2830: Haunted House

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Haunted House
You can leave at any time through the door over there. It's a Louisville door, so you'll need to find a compatible knob. No, don't be silly, that one is a Lexington knob! Of course it won't fit.
Title text: You can leave at any time through the door over there. It's a Louisville door, so you'll need to find a compatible knob. No, don't be silly, that one is a Lexington knob! Of course it won't fit.


The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and ANSI (American National Standards Institute) are organizations that create standards for commonly used objects such as electrical sockets, preferably so that there would exist standardized forms everywhere (or at least across large areas). The comic depicts an office Halloween party, which is a common event on the celebration of Halloween[citation needed]. A "haunted house" is a house or other building/room designed to induce fright in the participants, typically by including well-known/cultural scary elements such as vampires or zombies. The haunted house in this comic is tailored to scare members of these organizations by suggesting a world where nothing is standardized (e.g. different electrical wiring from state to state). The title text furthers the joke by implying that something which is usually standardized (door/doorknob interfaces) would be different from city to city even within a state. Further, it confounds types of "knobs", where "Lexington" is a hardware style collection for actual drawer knobs and such, whereas the "Louisville Knobs" are a set of geological mound features (Knobs region) in Kentucky. While such a joke would likely only irritate ISO members, the comic jokes that they fear even the idea of such a world.

In reality, the electrical supply is standardized within any given country (usually ...), but it does vary worldwide, with different countries providing different voltages, frequency, and outlet shapes. The International Electrotechnical Commission maintains a web site where these differences are catalogued. International travelers often require adapters that will plug into different outlets and may adjust the voltage and/or frequency to one their devices can use, something for which standardization would be much appreciated, although the cost of such worldwide standardization would likely render it infeasible.

Other comics about standardization include 927: Standards, 1179: ISO 8601, 1643: Degrees.


[Ponytail stands gesturing towards an off-panel location, facing Megan and Cueball. Megan has hands covering her face and Cueball has both arms slightly raised. Both have 'sweat marks' above their heads.]
Ponytail: Welcome! If you need to charge your phones, note that this house has Pennsylvania wiring, but we have New Jersey and Delaware adapters available.
Megan and Cueball: AAAAAA!
[Caption below the panel:]
The haunted house at the ISO/ANSI office Halloween party

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I initially thought this was Randall's version of the old joke "The great thing about standards is there are so many of them." Like the zoo of USB cables and adapters to allow you to connect them. Barmar (talk) 21:22, 18 September 2023 (UTC)

Well, shoot. I was hoping to find an online old phone charger cord museum but it doesn't seem to exist. In the late 1990s-early 2000s, every time you bought a cell phone, you automatically got a different charger cord that was basically incompatible with anyone else's. Those flat, wide weird looking connectors that predated USB-anything. Thought maybe someone would have compiled a list. 22:05, 18 September 2023 (UTC)Pat
I have a Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ tablet sitting here unusable until I can find the correct proprietary charging / data transfer cable. It looks very similar to a common Apple cable but of course its just a bit different. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 01:13, 24 September 2023 (UTC)
No mention of https://xkcd.com/927/?! TPS (talk) 03:10, 19 September 2023 (UTC)

This reminds me of how Eastern Japan uses 50Hz but Western Japan uses 60Hz (and how under the Articles of Confederation each state had their own form of paper currency) 22:03, 18 September 2023 (UTC)Bumpf

Not only are doorknobs quite standardized, they are usually already IN the doors. -- Hkmaly (talk) 22:29, 18 September 2023 (UTC)

Not always, unfortunately. I once rented an apartment where the bathroom door's inside knob had to be "plugged in" in order to open the door, but would fall out when not in use. If you couldn't find it you'd be stuck in the bathroom till someone let you out. Andes (talk) 22:55, 18 September 2023 (UTC)
I've seen those. The door (or at least the knob) was on backwards. The idea is to have a knob you can remove on the outside for locking purposes in homes where you don't want someone walking in on you. I always thought it was pretty dumb, but backwards it would be worse, you'd have to stage a breakout if someone absent mindedly took the knob into the kitchen or something. Thisfox (talk) 22:47, 19 September 2023 (UTC)
Not really standardised. From what I've heard, on a number of occasions, there are places in America (need to check, could be Canadian provinces or US States, or subset areas) where doors legally must have doorknobs, rather than door-handles, as an anti-bear measure (they can't be a 'clever girl' so easily with a doorknob). And then there are legislative areas which require handles, not knobs, as an accessability (or indeed egressability!) measure for those people with arthritis/other hand-disabilities for precisely the same reason (they would have difficulty with a doorknob, unassisted) but now looking for the more widely usable outcome. Thus mutually incompatible Building Codes are in force. 00:16, 19 September 2023 (UTC)
And now I've got an imagine in my head of a horror movie in which an arthritic grandmother is chasing the heroes, and manages to open a traditional doorknob with her walker... "Clever girl". So thank you for that. 15:11, 19 September 2023 (UTC)

Household electrical outlets do vary from country to country in Europe, such that I have collected a variety of plug adapters. And world-wide, I have seen it asserted that there are 15 different standards, including a number that are partially compatible with each other, differing only by the arrangement of the grounds. 22:45, 18 September 2023 (UTC)

Wikipedia list 03:50, 19 September 2023 (UTC)

The Louisville Knobs are a geologic/geographic feature. 02:42, 19 September 2023 (UTC)

Kentucky, USA wikipedia:Knobs_region Iggynelix (talk) 12:51, 19 September 2023 (UTC)

The explanation so far is somewhat inaccurate, as ANSI and ISO are not the organizations that set specific electrical configurations in the US. For electrical wiring in general, the National Fire Prevention Association publishes NFPA-70, The National Electric Code, which is the basis for most electrical wiring. Plug and socket configurations in buildings are defined by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, and are referred to by that organization's nomenclature, such as "NEMA 5-15" for the 125V 15A standard plug and socket for most convenience outlets and cords. Appliance connectors like the "C-13" socket used on most computers are defined by the International Electrotechnical Commission. It's too late at night for me to make something shorter than this paragraph... 06:14, 19 September 2023 (UTC)

The relationship between ANSI and NEMA is sufficiently tricky that I'm not sure "somewhat inaccurate" is a true statement. For instance, see https://www.nema.org/standards/technical/ansi-accreditation, which states in pertinent part, "NEMA is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to develop American National Standards…" I'd not be surprised if there's a similar ISO/IEC or even ANSI/IEC thing. Dual branded standards are not unheard of. JohnHawkinson (talk) 11:01, 19 September 2023 (UTC)

Ehhh - door/doorknob interfaces do have competing standards (albeit not state-to-state) in bore diameter, door width, spindle size... The joke is that guests are expected to bring their own doorknobs to use, instead of a competent person having fitted the appropriate one in advance, and also that the standard in use is regulated rather than arbitrary. 15:24, 20 September 2023 (UTC)