The United States of America (USA), commonly referred to as the United States (US), America, or simply the States, is a federal republic consisting of 50 states, 16 territories, and a federal district. The 48 contiguous states and the federal district of Washington, D.C., are in central North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is the northwestern part of North America and the state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also has five populated and nine unpopulated territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean. At 3.79 million square miles (9.83 million km2) in total and with around 316 million people, the United States is the fourth-largest country by total area and third largest by population. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries. The geography and climate of the United States is also extremely diverse, and it is home to a wide variety of wildlife.
Paleo-indians migrated from Asia to what is now the US mainland around 15,000 years ago, with European colonization beginning in the 16th century. The United States emerged from 13 British colonies located along the Atlantic seaboard. Disputes between Great Britain and these colonies led to the American Revolution. On July 4, 1776, delegates from the 13 colonies unanimously issued the Declaration of Independence. The ensuing war ended in 1783 with the recognition of independence of the United States from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and was the first successful war of independence against a European colonial empire. The current Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787. The first 10 amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and guarantee many fundamental civil rights and freedoms.
Electrical engineering is a field of engineering that generally deals with the study and application of electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism. This field first became an identifiable occupation in the latter half of the 19th century after commercialization of the electric telegraph, the telephone, and electric power distribution and use. It now covers a wide range of subfields including electronics, digital computers, power engineering, telecommunications, control systems, RF engineering, and signal processing.
Electrical engineering may include electronic engineering. Where a distinction is made, usually outside of the United States, electrical engineering is considered to deal with the problems associated with systems such as electric power transmission and electrical machines, whereas electronic engineering deals with the study of electronic systems including computers, communication systems, integrated circuits, and radar.
AC power plugs and sockets are devices that allow electrically operated equipment to be connected to the primary alternating current (AC) power supply in a building. Electrical plugs and sockets differ in voltage and current rating, shape, size and type of connectors. The types used in each country are set by national standards, some of which are listed in the IEC technical report TR 60083, Plugs and socket-outlets for domestic and similar general use standardized in member countries of IEC.
Plugs and sockets for portable appliances started becoming available in the 1880s, to replace connections to light sockets with easier to use wall-mounted outlets. A proliferation of types developed to address the issues of convenience and protection from electric shock. Today about 22 types are commonly used around the world, and many obsolete types are still found in older buildings. Co-ordination of technical standards has allowed some types of plugs to be used over wide regions to facilitate trade in electrical appliances, and for the convenience of travellers and consumers of imported electrical goods. Some multi-standard sockets allow use of several different types of plugs; improvised or unapproved adapters between incompatible sockets and plugs may not provide the full safety and performance of an approved adapter.
An electrical connector is an electro-mechanical device for joining electrical circuits as an interface using a mechanical assembly. The connection may be temporary, as for portable equipment, require a tool for assembly and removal, or serve as a permanent electrical joint between two wires or devices.
There are hundreds of types of electrical connectors. Connectors may join two lengths of flexible copper wire or cable, or connect a wire or cable or optical interface to an electrical terminal.
A power supply is a device that supplies electric power to an electrical load. The term is most commonly applied to electric power converters that convert one form of electrical energy to another, though it may also refer to devices that convert another form of energy (mechanical, chemical, solar) to electrical energy. A regulated power supply is one that controls the output voltage or current to a specific value; the controlled value is held nearly constant despite variations in either load current or the voltage supplied by the power supply's energy source.
Every power supply must obtain the energy it supplies to its load, as well as any energy it consumes while performing that task, from an energy source. Depending on its design, a power supply may obtain energy from:
Industrial and multiphase plugs and sockets provide a connection to the electrical mains rated at higher voltages and currents than household plugs and sockets. They are generally used in polyphase systems, with high currents, or when protection from environmental hazards is required. Industrial outlets may have weatherproof covers, waterproofing sleeves, or may be interlocked with a switch to prevent accidental disconnection of an energized plug. Some types of connectors are approved for hazardous areas such as coal mines or petrochemical plants, where flammable gas may be present.
Almost all three-phase power plugs have an earth (ground) connection, but may not have a neutral because three-phase loads such as motors do not need the neutral. Such plugs have only four prongs (earth, and the three phases). An example of a socket with neutral is the L21-30 (30 A) and the L21-20 (20 A) both of which have five pins (earth, neutral, and X, Y, Z phases).
Electrical wiring in general refers to insulated conductors used to carry electricity, and associated devices. This article describes general aspects of electrical wiring as used to provide power in buildings and structures, commonly referred to as building wiring. This article is intended to describe common features of electrical wiring that may apply worldwide. For information regarding specific national electrical codes, refer to the articles mentioned in the next section. Separate articles cover long-distance electric power transmission and electric power distribution.