There are some frustrations that come with the territory of living in an old house. I live in one of four apartments in a house that was built in the 1890s. It’s a nice-looking Victorian, complete with radiators instead of forced-air, buzzers instead of door bells and highly-ornate, ungrounded outlets instead of grounded, highly-functional outlets. Some of my outlets are even arranged in a pattern that I don’t think gets made any more (the prongs, I would imagine, would have to be arranged in a cross shape). To my chagrin, every time I go to plug in a cord with a grounding pin, I have to check around the other outlets to find my grounded pin adapter, which makes a grounded cord connectable with an ungrounded outlet. Why are grounded connections necessary, anyway?
Grounded power cords and outlets are grounded for some very good reasons, which is why you find fewer and fewer ungrounded receptacles nowadays. Electricity flows in a circuit. When you look at the plug on a power cord, you notice that the plug has at least two prongs. Each of these prongs are avenues through which electrical current passes, and in order for the current to pass into and out of the device to which the power cord is connected, the device must by physically connected to surfaces that allow electricity to flow through the device instead of just to the device. Very simply put, power flows from the right hole in the outlet (In America and a few other places – in other parts of the world, receptacles are arranged differently) and back to the left hole. The grounded prong that is connected to the grounding hole in an electrical outlet is included in the arrangement because it provides a grounding line, which is a line that is connected to the ground. The presence of a grounding line protects the users of the connected electronic devices from getting shocked if something goes wrong with the wiring of their devices. When using grounded cords and outlets, the consequence of a fault is a trip at the circuit breaker instead of a shock. Sounds like a pretty good trade-off, huh?
Because they’re so much safer to use than ungrounded connections, grounded power cords and outlets are near to becoming the exclusive, industry-standard power connection products in many cases.