I bet the ’80s was a good decade for Energizer, Duracell and their ilk. I mean, it was a good decade for sharkskin, too, but the ’80s had to be the absolute peak for these battery makers. Suddenly, it seemed like everything required portable juice: that new-fangled wireless TV remote, the Walkman, my futuristic calculator watch and, of course, all of those awesomely high-tech electronic toys like Simon (which actually had its launch party at Studio 54!).
Well, Energizer’s mascot might not have changed since then, but times sure have. Today, I can’t even count the number of portable electronic gadgets I own—each of them requiring its own on-the-go power source. And yet, I probably buy fewer than 10 batteries per year. Even then I’m only buying them for my two TV remotes, smoke alarm and flashlight—things that haven’t changed much since the ’80s.
Nowadays, proprietary batteries are forced upon us by the manufacturers of the very devices we need them for. What’s worse, these batteries are in many cases impossible to replace without performing major surgery on your gadget’s delicate innards (ahem, Apple). While this is quite the cozy and convenient situation for manufacturers, I can’t help but feel screwed. And I don’t like feeling screwed…
Where’s the beef? C’mon, that should be obvious. Anyone who’s ever traveled from Point A to B knows the misery of lugging around the cable salad of different proprietary chargers for a laptop, cell phone, digital camera, iPod and portable gaming unit. I roll up and pack each and every one of these chargers with me on even the briefest of excursions; I’m sure you do too. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had a gadget die on us and not had its charger on hand. For me, it wasn’t as tragic a scenario as having my digital camera conk out on vacation, but it was painful nonetheless. I recently traveled to Europe and, in the rush to get to the airport, neglected to pack my iPod charger. So, while I rocked all the way to Heathrow, the flight back was far less enjoyable. What were my options, after all? I could have gone without, or I could have purchased a new charger. For iPod owners, that’s now a two-part kick in gut: the USB cable, plus the USB-to-power-outlet thingamajig. That’s a £40 expenditure at the apple.com/uk store, so it would have cost me about $80. No thanks.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.