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Free Electricity from the phone company
December 4, 2002 6:20 AM   Subscribe

Free electricity from the phone company. I already knew that phone lines carry an electrical current, but using it to power devices other than telephones is a new one on me. Some of these are useful, some are interesting, and some are pretty ironic. [via boingboing]
posted by shecky57 (45 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
first!
posted by 11235813 at 6:20 AM on December 4, 2002


First: 11235813, you're a loser.

Second: shecky57, it's well-done one, but this site has to be a joke, right? It mentions no major techincal information, it's product specs are common household products with phone cords glued to them, the contact info mentions in a humorous way why they won't respond to you, and the celebrity testimonial is from someone claiming to work at the site of the world's worse nuclear disaster.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:42 AM on December 4, 2002


however, you can get that little bit of power from the phone lines.

Can't power a whole lot, though.
posted by angry modem at 6:46 AM on December 4, 2002


The Dildo was the best. Puts a whole new spin on "Phone Sex".
posted by danisaacs at 6:52 AM on December 4, 2002


This vibrator... it vibrates?
posted by e.e. coli at 6:52 AM on December 4, 2002


this site has to be a joke, right?

Uh, with a product like Portable Defibrillators, I should hope so.
posted by moonbiter at 6:54 AM on December 4, 2002


Yeah, but it would be a hell of a work gag. "Hey Bob!" "Yeah, Ste-ZZZZZZZZAAAAAAAAAAP! ARRRRRRRRRRGH!"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:57 AM on December 4, 2002


Aren't most of the products shown BATTERY operated to begin with? Phone line powered vaccum! How about a mop or a broom or waiting until the blackout ends? If I could charge my electric car from the phone line, that would be worth it.
posted by Frank Grimes at 6:59 AM on December 4, 2002


I'm disappointed that he doesn't offer refrigerators or air conditioners.
posted by alms at 7:02 AM on December 4, 2002


Uh, with a product like Portable Defibrillators, I should hope so.

Laugh all you like, but portable defibrillators could be on store shelves in time for Christmas.
posted by eatitlive at 7:03 AM on December 4, 2002


Please Note: Due to the volume of requests for information on these products, and the difficulty in sorting out these legitimate email requests from spam like penis enlargement ads, bulk email ads, toner cartridge ads, work at home ads, Viagra for women ads, anti-aging ads and weight loss ads, email response may be delayed for some time.

Gotta love a disclaimer like that!
posted by mortisimo at 7:15 AM on December 4, 2002


I'm hoping the cell phone would tip most people off. Or the electric toothbrush. Or razor. Or the prices.
posted by yerfatma at 7:19 AM on December 4, 2002


Twelfth!
posted by eas98 at 7:19 AM on December 4, 2002


Aw yerfatma, you messed me up. Make that Thirteenth and now Fourteenth.
posted by eas98 at 7:21 AM on December 4, 2002


With my limited understanding of the phone company's monitoring of electricity levels to bill you, I think the vibrator would result in a rather expensive orgasm, even taking the price tag as a sunk cost. (Plus, that vibrator, it wouldn't vibrate. Much.)
posted by yerfatma at 7:21 AM on December 4, 2002


Wait, so this vibrator... it doesn't vibrate?
posted by mkultra at 7:24 AM on December 4, 2002


well, at first the dial tone would generate a steady vibration, but the 'off the hook' sound would then make it pulsate, a bit. then, it wouldn't work.

right?
posted by angry modem at 7:25 AM on December 4, 2002


Um, the patent number he says his devices are covered by is for an "amusement device for a toilet bowl or urinal".

'nuff said.
posted by MeetMegan at 7:31 AM on December 4, 2002


angry modem, are you asking how phone connections work? No wonder you're upset.
posted by yerfatma at 7:57 AM on December 4, 2002


I can't call from where I am, but has anyone tried the number ((630)980-7710) to see if this is simply humor or a humorous scam? Obviously, it's not real, but maybe if you're gullible enough to fall for it, they'll still take your money.
posted by originalname37 at 8:16 AM on December 4, 2002


I'm disappointed that he doesn't offer refrigerators or air conditioners.

