Batteries! Charging on and on and on…

Folks, as a child of the 1970’s, my first foray into the world of battery power was a plastic, model boat I received for my birthday.

I can still clearly recall how, later that day, it puttered off the beach and over the horizon, never to be seen again. 

Probably should have tied some string to it.

Now, like so many other lost toys of that era, it ran on several large, ‘D’ size, disposable batteries which had a fairly short lifespan and were quite expensive too (still are). 

Which was why my parents eventually decided they’d rather pay off the house than fund my slot car addiction.

The first electronic gizmo I owned with a rechargeable battery was a hand-me-down video camera. 

Even now I remember the sense of wonder I felt at having a battery that not only told you how much charge it had left, but could be recharged in a wall socket over and over again. 

Better yet, it was a hand held unit, and the battery was the size of two matchboxes.  Unlike the earlier video camera’s which needed two hands to heft onto your shoulder and a battery pack which came in a suitcase you slung over a shoulder. 

During the 1980’s you’d occasionally bump into some red-faced photographer carting one of these monsters around, capturing footage for posterity, while discreetly checking themselves for suspected rupture.

Enter the 90’s and, while I was still using disposable battery powered torches, stereo ‘boom boxes’, a transistor radio and a Walkman, I lashed out and bought a second hand mobile phone; the famous ‘Brick’.

Basically, a phone that was all battery, with a handset connected to it by a flexible cord.   

It had to be charged daily, for at least three to four hours, and my left arm still twinges occasionally from carting it around.

When I saw a flip phone for the first time I was convinced mobile phone technology had reached its’ zenith. 

Looking back, I admit I may have been a tad wrong about that…

In 1996 I was gifted a battery drill from my workmates as a parting present.  No more extension leads!

So, I started looking for other rechargeable battery goodies and eventually purchased my first laptop.  Bye bye typewriter! 

That laptop weighed half a tonne and had a whopping two hours run time, if you were careful, but it served me well for many years until, along with the drill, it shuffled off to Silicon Heaven. 

I replaced the drill with one that was half the price, twice as powerful and runs nearly five times longer than the old one. 

The laptop was replaced by two more laptops, each better than the previous ones, until the arrival of my first smart phone.

My new phone fits into my pants’ pocket, charges in an hour and lasts for a couple of days without needing to be plugged in. 

Plus it can do far more than those laptops without breaking into a cyber-sweat, and has cheerfully replaced my landline phone, radio, boom box, stereo, torch, atlas, CD player and Walkman, and, frankly, everything else… including my life.

Emboldened by the success of my other ‘toys’ I delved into another arena of rechargeable powered wonder and bought my first battery whipper snipper and lawn mower.

I was so delighted with them I added a hedge trimmer and leaf blower to the collection.

Folks, as Odin is my witness, I will never own another pull start gardening tool again. 

For it is written:  Happy is the gardener not spending twenty minutes yanking on the chord of an uncooperative lawn mower.

Being on something of a roll, I lashed out and purchased a battery powered, pedal assist, bicycle.

Nicknamed E-Pubtruck, it replaced the previous Pubtruck I’d trundled around town on for years.

I average 150 k’s between charges as the battery cuts out once the speedo hits 18 kph.  Over that speed, it’s all ‘Greg Leg Power’ from that point on. 

But as soon as my velocity dips below 18kph, the electric motor kicks in to give me a little boost, propelling me gracefully up the numerous hills of my hometown.

No more avoiding certain routes because of their steep gradients!  

But the best was yet to come. 

Last year, I purchased an electric guitar amp and, I shit you not, it can crank out the decibels for 5 hours on eight, AA, rechargeable batteries! 

That’s five hours of music, at a volume loud enough to drown out the sound of my neighbours banging on their walls. All from eight dinky little batteries! 

It’s so light, when I get sick of torturing my neighbours, I can simply cart it to the nearest hall, park, carpark or football field and crank it up without having to cart miles of leads or several power packs around.  Huzzah!

Look, I don’t know about you, but I can’t go back now. 

I’m hesitant to predict what the future holds for rechargeable batteries, as I’m the last person to make any predictions regarding the potential size, power and charge of the next gen mini-power trains, but I’m certain the future will be much lighter and brighter.

This article appeared in Regrow Qld Magazine: Regrow Qld (substack.com)

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