04/16/2001

I’d forgotten about this resource. If you tend to burn through a lot of AA or AAA batteries in a digital camera, portable MP3 player, PalmPilot or PocketPC, video games, or CD player, look into NiMH rechargable batteries. Thomas Distributing ( www.thomas-distributing.com ) is one source. I went to see what the price difference would be between NiMHs and standard alkalines. There, you can pick up a GP Batteries charger with four low-end 1300 mAH batteries for $15. If you don’t feel like wasting your time with the low-end stuff, a pack of four GP 1700 mAH batteries runs $17 and a compatible charger manufactured by MAHA runs $8. For the sake of comparison, a four-pack of disposable Duracell Alkaline batteries runs $5.15 at Staples. A NiMH battery can be recharged 500-1,000 times, and its running life per charge is longer than that of an Alkaline battery.

And for environmentalists and cheapskates, you can even get a solar-powered battery charger for $18. Free energy. The only drawback is you need two or more days’ worth of sunlight to fully charge four AAs.

We go through AAs at work like nobody’s business, thanks to our pagers and PalmPilots, so I ought to mention this stuff to our administrative staff.

The advantages of NiMH over the NiCD batteries that have been available for about the past 15 years is basically longevity and memory. NiCDs develop memory over time, so their capacity drops. NiMHs have minimal memory effect, and their capacity drop-off is much less steep. And their life expectancy is longer. Newer laptop batteries use NiMH instead of NiCD, because now that people expect their laptops to be not just computers, but also personal stereos and portable DVD players, there’s no way you could get any kind of useful life expectancy out of NiCD cells. The disadvantage is cost; a NiMH pack for most laptops will cost a minimum of $100 and $200 isn’t unheard of.

With AA cells the cost isn’t as much of a factor. The individual battery costs $3.50, but since you’ll recharge it 500 times, it doesn’t hurt so much.

And by the way… I’m finished with that Computer Shopper UK article. Among other things, I advocate a hair dryer and nail polish as two useful tools for a PC tech. Hey, it’s an excuse to speak with the ladies, although I am debating in my mind what kind of an impression borrowing those two particular items might leave, particularly to work on computers… I’ll have to ask my sister.

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