Introduction: Powerthief

The Graffiti Research Lab Vienna tool development archive is finally being brought to light. Here we present the Powerthief, an old piece of technology that we didn't come up with, but is worth reviving. By now they are mostly made redundant in every day life, and also illegal in most of central Europe. However, there are still useful applications for it in our environment today, especially if you're in need of a power-plug where there is usually none available.

The basic idea is pretty simple: in a lot of today's urban environments you can find a regular light bulb reasonably close-by. In Vienna, where this was executed, you can find one above almost every doorstep. The technology is even simpler - take the screw-cap of a regular light bulb and instead of connecting it to filaments it's being connected to a power socket.

To see how we made it and use it, we have a video we presented at the 2 year anniversary of the lovely gallery INOPERAbLE:

This project deals with electricity. Make sure not to blow yourself up!

You will need:

  • A light bulb
  • Electric cabling
  • Plastic tubing to cover the cabling
  • Power socket
  • Epoxy
  • Something to cut the tubing
  • Soldering iron and solder

Step 1: Putting It Together

There isn't all that much to do. The steps have been captured (and played faster) on the video linked on the intro page. Remember that this project is dangerous and the use possibly illegal if you are in Europe. Improvise. In the video we used hot glue, but epoxy works better.

  • Break the light bulb and get rid of excess glass/other material
  • Solder the cables onto the connections (bottom and side) of the screw cap (there's no + / - since it's AC, so connect it how you want)
  • Make the casing from the tubing
  • Put the screw cap and the casing together with the epoxy
  • Connect the cables to the powerplug and put it on with epoxy
  • Test with care in a safe environment

Step 2: Using It

If you're using the Powerthief outside, be aware that you do not know what sort of cabling your powersource uses. Because of that, it's potentially dangerous for you and your equipment - we strongly advise against hooking up a 3000W projection/sound system as it might melt the cables and/or the Powerthief.

This tool is intended as an alternative powersource for people that want to elevate their voices outside, but are in a situation in which using other equipment such as batteries and inverters or gas generators isn't an option (for example because of $$$). Be absolutely sure that this is what you want to use.

Even though in the video we have a projector that has rather low light output, our tests with regular home projectors that take 300W to 500W and have between 2500 and 4000 ANSI lumens were successful and reliable, even using them for longer than an hour was not a problem.


Thanks to everyone involved and surrounding the development of this project: F*, Quartier digitaler Kultur, Bre Pettis, Evan Roth, James Powderly, Theo Watson