Saturday, 5 November 2011

Batteries


It's rant time.

I'm getting so frustrated by the ever increasing number of devices that rely upon traditional alkaline batteries. And the dumb thing, is that by standardising on these low-grade batteries, actually increases the size of the equipment and mean-time between failures.

My Mamiya 645AFDII takes 6x AA batteries. Why not Lithium? Hell, even Ni-Mh would be better. That's a ludicrously expensive piece of kit. The digital back is lithium powered, but not the body? Reminds me; it's probably leaked already.

I have to credit Apple with making batteries a part of a device, rather than a consumable, but then, I also have to wag a finger at them for the batteries needed in the wireless keyboard and mouse. Okay, they do sell a rechargeable battery and charger set for them, but still.

And that's the problem - wireless devices. Cheap, mostly Chinese-made wireless devices, that are disposable and in turn prop up a massive disposable battery market. Cheap products, cheap batteries. Crappy little IR remotes for your TV (why do they still exist? Will somebody please standardise communications for A/V equipment - if the IT industry can do it, then the A/V industry definitely can).

But it's not even limited to cheap crap either, I can't use my sound system properly at the moment, because I forgot that the detachable control panel takes batteries, and promptly leaked (even though the system has been used continuously). The panel spends 100% of it's life clamped to a device that's constantly powered - if it's going to waste power lighting the standby LED and circuitry, it could at least trickle-charge a control panel that's attached to it. But no. The control panel takes 10x AA batteries.

I've started stripping batteries out of every device I have, and only leave the batteries in the devices I use regularly. I find that it's too easy to let something sit in a draw for six months, and find the batteries have leaked. A classic device is the Wii remote - hardly used, and leaks at the drop of a hat.

So, what do I want? I want manufacturers to stop making power our problem, and find better ways of powering fixed devices, and more intelligent ways of powering wireless devices. Whether it be intelligent use of USB or proprietary data links that charge (like charging a control panel when it's docked), or inductance charging your mouse from a stand or mousepad. This isn't new technology. It's not even technology in most cases, just forethought and effort on the designers' part.

In the meanwhile, I've got to either clean or bin a wooden tray that spare batteries have leaked into (at least it wasn't an expensive device).

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