During my younger and pre-motor vehicle-owning days I spent a great deal of time on bicycles which were called "English racers;" bicycles with frames much like touring or racing bikes, but with straight handlebars. I guess they would be called "hybrids" now. We didn't do a lot of riding after dark, although we could have in our little 15,000-person town. And the best bikes didn't have the big D-cell battery-carrying headlamps (who knew when those batteries were going to DIE?); they had the frame-mounted generator and the spring-loaded switch. Throw the switch when the sun went down and you could still be seen ripping around the neighborhood. And the harder or faster you rode the brighter the light would become.
Who knew in the age of halogen lamps and lithium batteries those old generators would still be relevant?
My wife and I participated in a telecommunications conference in Singapore this last week. Her technology newspaper received complimentary passes. Since I've written the occasional tech-related article (Anything vaguely related to fitness and gadgetry? I'm there.) she thought some consumer electronics toy might catch my eye and justify my holiday.
I helped Suzanne interview a couple of exhibitors on Tuesday morning, after which she cut me loose to take a look at some of the exposition booths for "cool stuff." The overwhelming majority of the exhibits were way over my head...until I got to the Nokia pavilion. Angry Birds is one thing, but when I saw the blue-framed mountain bicycle on a stand...well, I had to take a closer look.
Once I showed the booth exhibitors my credentials - it never hurts to have business cards - I was allowed to pedal the bike a few cranks and figure out the fuss.
The phone, secured to the handlebars, lit up and showed a "charging" icon at two turns of the pedals. While the charger is specifically designed for Nokia phones with two-millimeter pin chargers, it's not a serious stretch to figure what could be done for other phones. The fine folks at Nokia probably developed the charging system for the benefit of phone owners who don't necessarily have access fo reliable electrical power, or spend quite a bit of time on bicycles, which in this case makes perfect sense when one thinks about the state of affairs in Asia.
But you probably could use the same kind of device to charge a phone without getting on the grid. Take one exercise bicycle, add one generator, and voila! It's nothing new, mind you. There were folks who joined pedal power to their television set in the late 1970s.
Everything old isn't necessarily new again, as much as it is that we start to think about new ways to use the old stuff.