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It's funny.  Laugh. Hardware

The Top Ten Off Switches 245

Dan Jimbokla submitted a story that normally i would pass over, but I actually oddly enjoyed it. " has a truly funny and read-worthy article up about the top ten off switches. One of my favorite switches from the piece is #4 — The illuminated toggle switch: "This switch isn't designed for high-drain uses, typically it can only provide a maximum of 20 amps at 12 volts. That will make it suitable for a number of exciting uses though, and what it lacks in power handling, it makes up for in practicality. This switch will illuminate when the device it controls is turned on, and go off when the device is deactivated. This is logical and practical, and that has earned this switch a place in our hearts. What's more, it's far from expensive and there are even a choice of colors.""
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The Top Ten Off Switches

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  • Toggle FTW! (Score:5, Funny)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:11AM (#21323399) Homepage Journal
    Toggle switches rule [] period. Batman used toggle switches in the batmobile. Fighter pilots flick toggle switches in the movies before they blow up bad guys. The Millenium Falcon probably had a couple hundred thousand toggle switches. Cool electric guitars? They've got a toggle switch. When I built my first model rocket launcher - I think it had 3 toggle switches. A good solid 'click' of the old toggle is just the thing - all other switches pale in comparison. Even the big red button.
    • Well nuts, somebody turned the website off.....
    • by CaseyB ( 1105 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:29AM (#21323629)
      The only thing better than a regular toggle switch is a toggle switch with a flip-up protective cover. It says "You had better be damn sure of what you're doing before you toggle me. You need executive orders to flip me, and those orders must have been confirmed with the one-time codeword. Lives are at stake, here."
    • Re:Toggle FTW! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <> on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:36AM (#21323727) Journal

      You're forgetting... the original Enterprise used toggle switches, especially in Engineering. You can bet Scotty wouldn't trust just any old switch to fiddle with antimatter.

    • Re:Toggle FTW! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 12, 2007 @12:04PM (#21324057)
      Knife switches are better. Toggle switches are inappropriate for mad scientist use.
      • by Yewbert ( 708667 )
        Agreed! Mod parent up! I've gone out of my way to use knife switches in my (rather) few (extremely) little electronics-hobbyist projects. Nothin' like 'em for both that Frankenstein's laboratory vibe AND for actually being able to see the air gap in the circuit and the occasional little spark when something really wants to come alive.
    • Yes, 1985 Series III Land Rover, packed with toggle switches! Of course last night in the cold I couldn't find the toggle switch for the interior light. No, its not activated when you open the door! If that happened, how else could you sneak into your Landy in the dark so that the enemy don't spot you!? Anyway, found that switch, then had to find the heater and the fan toggle switch... Yeah, I've not had it long enough to have done much driving on the dark or the cold...

      Then there's a mysterious toggle swit
    • I saw a documentary or something with Harrison Ford talking about how the original star wars budget precluded the use of functional toggle switches in the millennium falcon. Apparently, rather than splurge on good toggle switches, they somehow managed to buy discounted defective spring-less toggles. The effect was that they wouldn't stay where you put them, so during filming he'd click a couple of switches, and they'd just reset themselves to where they wanted to be.
      • I think this CNET article is irresponsible for giving credit to some un-pictured mythical switch on Data's leg while not acknowledging the tractor-beam shutdown switch Obi-Wan Kenobi flipped. That sucker filled his whole palm and was mounted on a ledge with a 1000' drop-off. Here's a photo [].

    • Re:Toggle FTW! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by vonhammer ( 992352 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @01:34PM (#21325279)
      #8 on the list was the Emergency Shutdown.

      I used to work with a guy that had been in the Air Force in Vietnam working in some type of data center. He told me a story about an event that happened one night that forced an emergency shutdown. If I remember correctly, a water pipe burst and the data center was being flooded. As he was on duty that night, he went around shutting down all of the equipment. One machine, in particular, had an "Emergency Shutdown" lever. In training, he was told that he would never need to use it, but it was there. This seemed like an emergency, so he pulled the lever. What he didn't know was that it released a weighted blade that fell down through the backplane severing every wire in its path, essentially destroying the machine.

