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Handhelds Hardware Technology

Hand-Powered Hardware? 298

Posted by timothy
from the for-the-coming-apocalypse dept.
quiddity writes "Following the Goofy USB Devices post, one has to know what can be self-powered when the batteries all die. You can handcrank your Gameboy, recharge your cellphone or pda (even grandpa), wind up a webserver (with minions, a beowulf..), see in the dark, and project a movie. What else can we propel through the next blackout/apocalypse?" Some of these devices have have been on Slashdot before; what cool hand-powered tech hasn't been and should be?
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Hand-Powered Hardware?

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  • I remember... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SisyphusShrugged (728028) <{me} {at} {}> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @08:38PM (#8493777) Homepage
    I remember reading about a device developed specifically to assist third-world countries with their crop planting and communications via a radio that is hand-cranked and provides a large amount of listening time per crank.

    Apparently these countries suffer from a lack of information about weather patterns, which would greatly assist with the crop planting, and which is provided by the hand-cranked radio

    An example of geeky inventing that actually has practial application, rare on slashdot :).
  • How many hands? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by powerpuffgirls (758362) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @08:40PM (#8493786)
    Even if we have some cool hand-powered hardware, how are we going to use it properly?

    Maybe a power-generating keyboard and mouse, so the faster you type and move your mouse, the longer your hand-powered PC will stay on.
  • Wind-up flashlight? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2004 @08:40PM (#8493788)
    Anybody know where to get a good windup flashlight, probably a white led one?
  • Re:How many hands? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @08:41PM (#8493801)
    Now THAT'S a good idea.

    Reckon you can generate 420W through keystrokes though?
  • by segment (695309) <sil.politrix@org> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @08:43PM (#8493813) Homepage Journal

    What else can we propel through the next blackout/apocalypse? I'm going old school [] and cranking up the old 8 tracks with some Barry White and my wife fsck all that other stuff. I'm contributing to the kids... segment lub dem kids
  • Hmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AstrumPreliator (708436) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @08:46PM (#8493823)
    This is nice and all but I would much rather see a device (like your cellphone, pda, or gameboy) take advantage of the piezoelectric effect [] so the batteries charge when you use the device.
  • by loyalsonofrutgers (736778) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @08:47PM (#8493829)
    The Cell Phone hand crank article wasn't too clear, but can you only wind for 6 minutes of call time at once? The way i see it, if 30 seconds of cranking gets you 6 minutes of call time, then why don't I just crank for 5 minutes and get a whole hour? The article, however, kind of implies that you gotta crank it everytime you want to make a short call. Which would suck.

    I recently broke my cell phone charger (cheap POS from sony ericcson seperated, leaving the plug in the phone and the leads not). I'm too cheap to replace it, and the car charger is too inconvenient (I don't drive much). Something like this would be terribly convenient, except replacing my real charger would probably be cheaper.
  • by Doctor Sbaitso (605467) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @08:49PM (#8493847) Journal
    For a physics assignment last year a friend and I created a hand-cranked generator using an old windshield wiper motor. It worked pretty well: we were able to power a boom box, a Game Boy Advance, a small water pump, a large light, and a few other items.

    We were thinking of selling it on the street during the blackout last summer, but decided that its nostalgic value would end up outweighing any monetary compensation we would gain.
  • Solar Power (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Vo0k (760020) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @08:56PM (#8493899) Journal
    I wonder what kind of portable hardware could you keep powered up just by using reasonable size solar cells. Like a laptop with its LCD backside/cover covered with them, so you direct it towards the sun (the cover casts shadow on the screen for better contrast, and even partially transparent for free backlight) and it runs, charging standard battery... Of course it won't be a P4 or such, but with current technology, how hard would it be to create extremely-low-power 486 clone with flash instead of HDD, no fan, low-speed cdrom...
    Say what you want, Linux runs nicely on 486 with plenty of RAM.
  • Re:limitation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @09:00PM (#8493922)
    A well-trained human body can produce around 100 W of motion effect for a couple of hours. (bicycle style)

    Wrong: the average Jow Blow who doesn't smoke and exercise somewhat regularly puts out between 75W and 120W for 2 hours. Well trained folks can put out 200/300W, and extremely well trained people (thing Lance Armstrong rushing to the finish line) up to 1kW peak for a short time.

    The Gossamer Albatros [] for example, was powered by a 40Kg athlete woman who put out an average of 300/350W for more than 3 hours continuously, which explains why she was pretty knackered when she arrived.
  • by cryptec (630849) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @09:01PM (#8493931) Homepage
    This site sells stuff that can be powered from your telephone line. Clock radios, calculators, vibrators, police scanners, wet dry brooms,etc.


