Portable Power

Remember that single great Christmas present, the one you’d been hoping for all year? You rip through the paper and there it is. Imagining the hours of endless fun, you carefully begin to open the box and then it slams home like a ton of bricks. The three words that bring terror to the hearts of kids everywhere. Batteries not included.

Batteries have been around for quite a long time, in fact, possibly as long as two thousand years. A clay pot with an asphalt plug which had a copper cylinder and an iron bar inserted through the plug hanging into the pot, when vinegar or another acidic liquid was added, the device would produce 1.1 volts of electricity. It was dubbed the “Baghdad battery” since it was found in Iraq in the nineteen thirties and the best scientific speculation as to what it was…you guessed it…a battery.

I wonder if the Mesopotamian children woke up Christmas morning (remember Christmas was brand new because Jesus had just been born) tore into their papyrus-wrapped gifts and dejectedly wondered where their clay pots were to power their toy pyramids?

The first true electrochemical cell was invented in 1800. It is now one of the most useful and yet frustrating objects we employ, by necessity, day after day. When we need a size D, all we can find are size C’s. When we want a AAA, AA’s roll out of the cabinet by the gross. When we need a 9-volt, if there were such things as 8 and 10-volt batteries, they would be falling from the sky, denting our cars, which use 12-volt batteries.

One interesting characteristic is that batteries produce DC, or direct current, which means it moves in one direction. If you apply this same principle to the written word, it becomes kind of boring, don’t you think? As you read, you should be able to enter the story in a symbiotic give and take relationship.

Uh oh. The power just went out. Good thing I have a battery back up…Hmm irony. No time to stop and ponder, gotta shut down before the battery dies. Oh great, my flash light is dead. Oh well, it can’t last forev……

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