Yes, here:Scientists at a Pennsylvania State University lab are developing ways to use sound waves to chill food. Research is sponsored by Ben and Jerry's ice cream!

The last link. Notice sound was missing in the previous links besides a working connection.
posted by thomcatspike at 8:19 AM on December 4, 2002


The phone number is listed as Nighttime News Service, as well as Mike Sandman...
posted by MeetMegan at 8:24 AM on December 4, 2002


I'm not sure if this is legit or not, but the reason why you see so many battery powered devices is that those devices require more power than the phone line can deliver, so the phone line is supposedly being used to trickle-charge the device. Therefore, you'd probably need to charge for much longer than the time you'd get to use the device for.
posted by joquarky at 8:37 AM on December 4, 2002


PS: doing this would be illegal, in any case.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:45 AM on December 4, 2002


angry modem, are you asking how phone connections work? No wonder you're upset.

I'm angry because of unfunny one-liners.
posted by angry modem at 8:59 AM on December 4, 2002


On the phone with them right now, they're legit, kind of stupid and untechnical tho.

So...Yes, the vibrator does indeed vibrate.
posted by BentPenguin at 9:16 AM on December 4, 2002


XQ: that should have been "...you're a loser, d00d."
posted by cortex at 9:17 AM on December 4, 2002


Another "free electricity" scheme that crops up now and then involves harvesting power from the radio waves that are all around us. The idea is, if you're surrounded by attennas pumping out 50,000 watts of energy in the form of radio waves, you should be able to set up some kind of array that captures some of that energy back and turn it into usable electricity. I can't find any references except this (see item in project list near the end), which has no detail (I guess it means they are looking for someone to invest $10 million in the proposition. Calling themselves 'Brooklyn Bridge' doesn't help sell it, IMHO.)
posted by beagle at 9:51 AM on December 4, 2002


yes, you can get juice from the telco jack. thats how "princess" phones lit up in the 60's. but as for this site, i stopped reading and put it in my pile of bookmarks for blort when i got to this:

Our Chief Scientist, Dr. Emil Drizzlenik PhD from the renowned Chernobyl Electrical Institute in Russia, developed this patented technology after an accident at the power plant left all of the homes and businesses in his area dark.

drizzlenik. chernobyl. patented technology. yeah.
posted by quonsar at 10:22 AM on December 4, 2002


beagle, there is some truth in your comments. A friend of my used to live in the country and his housing track backed up to some very large power lines. He mentioned once that a neighbor got caught "stealing" power by using a similar method that you mentioned. Anyone who know how a transformer works can see how easy this is.
posted by lsd4all at 10:25 AM on December 4, 2002


oh, i take some of that that back. after rummaging in the closet, i see my old princess phone actually had a block transformer which was located near the service entrance. the second copper pair in the line was used to feed the phones lighted dial.
posted by quonsar at 10:25 AM on December 4, 2002


hmmm. i wonder what an old princess phone with transformer block would fetch on eBay?
posted by quonsar at 10:28 AM on December 4, 2002


You can get flourescent tubes to light up by standing under high voltage power lines.
posted by zeoslap at 10:44 AM on December 4, 2002


quonsar- Apparently, quite a bit, depending on condition.
posted by mkultra at 10:48 AM on December 4, 2002


holy moley! :-)
posted by quonsar at 12:05 PM on December 4, 2002


Speaking of stealing electricity... What used to happen out in the rural areas of the US midwest, and what does sometimes happen in rural areas in less developed countries today is that people living out in the middle of nowhere will sometimes tap into a powerline without enough knowledge of the electricity to take the proper precautions. As a result, random instability in the electric system would sometimes lead to a barn exploding.
posted by crazy finger at 12:56 PM on December 4, 2002


As a result, random instability in the electric system would sometimes lead to a barn exploding.