    Telco powered electronics []
  • by squarooticus (5092) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @09:02PM (#8493934) Homepage
    when playing Gameboys and other such devices, isn't it possible just to harness all the extra energy expended beyond that which is required to tell the device, "Yes, move up, and then left, and then..."? Don't mod this up to funny: I'm serious. Think of all the energy that is wasted by just heating the plastic, when it could go into powering the device in the first place.
  • by powerpuffgirls (758362) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @09:04PM (#8493945)
    It is probably because energy is stored in the spring (mechanical?), so unless you have a really big spring, you can only do so much (30 seconds).

    I would imagine if you are a fast winder, you could achieve the same talk time in 15 seconds.
  • Re:I remember... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jejones (115979) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @09:05PM (#8493953) Journal
    I've bought a couple of theose radios; one AM/FM, the other AM/FM/shortwave.

    The generator starts to sound like it's grinding itself to metallic powder in fairly short order. I gave away one of them, so I don't know its fate now, but the AM/FM/shortwave one sits unused. It didn't take very long for whatever governs it so that the spring doesn't immediately unwind to break, so that if you wind it up, the knob turns at amazing speed, the mechanism sounds like you should do a bad imitation of Scotty and yell "She's gonna blow for sure, Captain!", and it unwinds itself in about one white-knuckled minute.

    The radio circuitry is constrained by the power source and the need to not consume it quickly. No doubt ingle-conversion, poor image rejection. Analog dial that you can't tune with certainty, just like in the old days! The sound quality, though is very nice (which for SW means wide selectivity--ouch...).

    I hasten to add that Freeplay has some far more sophisticated radio products these days, vide the Summit [] receiver.
  • primate power (Score:3, Interesting)

    by neuraloverload (751606) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @09:50PM (#8494162)
    so the post is about human powered tech, not alternate power tech. they're already being looked at for militay boots ,but i'd like to see the piezio electric shoes/boots for use with an integrated system of things like woven heaters in pants/coat/shoe liners, entertainment/communications. a powered antennae woven into the back of a jacket would be a leap on signal strength and have the added bonus of being shielded, most use handsfree anyway so just plug into the clothes. granted, it is a specialized and initially costly set of applications but over time (assuming there's a technology rich future available to us given current events and lessons of history, but i digress) we could see such things as being more easily available.
  • by AdamTheBastard (532937) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @09:51PM (#8494169)
    I'd add a capacitor (bank) to that list, its to hard to produce a constant cycle on a bike. When you go too fast you would generate to much power though, when you go to slow you wouldn't generate enough which gives you a very wavy ouput, not real good for DC appliences. With a capacitor you can store the power you generate when you are going fast to use up when you are going slow.

    I would also think about using voltage regulators with decent heatsinks rather than resistors, regulators tend to be more forgiving than resistors.
  • geostationary power (Score:1, Interesting)

    by wattimus (617494) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:02PM (#8494262)
    i may have my terminology mixed up, but couldn't we place a geostationary turbine (a la hydro power) and generate large amounts of power from the rotation of the earth? talk about a massive crank...
  • And then some (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cryptochrome (303529) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:32PM (#8494486) Journal
    Personally I prefer this [] hand-powered flashlight. Squeezing is a much more natural motion than shaking or winding, though it requires an extra gear or two.

    While I'm on the subject, pretty much any device that you use infreqently and for short periods is a good candidate for cranking. IMHO, those noisy, em-field producing, plug stealing or battery eating electric toothbrushes they have these days are really good candidates for this - twist the handle until it stops, and it brushes your teeth for one minute. The kids'll love it. Also shavers, cameras, and yes, vibrators.

    In addition, micropower devices don't even need cranks, and could get their power just from piezo electric button-pushing or shaking, or photovoltaics. Remote controls, smart cards, calculators, watches, smoke detectors, etc.

    To say nothing of mechanical devices that don't need to be electric.

    Really, there's way too many wasteful items requiring expensive, toxic batteries that would require replacing. Hell, how about an exercise bike that plugs into the wall to put power back in the grid?
  • Re:And then some (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:09PM (#8494687)
    Many of those products actually exist. A digital camera needs too much power for this, but many film cameras don't have batteries. My personal favourite 35mm, the Konica T3, only has a tiny battery to run the light meter.

    I've never heard of a wind up toothbrush, but they do have non-powered ones (aka a normal toothbrush). What I really want is a wind up shaver, so I don't have to recharge or mess around with a cord. I think I saw one in a catalog once, but I can't find it now.