      The aftermath was, a couple of Air Force techs spending weeks soldering the thing back together again, and he got every s#^t job that came up for the remainder of his tour.
    • by ukemike ( 956477 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @02:09PM (#21325683) Homepage
      The best off button EVER: []

      See this button?
      It's the History Eraser Button you fool !
      --so what'll happen ?
      That's just it! We don't know.
      Maybe something bad...maybe something good
      I guess we'll never know.
      Cause you're going to guard it.
      You won't touch it, will you?

      Oh, how long can trusty Cadet Stimpy hold out?
      How can he possibly resist the diabolical urge to push the button that could erase his very existence?
      Will his tortured mind give in to it's uncontrollable desires?
      Can he withstand the temptation to push the button, that even now, beckons him ever closer?
      Will he succumb to the maddening urge to eradicate history, at the mere push of a single button?
      The beautiful shiny button.
      The jolly candy-like button.
      Will he hold out, folks?
      Can he hold out?
    • by Kong the Medium ( 232629 ) <> on Monday November 12, 2007 @02:11PM (#21325701) Homepage
      I watched "Ratatouille" on the weekend. The Prelude was a little gem by Pixar called "Lifted". Not to spoil anything, but this little film featured a toogle switch board with ca. 1000x50 toogle switches, all unlabeled!. The poor sod, who had to operate them got a little bit frustrated. And his superior handled this board as Glen Gould did his piano keys.
    • by khallow ( 566160 )
      Nonsense. You ignore knife switches [] and huge levers [].
  • Big red switch (Score:3, Interesting)

    by brejc8 ( 223089 ) * on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:12AM (#21323407) Homepage Journal
    Can't believe they forgot IBM's big red switch [].
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
      I remember that. There was on on the Model 38 at a hospital I worked at. On night we where doing a test of the hospital back up generators. They would power the computer but not the AC. There was a problem getting back on mains power, as the temperature started to get really high we started to do a shutdown. It took a while and the head of the department said that if it hit 95 in the machine room and the system still wasn't down that we would pull the big red switch.
      We got mains power and AC back on at 92 a
    • Also...,39029477,49293357-11,00.htm []

      isn't that a power outlet?
    • by Rimbo ( 139781 )
      For some reason, your comment reminds me of the power switch on some IBM PS/2 models.

      In several of the early models, e.g. the Model 55sx []... well, take a look at the photo of the interior. You'll notice that the power switch is in the front of the machine, but the power supply is in the back. And on the inside of the case, there is an additional power button on the power supply. Toggling the front switch moves a lever which then punches the power switch on the power supply.

      The PS/2 series had some lovely
  • Awesome. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:16AM (#21323467)
    This is one of those articles that you think 'Why isn't there more of these!? It's great!' but then remember that if there were more, they'd quickly become old-hat.

    Kudos to them for doing it right... #7 was sure a surprise.
  • Dork (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gaima ( 174551 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:17AM (#21323475)
    My god, that must be the dorkiest list in the world, ever.
    Love it!
  • by djasbestos ( 1035410 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:17AM (#21323477)
    Usually that's a lead-in to some bullshit dating article...too bad toggle switches don't apply in that field!

    That could also be dangerous, as many slashdotters would begin to be able to understand the opposite sex.
  • Do relays count? (Score:4, Informative)

    by LM741N ( 258038 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:18AM (#21323491)
    If so, the vacuum relay. Can switch large amounts of power and comes in a relatively small package. These are very fast as well. High power radio transmitting systems use them
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ajlitt ( 19055 )
      You mean the thyratron []. Because at the heart of every high energy physics experiment or giant pulsed laser is a thyratron (or a thyristor, the solid state equivalent).
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by LM741N ( 258038 )
        No I mean vacuum relay. But the hydrogen thyratron is the fastest (as I'm being entered into the no-fly list)
    • by Fizzl ( 209397 )
      Ooooh... This reminds me of a neat little hapstentance while I was in vocational school.
      We were experimenting with high power vacuum relays. I think they were of a sort which were actually filled with some protective gas instead of ...nothing. Some seal was apparently broken in one of the relays we tested and got quite a neat arc. Managed to burn the whole casing while we were attempting to cut power from the mains. Thank god everyone immediately knew NOT to try and pull the plugs.