Everyone needs a little entropy in their lives. If Robbery Homicide Division is to be believed, people are still tapping power lines to make meth.
posted by yerfatma at 1:10 PM on December 4, 2002


I'm just happy knowing that on one day at some point in his life, quonsar decided to go out and buy a Princess phone.
posted by yhbc at 1:46 PM on December 4, 2002


Speaking of stealing electricity ... here's a British story on wireless theft of power off high-voltage lines.
posted by beagle at 2:12 PM on December 4, 2002


Due to the nature of these products and the terrific demand, we will charge your credit card as soon as the order is placed. Should you wish to cancel your order, or if the products should prove to be on backorder or unavailable for more than twelve months, we will cancel your order and refund half of the monies paid.

So basically they wait twelve months, cancel your order, then keep half of your money for not being able to supply a product (which probably never existed anyway) ..... nice :)
posted by snoopie at 3:16 PM on December 4, 2002


Thanks snoopie for answering my question. They should be happy enough with just keeping your money for 12 months with no interest. Why get greedy and refund only half?
posted by originalname37 at 3:54 PM on December 4, 2002


well, at first the dial tone would generate a steady vibration, but the 'off the hook' sound would then make it pulsate, a bit. then, it wouldn't work.

Voice of experience?
posted by dg at 6:52 PM on December 4, 2002


Another "free electricity" scheme that crops up now and then involves harvesting power from the radio waves that are all around us.

The wireless transmission of energy would become the ultimate pursuit of Tesla's career. He discovered that a vacuum tube held in proximity to a Tesla coil would burst into illumination, without wires, without even a filament inside the glowing tube. Electrical resonance was the key to this discovery. By determining the frequency of the needed electrical current, Tesla was able to turn a series of different lights on and off selectively, from yards away. He had just become an American citizen in 1891, and this new technology was to be his gift of thanks to his adoptive country: a means of transmitting energy instantly, across any distance, through thin air. Free energy for everyone.

In a last-ditch effort to keep his investor from deserting him, Tesla revealed to Morgan that his true goal was not to replace the telegraph, but to replace the conventional transmission of electricity. Morgan responded by withdrawing his support entirely.

Tesla would never get another opportunity to bring free energy to the world.

posted by thomcatspike at 2:43 PM on December 5, 2002


Okay, since I'm sure none of you care :-) here's the details of power and phones:

On hook -- -48 VDC. Yes, negative. It makes sure the lines don't get electroplated (honestly). Approx. 50 mA of current can be drawn at this voltage before the phone senses an off-hook condition (may be less in your area, however, phones are supposed to display a 600 Ohm load to the line when off hook).

Off hook -- 9 VDC (max). Approx. 40 mA of current can be drawn at this voltage. Much more than that will likely show as a short. You can (sort of) measure your distance to your exchange by measuring this.

Ringing -- 90 VAC. I wouldn't bother trying to tap this... :-)

The ringing voltage (and, to some degree, the on hook voltage) are why you should NEVER work on a live phone line unless a phone is off the hook.

There's more here, if you care to read.

BTW: Tapping this power could get your phone disconnected. It might even be illegal, since phones are _supposed_ to be powered by battery banks in the CO (helps ensure they work during power outs) and if you are draining them for no reason during an emergency, you're going to look like an idiot. And if you're in the US, like that store (I think) it's definately illegal as per the FCC.

BTW: The current available is more than enough to make a decent high-intensity LED flashlight with. Could come in handy during power outages (but read the above before you do something stupid like use it). Parts required: LED ($0.25) + 2.2k resistor ($0.05). Wire in series. Reverse if it doesn't light. Enjoy. Don't zap yourself.

Oh, and many of those devices (especially the car charger) will draw so much power they'll be sending a telco van to your house to see what the short is in NO time. Your crappy phones (not quality ones) will start to make chirping noises at night when the CO automatically runs tests on them, and other fun things if you start to do this stuff.

Just to let you know...
posted by shepd at 5:30 PM on December 5, 2002


yhbc, as much as i'd like to take credit for that stylish purchase, the phone belongs to my parents. i have no idea how i ended up with it all these years later.

and shepd - in particular, i would advise against working at the external interface box standing in damp grass with bare feet and the stripped leads gripped between your teeth. an incoming call WILL result in an embarrassing display for the neighbors. i found out the hard way.
posted by quonsar at 5:40 AM on December 6, 2002


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