Spoken Word with Electronics is an audio series delivering to you a two side recording of unusual stories paired with vintage modular electronic sounds
Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the show. This week is partially about the decompression following months and years of stress over Trump. With the election completed, I found myself more stressed last week than I'd been months before, and this is partly because of how I deal with threats. I am calm when threatened and then unravel a bit after the fact when I'm safer. So for humor sake, as a tangent, this week's show is about the last ten days of my life that appear to be missing from my mind, and a discussion on batteries. I don't like batteries. I can definitely talk about how much I don't like batteries.
Batteries are lousy. Batteries are awful. Batteries are overhyped. Batteries Batteries are wasteful. Batteries are polution. Batteries suck.
Batteries have ruined so many things. Alkalines, especially. They leak out poison and corrode. You hand a toy to a kid and it's often up to them to remember about the batteries inside to not leak, which are little bombs. From my remote controlled R2D2 as a kid which covered itself with Hoth-powdered crystals of death, to countless radios that fritzed out, watches that stopped ticking, remote controls that coughed out potassium hydroxide, etc, batteries are bombs you put in a device to kill it. Many people don't realize any alkaline battery you put in a device WILL eventually leak and kill the components of whatever it is inside of. Lithiums are far better, but they explode and catch fire. Rechargeables are weak and inefficient – and bad for devices like guitar pedals with their weak voltage. All batteries suck.
I recognize the value of batteries for mobility purposes – laptops, phones, etc – but so many things are not meant to be portable and don't need them. My doctor has a cable-free clock on his desk right next to a surge protector, for example. That clock had a battery in it, which he forgot about. Most people choose alkalines. It leaked and killed the clock. So, if doctors can't even prevent battery death, I wanted to share a few tips this week on how to remove batteries from MANY things.
The battery compartment, with its sturdy springs and metal connections is still one of the most robust pieces of any device, too, and battery eliminators are designed to use that compartment. It's basically just a wall-plug based AC adapter with a dummy battery that you connect where the battery would otherwise go:
A battery eliminator pack and a Parallel Battery Adapter Holder combine to replace either AA, AAA, D, or C sized batteries
So this episode, I'll describe how easy it is to get rid of a battery in a device that you don't need to be battery powered. The cost savings alone are incredible. For example, our home loves to use LED candles, and all of them require C-sized batteries. The LED candles cost about $40 altogether, but the battery cost was aiming at close to $400 over time to keep them running. That's ridiculous. A battery eliminator for each of them was $12, and a parallel battery adapter to turn each of the AAA batteries into C cell batteries was super cheap, too. Pardon the Amazon links. The reason these work is because AAA, AA, C, and D, all share the same base voltage of 1.5v. All that's different is the available charge inside the battery itself, which is why C and D sized batteries are larger (they have more capacity) – but if you have an AC adapter sending out the voltage, the battery size is unnecessary. This allows you to run your battery gear off a better power switch, too, as the power switch breaking on something is a wear part in itself, and moving all of that to a surge protector is better for the lifetime of whatever you care about.
Batteries are also self-imposed timers on things. I have a shortwave radio that runs on batteries that I never got to enjoy casually. I hooked it up with a battery eliminator and have it on running on low volume now and it's much more enjoyable as ambient noise. When it ran on batteries I had to be conscious of always turning it off.
So for two examples of how these work nicely. In episode ten of SWWE I discussed my fondness for my Six Channel Sony MX-650 Microphone Mixer. This is configured to run on eight C-sized batteries, but I have a battery eliminator working with it instead:
A Sony Microphone Mixer kept alive with AC adapter set to output 12v, a single battery adapter plug, and seven battery dummies – note that all eight of the AAA-sized batteries are fit into C-sized Parallel Battery Adapter Holders.
The only tricky thing is working out the power cable, which I had to push out of the front plate on the panel:
Look for the cable – It's in the bottom left corner, though some devices allow for the cable to easily pass under the panel for the batteries themselves.
Finally, I wanted to make my Nanoloop from last week's show fully plugged in and not dependent on a battery. I picked up a 3.3v AAA battery eliminator which is a little tight, voltage wise, with the chip itself (Nanoloop says all voltage below 3.4v should be cool but 4v will harm the device) – this 3.3v adapter is still better than a pair of lithium AAA's which, at 1.8v each, can exceed 3.6v out of the box. (1.5v is the stated voltage on all batteries, but they fluctuate, rechargeables are the weakest, and rarely 1.5v ever, for example)
Anyway, I put in permanent battery replacers and a power cable and made a small case for it with cardboard and colored electrical tape. Price of upgrade: $15, the Nanoloop can stay powered on all day when I record with it, the power switch on the Nanoloop will never fail due to being overused, and I'll never need to get another battery for it. Caveat: This is a new battery eliminator and something might go wrong, so be careful if you decide to do the same – I'll update if something fails, but it's been working great. Here's the modification, including a power plug switch on the AC adapter, which you can find in the electrical section of most hardware store for less than a dollar. Finished off the modification with some small circle-cut gaffer tape pads on the buttons for grip:
One postscript: A few people have noted that Apple Podcast plays this show in reverse order (Sides B, A, Discussion, Introduction) every week, regardless of how they configure things. I've put together this new RSS feed that reverses the order of this show, which should help you out.
Thanks – Have a cool week, Ethan