February 23, 2008 9:02 AM   Subscribe

What kind of weird outlet is this?

This receptacle is in my parents 1960s built home in central Jersey and we can't for the life of us figure out what it is. Some people have suggested that it's a proprietary antique air conditioner plug but it's in a very central part of the house that's not near any windows. It's on the main floor in the 'front' room so we don't think it's for any other large appliance like a washing machine or dishwasher. NEMA reference charts dont have it, nor do IEC ones. Has anyone seen this before? Thanks!
posted by datacenter refugee to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
What's it connected to? Lighting or power ring? Is there an associated switch?
posted by Leon at 9:10 AM on February 23, 2008

Intercom? (Note: that's a total guess.)
posted by box at 9:11 AM on February 23, 2008

it does look a bit like a dryer outlet. One of the diagonal slots seems painted over, except that I have not seen one with a round hole in the middle.
posted by francesca too at 9:14 AM on February 23, 2008

It's not going to come off cleanly with that much paint on it, but you could remove the plate and see if there might be a name or number of some kind on the actual receptacle.
posted by -t at 11:29 AM on February 23, 2008

Can you pull the cover off and show us a picture of what's inside? This would make it easier to determine what the original use was (i.e. high or low voltage etc.)

Use a sharp utility knife to score around the edge of where the plate meets the wall so you don't end up pulling your paint off.
posted by davey_darling at 11:33 AM on February 23, 2008

Outlets are normally symmetrical, so as francesca too says, there may be another diagonal slot painted over (you could try scratching off a bit of paint there with an insulated knife). On the other hand, the center hole could be the ground. These sockets are normally used for 110 volt high amperage circuits (20 or 25 amp) to run a dryer or fake fireplace heater, for example. It is possible (but unlikely) that it could be 220 volt low amperage (10 amp). Normal house outlets are 15 amp.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:49 AM on February 23, 2008

Is the plate the same size as a regular outlet?
posted by winston at 11:54 AM on February 23, 2008

Best answer: It's an outlet for a tv or radio antenna. Here is a picture of a similar outlet duplexed with a 110V receptacle, the plug for the antenna, and the original box. Many of the big console radios came with a plug that would fit in that outlet.
posted by Mitheral at 12:50 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mitheral FTW!

Did you know that already or did you just out-google us all?
posted by davey_darling at 2:48 PM on February 23, 2008

I knew it immediately. I've got a pretty good collection of vintage or unusual electrical pictures and that dual use duplex receptacle has been in my files for several years as a stand out example.
posted by Mitheral at 3:39 PM on February 23, 2008

Response by poster: Mitheral you are the man. Thank you very much. This makes alot of sense. It's in a corner where, given a standard room configuration, one would assume a TV would go. Great find!
posted by datacenter refugee at 7:19 PM on February 23, 2008

Response by poster: After researching this a little more, it appears that there's simply no reference to these online anymore. It makes me sad that something, even something relatively insignificant like this, could just be dropped from our collective common knowledge. In a loose sense this was the forerunner to modern modular data/video/voice wall-plates. If i find more information on them I'll put up a wikipedia page. Thanks again for the pic.
posted by datacenter refugee at 7:59 AM on February 24, 2008

I've got two more views of a used duplex receptical like the new one I posted. Back and front. Note the horizontal card separating the line voltage and the antenna feed. That kind of thing is no longer legal. Especially considering the box it was used in was undoubtedly metal and possibly ungrounded. A fault that connected line with ground could energize the antenna wire.
posted by Mitheral at 8:52 AM on February 24, 2008

Datacenter Refugee you are not alone in the sadness. To me it seems like all the little stuff that I want to research doesn't exist online if it was born and died before 1993. Thankfully we have sites like where at the very least we get a little bit of something where there was nothing before.
posted by @homer at 9:55 AM on February 24, 2008

It's weird that will all the old-ass places I've lived in/visited, etc, I've NEVER seen one of those.
posted by tremspeed at 8:40 PM on February 24, 2008

It's weird that will all the old-ass places I've lived in/visited, etc, I've NEVER seen one of those.

I haven't encountered one before either, but I suppose it depends on your definition of old-ass. Radio broadcasting didn't really get underway until 1920, and most of the places I've lived predate that. I've got a pretty upscale cabinet radio/phonograph from the late 40's and it doesn't feature an external antenna plug, either, if that means anything.

Mitheral, any sense of when these came into common use? I'd guess that these were a hallmark of Modern Living in the 60's, when datacenter refugee's parents' house was built, but perhaps not an easy retrofit for older places.
posted by mumkin at 12:58 PM on May 5, 2008

« Older New software for a new computer?   |   Help with Podcast hosting, uploading and creating... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.