from dementia so clearly the scheme providers were not doing their job, so no point in having them, it was just a money making exercise.

    The flaw is some one with dementia is likely to leave the scheme without being pushed.

    Competent Person has be combined with skilled today so we have Skilled person. A person with technical knowledge or sufficient experience to enable him/her to avoid dangers which electricity may create. The old definition skilled looked after himself and competent was himself and others.

    Again down to use of English, a competent person does not need to be a member of a competent persons scheme, they are very different.

    When we see the problems using English, one can understand why there is such a problem translating in to Welsh. Decimate = get rid of one in ten, but meaning seems to have changed in my life time to mean the reverse and keep one in ten. Language is evolving, and in years to come "me bike" may be correct?
     
  13. bernardgreen

    bernardgreen

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    And don't forget the "qualified" person who finds that cost of working competently reduces profits.
     
  14. ericmark

    ericmark

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    Anyway transformer delivered upload_2021-7-2_10-8-55.png !
     
  15. JohnW2

    JohnW2

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    Yes, I did briefly think about isolation transformers in relation to EFLI's argument that "anything which changes anything" can, per dictionary definitions, be called "a transformer". I then realised that, although an isolation transformer does not change current or voltage, it does "change" an earth-referenced supply to a floating one - so would technically qualify as a "transformer" per the definition he was invoking (in the same way as would a compost bin, lathe or millions of other things!)
    As I said, I have no problem with the 'old word' being used (as you say, ideally qualified with 'electronic') when technological changes result in the same functionality being achieved by completely different means.

    When you and I were kids, (wire-wound) transformers were things which changed AC voltage/current (or 'isolated'), and didn't change the frequency of the AC. I therefore wouldn't have a problem using the word "transformer" to refer to some modern 'box' which did those same things by some totally different method. However, that is NOT the functionality of many of the modern things that get called "transformers" (i.e. those which convert AC to DC, or change the frequency of AC, as well as changing voltage/current). If they don't have the same functionality as the transformers of our childhood, then I don't personally think we should use the same name as for those 'original' items.

    Furthermore, at that historical time, there were also "things" that could convert AC to DC (or, much less common, change the frequency of AC), as well as (usually) changing voltage/current, but we did NOT call them "transformers". If it wasn't regarded as a 'correct' word to use for such things back then, why would/should it be 'correct' now?

    Kind Regards, John
     
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  16. ericmark

    ericmark

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    The synchronous vibrator [​IMG] was a separate item to the transformer, and we used a different name when combined we called it a rotary converter. Maybe we should just call them all thingamajigs and forget having all the different words.
     
  17. davelx

    davelx

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    Ah, WS No. 19, those were the days!
     
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