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A power inverter is a piece of equipment that transforms direct current (DC) electricity to alternating current (AC) electricity. Batteries produce direct current electricity, and a common implementation of power inverters is car batteries as a source for indoor power during power outages (for common household appliances that are powered by alternating current). Power inverters are sold as consumer items and are typically simple to install.
The earliest power inverters were complex electromechanical devices that used magnets and moving parts (including spring arms) to transduce direct current power into alternating current electricity. Modern power inverters employ oscillator circuits, which are made up of transistors and semiconductors rather than elaborate moving parts.
It is difficult to track who exactly coined the term “power inverter,” but it goes as far back as a 1925 article in the GE Review called “The Inverter,” in which the author (David Prince) outlines all of the device’s basic functions.