      Actually, now that I think
    • by Dorceon ( 928997 )
      You can use relays to make a switch (basically one bit of SRAM) which is activated by holding a portable Tesla Coil to one of two terminals, right? Now _that_'s science fictiony!
  • controls logic (Score:4, Informative)

    by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:18AM (#21323501) Homepage
    Also remember to wire your emergency 'off' switches as normally closed, so if the switch fails the equipment will stop. Nothing worse that going to switch off a 30HP motor that your tie is stuck in and the damn switch isn't working.

  • Pessimistic (Score:3, Funny)

    by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:23AM (#21323555)
    I prefer to think of them as "on" switches. Err, except the ones which actually are off-only. Obviously.
  • by alcmaeon ( 684971 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:26AM (#21323589)
    Given that the article appears to be already slashdotted, it appears this website is really the biggest, baddest off switch around.
  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:26AM (#21323595) Journal
    An even more useful switch is one which lights up when the device it is controlling is off, and goes dark when it is on. But the #1 switch should be the Frankenstein-style knife switch. Nothing says fun like exposed very-high-current conductors.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Detritus ( 11846 )
      My pet peeve is switches that offer no visual indication of their state when the power is out. This is important when you are trying to turn off a room full of equipment during a power failure. Besides removing load, it helps prevent damage to the equipment when the power is restored.
      • by Khyber ( 864651 )
        This is important when you are trying to turn off a room full of equipment during a power failure.

        The power failed - if your backup generator or battery system isn't properly maintained, you won't have to worry about shutting off a room full of equipment. Personally, since I run nothing critical on my machines, let the power fail. There are no settings to restore when they're all network-booted anyways.
    • I so agree. The #1 switch fetishist switch should be the classic knife switch. These blokes must be children to have never seen one of those. (I'm pretty sure they were outlawed by any country with a functional set of safety regulations at some point in the 1950's).

      I would also posit that the #2 choice would be the two station keyswitch (Launch the missiles) sort of steup.
  • I prefer to think of them as ON switches*.

    Maybe we could compromise on ON/OFF switches?

    * except for the ones that are for emergency off - aren't those called kill switches?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by faloi ( 738831 )
      I believe we're no longer allowed to refer to them as "kill" switches, there's an obvious implication of violence. We have to refer to them as unpower switches.

      Thankfully I'm not serious...yet.
      • You know what's weird? There's kill switches (yea, it's not pc, who cares?) but no taze (bro) switches. Stupid lethal force.
  • by Tony Shepps ( 333 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:30AM (#21323653) Homepage
    ...we will forget the off switch. I understand the need for managed shutdown, but there was always something satisfying about activating a solid on/off switch to cut all power to the system. The switch always did the same thing. It was dependable. Sometimes, if it was spring-loaded, it even had a satisfying "chunk" noise to tell you with extreme prejudice, this machine is OFF. Industrial!

    At one time, before the widespread adoption of journaling file systems, people said that the requirement of managed shutdown would make Unix/Linux unacceptable for most people. Ha! Nowadays when people hit the START button to get to the SHUTDOWN, Windows will sit there, "saving your settings" for a good minute or more.
    • by gazbo ( 517111 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:43AM (#21323817)
      Windows 95 was released over a decade ago. That should help to give you a bound on when the start/shutdown "joke" ceased to be funny or original.

      Maybe you should branch into other areas of observational comedy: I hear Alanis Morissette has a song about things being ironic that is ripe for parody by a man of your talents.

