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AC/DC: What's the Difference?


In 1887 direct current (DC) was king. At that time there were 121 Edison power stations scattered across the United States delivering DC electricity to its customers. But DC had a great limitation -- namely, that power plants could only send DC electricity about a mile before the electricity began to lose power. So when George Westinghouse introduced his system based on high-voltage alternating current (AC), which could carry electricity hundreds of miles with little loss of power, people naturally took notice. A "battle of the currents" ensued. In the end, Westinghouse's AC prevailed.

But this special feature isn't about the two electrical systems and how they worked. Rather, it's a simple explanation that shows the difference between AC and DC.

To find out more about alternating and direct current, what exactly an electric current is, and two ways that the currents can be produced, check out the interaction to the left and the pages that follow.

DC (Direct Current)
OFF
AC (Alternating Current)


Click on an object in the illustration to find out more, or select a link below.

Go inside the:   wire | battery | AC generator | light bulb

AC/DC | Music

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