The use of electricity is a relatively new discovery when considering the history of mankind. Its use became particularly popular in the experiments conducted by Thomas Edison when he created the first electric light bulb. The light bulb featured the use of a direct current which moved the electrons in one continuous direction. The use of the direct current was popular at first seeing as since it became the standard in the United States but it soon was opposed by several individuals such as Nikola Tesla. This opposition led to a divergence in the concept of how electricity could be used in the most effective and efficient manner. As a result Tesla developed the alternative current which periodically reversed the direction of the once directly flowing electric current. In 1893 General Electric, using direct current, and George Westinghouse, using alternating current, both competed to electrify The Chicago World’s Fair. In the end Westinghouse won because they were able to electrify the fair while saving nearly $155,000. Westinghouse would also prove that alternating current was superior when they used the hydropower from Niagara Falls to generate electricity and use an alternating current to transmit it to Buffalo and power the city. In the end both alternating and direct current proved to have their own individual uses in which one was better than the other.

As previously mentioned alternating current and direct current each have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages. For example, alternating current is more reliable over longer distances, as seen when Westinghouse used it and the hydropower from Niagara Falls to power Buffalo. At the same time direct current proves to be more efficient when it comes to smaller scale items such as batteries. An alternating current has been proven to be more affordable when it comes to transmitting electricity over long distances. This is because an alternating current can be transmitted at a high voltage which means there can be a lower current and therefore less losses due to less resistance on the wires. Additionally, when using alternating current, you can use thinner wires which are cheaper to produce and cost less to suspend. An alternating current is also easier to change in terms of either raising or lowering the voltage through the use of a transformer. This allows electric businesses to raise the voltage in order to transmit it easily but also lower the voltage so that it can be used by a consumer. On the other hand it is harder to change the voltage of a direct current often due to a far more complex and expensive system. As a result of this a direct current can’t travel very far without losing much energy. It is therefore unpractical to use a direct current over long distances which is why an alternating current is used.

Although a direct current is inefficient for long distance uses it is very much so practical for use on shorter scales. For example, a direct current is used in items such as computers, laptops, cell phones, cameras, etc. A direct current is basically used in any item that contains batteries. This is because a direct current is more efficient and effective when it comes down to smaller objects. Since the objects are so small, in comparison to grids of alternating currents, they don’t need the benefits of alternating current such as having the ability to easily change the voltage or having less resistance on wires. A direct current is also favorable due to its ability to be used in items that are mobile. For example, direct currents are used in the batteries of mobile phones, laptops, and other devices because they are smaller and therefore easier to carry around. An alternating current often requires large amounts of space which therefore makes it unpractical for use within smaller devices. In the end each of the two currents have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages.

Although one may assume that the two currents are quite different from each other and therefore are not involved with each other it is quite contrary to that. Both direct and alternating currents are heavily involved with each other because they both address the inadequacy of the other. Since the direct current is not effective when it comes to long distances the alternating current is used and then connected to the direct current that is used in smaller devices. For example, plug the charger of your laptop into the wall you are accessing an alternating current which is receiving electricity from the grid and source which generates it. The electricity then travels from the outlet in the wall up the wires and into your laptop which contains a battery that uses a direct current. The electricity is transferred into the direct current which then results in your laptop being charged. It is therefore clearly evident that alternating currents and direct currents have direct relationships in which they compensate for the inabilities of the other.

Both alternating current and direct current are evident in cities across the globe. Cities are mass consumers of electricity which contain millions if not billions of miles of circuiting that use both currents. In order for cities to be able to have electricity they must first have access to a main if not several main energy sources. For example, some cities near dams use the flowing water to generate hydroelectric energy. Other cities also use wind, solar, or even geothermic energy sources in order to harvest energy that is used in generating electricity. Once cities have access to and harvest these energy sources they can then use them to generate electricity which then moves into the cities’ system of power grids and is distributed throughout the city. Once this electricity enters the cities’ system of grids it is transmitted often through alternating current wires to various places that it is required. Some electricity goes towards the citizens of the city and it is used for a wide array of purposes such as from powering alarm clocks to cooking meals or to charging devices. Other electricity goes to powering things within the city such as a recycling center or simple streetlights. When the electricity reaches its intended target it is often transmitted onto a direct current. In other cases, such as streetlights, the alternating current is directly applied to the appliance itself. Streetlights, among other things, directly contribute to lighting up a city and as a result require massive amounts of electricity to be maintained. Many cities around the world use high intensity discharge lamps or high pressure sodium lamps because they provide the great amounts of illumination while still using relatively low levels of electricity. While many cities use these lamps others are opting to change over to LED lights because they decrease energy usage as well as light pollution. In the end cities are lit up through any and all uses of electricity that are generated from various power sources and distributed to the populous mainly though wires which employ alternating currents.

In conclusion, alternating and direct currents both have their advantages and disadvantages. No one current can be better than another mainly because each has its own special role in which it out preforms the other. Alternating currents are better for large scale uses, such as providing power to an entire city whereas direct currents are better with small scale uses such as powering a battery in a computer. Cities are lit through their electricity usage whether that be from streetlights to television screens and this is made possible through the movement of electricity along direct and alternating currents. All in all electricity is perhaps the most revolutionary innovation of them all and its uses keep on expanding due to its vital part in modern life.



Herman, Stephen L. Direct Current Fundamentals. Clifton Park: Delmar, 2012. Print.


Brain, Marshall. “How Electricity Works.” HowStuffWorks Science. HowStuffWorks, 28 May 2004. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.

“AC vs DC (Alternating Current vs Direct Current).” AC vs DC (Alternating Current vs Direct Current) – Difference and Comparison | Diffen. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.

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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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