    How would a smoke detector be hand powered? My house has detectors that are wired in, but I don't think that's what you're thinking of.

    A remote powered by the force pushing the button would be great. Solar's no good, though. Most people like to watch movies in the dark (or at least I do)

    And, of course, there have been many solar and hand powered watches, both electric and mechanical.
  • by karnal (22275) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:36PM (#8494849)
    I would think it'd be better to have something with a little more "ooomph", which would probably be a battery -- unless you wanna ride that bike the entire time the radio is on.

    But, the parent actually said a hand crank battery replacement... oops. I would think that a battery would be a better choice in this situation in order to "make the charge last". A typical cap isn't going to do much to keep something running if you step off the bike, right?
  • Re:Hand Power PC? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by toddestan (632714) on Monday March 08, 2004 @12:31AM (#8495233)
    I would just hook it up to a few LEDs and a capacitor to light up the keyboard as you type. That would actually be useful, doesn't hurt the battery at all, and would look cool.
  • by lxs (131946) on Monday March 08, 2004 @08:27AM (#8496975)
    You mean one of these? [] You can't shock people with them but you can give them a nasty burn :)
    Lighting candles with this thing isn't easy, unless you know plenty of campcraft as it only produces a glowing ember, like flint and steel or rubbing two sticks together.
  • by singleantler (212067) on Monday March 08, 2004 @08:28AM (#8496976) Homepage Journal
    BBC World Service broadcasts on LW, and they transmit BBC Radio 4 when they don't have World Service stuff to send out.

    This saved my sanity a few years back when I was doing some painting in Paris for my uncle and I'd got bored of all my CDs. French radio had just gone over to playing much more French music (by law) and was mainly godawful. Those LW broadcasts were fantastic!
  • Very true...and... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by StressGuy (472374) on Monday March 08, 2004 @09:34AM (#8497306)
    The average "elite" level cyclist can sustain about 700W, which is darned near 1 HP. Pretty impressive but, based upon some reading I've done in the wake of the death of Marco Pantani, I'm beginning to believe that it's also inhuman. It's starting to appear that the UCI actually permits athletes to artificaially bump their hemocrit levels, they just limit the extent to which they can do it...but I could be wrong. I'm not a doctor, but I am an engineer and constantly overdriving a system generally means it won't last as long.

    Lance is fast - a monster climber and excellent time trialist, but if you really want to see impressive short term output, look at your sprinters.

  • by Ticklemonster (736987) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:46AM (#8497878) Journal
    Are you sitting down? At your desk reading this while you really should be doing something else, arent you? What is your leg doing right now? I bet that buggar's going a mile a minute isn't it? Tapping that heel like there's no tomorrow aren't you?

    Talk about a limitless resource of energy!!! Put a heel activated pedal crank/thingy (sort of like the foot switch for a sewing machiine) at every desk, give out free coffee, and let nature take it's course!!! (relieves stress, too!!!)

  • by Ransak (548582) on Monday March 08, 2004 @02:06PM (#8500171) Homepage Journal
    I've wondered this for awhile, and eventually I'll get around to testing this to some small degree. It wouldn't be that difficult to setup an elaborate set of tubes and small water resevoirs to run a siphon [] powered generator (although, the amount of power you could generate would be small, creative engineering of the resevoirs could be done to increase output).

    You might not be able to run a P4 and a subwoofer, but you could easily light a room (LEDs), or power a small radio I would imagine.

  • Tyranny of the Plug (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Incadenza (560402) on Monday March 08, 2004 @04:53PM (#8502234)

    Dutch designer Dick van Hoff recently designed beautiful hand-powered kitchen utensils. To quote:

    Dick van Hoff's Tyranny of the Plug series of kitchen machines chop, churn and blend, but don't require electricity. They are powered by human energy-- by pulling on them, turning them or moving them to and fro... and they function beautifully.

    Van Hoff is calling into question the fact that members of contemporary society readily accept new objects that are powered by electricity, yet rarely contemplate where the power is coming from. Instead, his products make people invest their human energy into powering them.

    Sleekly yet simply designed of cast iron, chrome, glass, and wood, these machines run smoothly and with efficiency, while fostering awareness and contemplation.

    Pictures on Designboom [] and Slowlab [].
  • GPS receiver (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ksheff (2406) * on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @12:15AM (#8506461) Homepage

    If there is one on the market, I know I would like to get one. Being lost in the middle of nowhere and finding out that the batteries in the GPS are dead, sucks.

ASCII a stupid question, you get an EBCDIC answer.