made-by-monkeys2

Good ideas with bad execution, or good execution of what should be bad ideas - an analysis of inferior, off-beat or malfunctioning products, and how other people's failures can help us design better stuff.

Battery Eater Has a Open Circuit

batteryeater-004.jpg

Guess I wasn’t as good of a girl last year as I thought I was — Santa skunked me with a broken toy in my stocking.

This little $7.95 gizmo called a Battery Eater made by Kikkerland is just the thing for the environmentally concerned — you stick an old battery in and his ferocious red LED eyes blink. Yeah, right! Note how the eyes above are dull and not the least bit ferocious-looking! Though this thing is described as a device for “sucking the last bit of juice out of your old batteries,” the only thing mine did is suck money out of my husband’s pocket!

batteryeaterpcb.jpg I’m implicating the flimsy-looking solder joints in the failure to blink. I guess in a way that would be the equivalent of a gastric bypass. Though I now get to send both my weak batteries and my Battery Eater to the rubbish heat, I actually think a toy like this is a cool idea. I bet Kodak engineers who invented the disposable camera would have loved it! I wrote an article back in 2000 about the efforts of engineers to increase the amount of recyclable parts in the camera after Kodak received a notorious “Wastemaker” award by several environmental groups. Engineers somehow managed to redesign the camera so virtually every part was reusable — except the battery. Which meant they had a lot of used batteries on their hands!

“”I haven’t bought a double-A battery in six years,” jokes Fischmann, though he isn’t exactly kidding around. Every one of the more than 300 million single-use cameras that Kodak has recycled to date that incorporates a flash uses one or two AA or AAA alkaline batteries, and not a single one has gone into a new camera. Although only a small percentage of the battery’s energy is actually used up taking flash pictures with a single-use camera (Fischmann’s estimate is 10 to 20%), Kodak says doubts about the exact amount of energy remaining in the battery prevent it from being reused in a new camera. “People don’t like to wait for the flash to go off, and the only way to guarantee fast cycle times is to use a brand new battery in each camera,” explains Fischmann.”

Although that’s all history as the disposable film camera goes the way of the dinosaur and battery monitoring devices get more precise all the time, the Battery Eater is still a clever desk toy. And surely it’s helping me lower my carbon footprint!

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5 Comments

  1. Mike Meakin
    January 13, 2010 13:21

    I assume Mr Storm that you are perhaps a humble engineer like myself ?
    And don’t have the ‘flashy’ trappings of a marketing man whose imagination must have been tickled by this silly product ? Love it or loathe it people buy this product thus turning a capitalist profit.
    Perhaps a scientist could answer the question as to whether ‘dead’ batteries do less damage in the ground than partly used batteries ?
    Less active chemicals ? Lower Entropy ?

  2. Dave Storm
    January 30, 2008 15:14

    Frankly, who gives a flying toss?
    I can’t undertstand why a product like this even got past design stage. Worse, why would anyone be sad enough to waste money on a product that does asolutely nothing, other that eke out the last ebbs of energy from a flat battery and then moan about it?
    FOr the love of God, get out of my head.

  3. Barnaby
    January 30, 2008 12:34

    The answer to the digital camera for faffmeister is use rechargeable batteries, they last longer before needing a recharge than the standard ones do before they die anyway.

  4. faffmeister
    January 22, 2008 13:15

    SC:
    Sorry, but how does either (i) using a toy that does nothing other than flash some LED’s or (ii) sending ” … both my weak batteries and my Battery Eater to the rubbish heap, … ” help lower your carbon footprint? :)
    faffmeister

  5. SC
    January 16, 2008 18:30

    Hi
    I, too, got one of these for Christmas but mine works. It looks very evil when lit but is actually quite cool flicking away on my fridge! As my digital camera goes through batteries like there is no tomorrow, I now have a home for them! :P