Gobsmacked by a new piece of technology

Gobsmacked is a British colloquial expression meaning flabbergasted, astounded or shocked. It is one of my favorite words, partly because it is a great example of onomatopoeia, where the sound of the word suggests what it describes. I was recently gobsmacked, when my daughter showed me a blurb in a magazine showing a great new idea for a simple technology. I cannot remember if the smacking sound was the result of me slapping the side of my own head or my chin flapping in amazement, but gobsmacked I was.

To appreciate the surprise, let me give some background. I think all photographers struggle with using AA batteries at one time or another. At one point earlier in my career I was using a dozen AAs at a time (or more,) between my cameras (which then used AAs, not today’s proprietary batteries,) my flash units and my hand-held light meter. I usually used alkaline, sometimes used old lead cells in a pinch and I tried to use rechargeable batteries when I could. Today, I still use AAs regularly, mostly for my external flash unit, but also for my audio recorder. These days, I try as hard as I can to use rechargeable batteries, for environmental as well as economic reasons.

The only thing I hate about rechargeable batteries is the charger. I have used big ones that charge rapidly, but take up lots of space and I have used smaller ones that are easier to carry. I even had one charger that plugged into the USB port on my computer. With that one, I did not have to worry if I had the right adapter to plug the charger into the plugs in the various countries where I was working. Each solution was an incremental improvement over the previous on, but they all left me carrying around some kind of battery charger. As they say, “There has to be a better way.”

So, I was gobsmacked when I was recently introduced to AA batteries that have removable caps on one end. Those caps cover USB plugs through which those same batteries recharge. Here is an image of them in my office:

I suspect as you are reading this and viewing the image, you are flabbergasted, astounded or even shocked. You are being gobsmacked, to be exact. The remarkable thing about the small magazine blurb my daughter showed me was that as soon as I saw it, I got it. To make sure you do the same, this means I do not have to carry an extra charger around! This means I can charge them from my laptop’s USB ports or in my case, from the simple four-way USB hub seen at work in the image below, anytime, anywhere, as often as I need. They can still be charged in a regular battery charger (of which I have many.)

When I was introduced to the batteries, I promptly bought four of the batteries and I used them yesterday to photograph my daughter’s birthday party. The party was fun enough and being behind the camera gave me an excuse to test the batteries and watch over my daughter and her peers. