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Lights, Camera, Connection! A Critical Review of Cinematic Connector Usage – Back to the Future

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Clocktower4.jpgWe here at Amphenol Aerospace are all about "suspension of disbelief" when it comes to our cinematic viewing, but not when the connector technology in films is compromised.  More so, we feel that wrongs must be righted and order restored to the movie universe, lest people get the wrong impression of the power of the connector.

Case in point: the 1985 sci-fi classic Back to the Future.  It's a fun film that has thrilled audiences for almost 30 years now.  Nevertheless, we are forced to accept multiple plot points where the story could easily be debunked by science (and more creative storytelling).  Take the famous "flux capacitor", for instance.  When given the opportunity to explain what the flux capacitor actually does, we're simply told "it's what makes time travel possible".  If we used that line with our customers when trying to sell our products, we'd be laughed out of the meeting and told to come back when we have a qualified test report.

Yet no amount of imagination can help us at Amphenol Aerospace forgive the irresponsible use of connector technology during the climactic scene where the bolt of lightning sends Marty McFly back to 1985.  We did a little research on the World Wide Web, which is always the most trustworthy way to fact check something, and found out that Doc Brown was using a simple studio stage plug to power the DeLorean with the necessary 1.21 gigawatts (or 1.21 billion watts) of electricity needed to propel the car into the future.  

I checked with our expert engineering staff here at Amphenol Aerospace.  They explained to me that, assuming the average current in a bolt of lightning is 40,000 amps and that the commercial connector Doc Brown used was only rated for 25 amps, the contacts within the connector would essentially be vaporized.  However, that’s OK, according to our engineers, because once the conductive plasma ( this just sounds like it’s made up) is generated, it will continue to conduct the current through the duration of  the lightning pulse (typically about 30 microseconds).  So, technically it could work, but it wouldn’t look nearly as cool as the movie depicted it.

Amphenol Aerospace does have connectors that can protect sensitive equipment from lightning damage, such as our ESD Protected Connectors and our Energy Shunting Assemblies, but nothing that can handle lightning through the contacts without being vaporized.  So, while we may have been able to prevent Doc Brown from being knocked on his keister by a bolt of lightning by using our connectors, there's no doubt that Marty McFly would still be stuck in 1955 trying to awkwardly avoid running into his Mom.

We use the Amphenol Connector Technology Rating Scale, or ACToR Scale, when critically reviewing movies.  The scale is a simple 1 through 5 rating system: 1 Spark, which signifies an abysmal and almost criminal use of technology, all the way up to 5 Sparks, which signifies a dazzling depiction of the potential power of proper connector usage.  Back to the Future has enough solid use of connector technology to warrant 4 Sparks (for example, Doc hooking the camcorder up to an old-school early 1950's TV...well done), but we have to deduct ½ Spark for the use of the stage plug for the lightning bolt.

Back to the Future - 3 ½ Sparks

Image Credit: ScreenUsed

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Chris Cappello is the Marketing Communications Manager at Amphenol Aerospace.  He has a Bachelors of Arts in Communications from SUNY Cortland and a Masters of Business Administration from Binghamton University.  He has been with Amphenol since 2003 after a nine-year stint in the U.S. Navy.


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Guest Wednesday, 16 January 2019

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