    • by RollingThunder ( 88952 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @02:24PM (#21325867)
      My father worked for Imperial Oil (aka Esso) at a bulk transfer plant, and they had really, REALLY fun switches there. Gas-powered switches that you pumped up then triggered, so they would throw the blades at an insanely fast speed to minimize the chance of sparking (and therefore minimize the chance of going WOOMF). They sounded like a freaking gunshot. Great stuff.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by xaxa ( 988988 )
        I was told (at a chemical factory's power substation) that the switches were in a special oily goo that prevented sparks, and were also spring loaded. You could still get a spark, but the oily goo meant it was safe even if there was hydrogen around. This was for switching 33kV.
  • Slashdotted? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jafiwam ( 310805 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:32AM (#21323671) Homepage Journal
    Link is not working for me.

    Did they include the "guy standing over rope with axe" switch to shut down the Manhattan project reactor pile?

    Sometimes low tech is the best tech.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tteddo ( 543485 )
      Wow! That brought me back to nuke school!
      SCRAM Safety Control Rod Axe Man
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rlazarus ( 1002774 )
      Not the Manhattan project, but Chicago Pile-1 [] (first criticality December 2, 1942) - the first controlled nuclear reaction, as opposed to the first nuclear bomb. As you may imagine, they couldn't find anybody to stand next to the first Manhattan test with an axe; not even a grad student. Which didn't matter, since (as you may further imagine) the bomb had no control rods.
    • > Did they include the "guy standing over rope with axe" switch
      > to shut down the Manhattan project reactor pile?

      Nah, that was really more of a hack.
  • Slashdotted (Score:2, Redundant)

    by orclevegam ( 940336 )
    They missed one of the most classic off switches of all. A link button on the front page of slashdot!
    • Hey, the first page works. bout 50% of the time. All subsequent pages return empty documents. Apparently CNet is developing a new brand of "off".
  • Don't forget the plexiglass cover for switch #1.

    I've seen what happens when you leave that off.
    • That's known as a . []
    • Yep - Computer room where I once did some freelancing had a pull cord light switch just behind the door as you walked in.

      Guess what was on the wall immediately behind said pull cord - 'sright: the big red button to kill the computer room.

      Now guess what happened every week or so as someone scrabbled for the light cord...

      • by argent ( 18001 )
        In my case a developer had a nervous habit of playing with things... and was talking to someone and idly fiddling with the BRS. The guy he was talking to asked him to stop, because it was making him nervous. He stopped, then, but habits are hard to break and a few minutes later...
  • I'd say The Button [] is the #1 off switch - it is the high bit on the entire world.
  • My favorite is the "battle short" switch. Often seen on military hardware. It overrides all of the protective circuits that might take the system off-line during critical operations.
    • by HardCase ( 14757 )
      Otherwise known as the ON switch. Or, as we called it, the "oh shit" switch.
    • by Kugala ( 1083127 )
      I like the 'Emergency Mode' switch also found on some military hardware, or radios at least. Runs it flat out at whatever the highest power it can output until something fries.
  • Funnily enough was looking at this earlier today - I have one and am likely to get another.

    The 'switch' is a beam, not sure what kind, which controls on/off and and brightness for a lamp. You don't flick anything, you just move your hand across and the lamp switches on.

    Irritatingly the Mathmos website [] is arranged such that you can't directly link to a product, but here's a video of the lamp in action on another site []. I know the tech isn't the highest in the world, but who cares? It looks fantastic.
  • Am I alone in disliking those "universal" symbols found on power bars? I can never remember whether the circle or the horizontal line [] is "ON" or "OFF." Maybe it's me, but they seem totally non-intuitive.
    • One is on, zero is off.

      Am I alone in thinking that's so intuitive as to border on obvious?

      Fortunately for both of us, these are often combined into a toggle switch, and also, the power bar switch is usually lit up when it's on.
      • I agree. It's always a hoot though when something like this gets mislabeled at the factory. I recently bought a new shop vac and for some odd reason, the | and 0 labeled positions do exactly the opposite of what I'd expect... if the big horking switch's "|" is pressed, (se-sawing the "0" up), I'd EXPECT that to turn it on, and vice versa. However, the switch shroud must have been put on backward, because I have to press "0" to turn it on and "|" to turn it off.

