Monday, November 15, 2010

Great moments in consumer electronics

It's been an extremely busy time of the semester, and there appears to be no end in sight.  There will be more physics posts soon, but in the meantime, I have a question for those of you out there that have Nintendo Wii consoles.  (The Wii is a great example of micromachining technology, by the way, since the controller contains a 3-axis MEMS accelerometer, and the Wii Motion Plus also contains a micromachined gyroscope.)  Apparently, if there is a power glitch, it is necessary to "reset your AC adapter" in order to power on the console.  The AC adapter looks for all the world like an ordinary "brick" power supply, which I would think should contain a transformer, some diodes, capacitors, and probably voltage regulators.  Resetting it involves unplugging it from both ends (the Wii and the power strip), letting it sit for two solid minutes, and then plugging it back directly into a wall outlet (not a power strip).  What the heck did Nintendo put in this thing, and why does that procedure work, when plugging it back into a power strip does not?!  Does Nintendo rely on poorly conditioned power to keep the adapter happy?  Is this all some scheme so that they can make sure you're not trying to use a gray-market adapter?  This is so odd that it seemed like the only natural way to try to get to the bottom of it (without following my physicist's inclination of ripping the adapter apart) was to ask the internet.


DaveC said...

I can't explain the weird procedure, but many modern adaptors are switched-mode. The expensive ones can be remarkably light. So they include electronics that adapts to account for noise, voltage, etc and could easily do any other number of mysterious things!

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