        This isn't so hard to work out because it's eve
    • by coolGuyZak ( 844482 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @12:41PM (#21324583)

      The mnemonic is an "open" ( O ) versus "closed" ( | ) electrical circuit []. A circle could be seen as open, as the circuit appears to "break" as it passes through the center of the O. Meanwhile a closed circuit passes directly through the center of the line, unbroken.

      • O = 0 = false
        | = 1 = true

        I do congratulate GP poster for even looking at the symbols though - most people don't. They see a switch, they see the machine in its current state. Assume that state is off, then flicking the switch should turn it on - regardless of what the labels say; unless the thing isn't plugged in / broken / etc. This is increasingly the case as switches are no longer of the toggle type, but rather a pushbutton sort of thing, where the symbol becomes a mix between the two which is a good
  • Wall mount lever (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jhines ( 82154 ) <> on Monday November 12, 2007 @12:16PM (#21324197) Homepage
    The traditional wall mounted box with a pull lever on the side. It opens so you can see the simple mechanical switch inside. Lockable, so that you can insure that it won't get switched back on, while your hands are inside the guts of something electromechanical.

    Simple, safe, and sure. That is why they have been used, and will be, for years.
  • Data's LEG? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by glindsey ( 73730 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @12:29PM (#21324381)
    From the article:

    #7 - Lieutenant Commander Data's leg
    Yes, you read that right, one of the best off switches ever is fitted to the android from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Data, as he's known to his friends -- seen here snogging the face off the Borg Queen -- had one secret he only told a select few people. He could be deactivated with a power button on his leg.
    Yeah... but it was on his hip, not his leg. Which, I suppose, could make sex with the Borg Queen a bit of a pain...

    "Oh yeah, yeah, wait, no, don't touch me th*thunk*"
    • And after ol' yellow eyes 4 or 5th attempt to take over the ship, do something stupid with the cat, or just do something to annoy ol' captain baldy you would think they would have fit him somthing more handy. Like a big red button where his balls should be. Or how about some explosive neck bolts? Maybe have Riker and Troi fitted with some.

      Everytime Riker does something stupid or when Troi say's something stupid, which would be the next time she opened her mouth, foomp .. and there is a vacant chair o

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by deander2 ( 26173 ) *
      no, it was on his back [].

      (sad that i know this so certainly...)
  • Janie Crane: "Edison... an off switch!"
    Metrocop: "She'll get years for that. Off switches are illegal!"

    In a way I'm surprised this hasn't become a reality yet.
  • Dead Man Switch (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MDMurphy ( 208495 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @01:29PM (#21325229)
    They could have left one of the toggle switches out and included some sort of a dead man switch. Foot or hand operated from a train perhaps.

    I used to operate light rail vehicles. If you let go of the switch the the train went into maximum braking. I remember it was abrupt, can't remember if it automatically dumped the sand in front of the steel wheels or you had to do that yourself.
  • This [] is a switch (about halfway down the page)!
  • by fudgefactor7 ( 581449 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @01:46PM (#21325403)
    No, try again.... Not Leg, not armpit, but beneath his right shoulder blade. (
  • Here's number one on my list:

    Write a cute/clever/fun/geeky article with a top-ten list and maybe some pictures, then put each part of the article on its own page, with "" link. That way, instead of getting 1 page of ad banner revenue, you get ten -- all for the same article and user.

    1. Write a marginally cute top ten list.
    2. Divide List into 10 pages
    3. Put ad-revenue generating banners on each page
    4. Get /. or digg to link to your article
    5. Profit from all the people not using banner ad blockers.
  • Data (Score:3, Informative)

    by Triv ( 181010 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @03:10PM (#21326519) Journal

    cnet's talkback feature appears to be broken, so I'll do the thing here:

    Data's off-switch is awesome, but the dude's got it wrong - it isn't on his leg, it's in his side above his hip. If I remember right, above his right hip.


  • My vote is for the thick red flip switches on IBM XTs. They turned the whirring old hunk of magnets on and off with a satisfying *snap*.
  • by raddan ( 519638 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @06:19PM (#21329005)
    This [] is one of my favorite switches. Of course, we bought it, and then realized that we don't have much use for it. But it's a neat idea! Someday we'll hook it up to something.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers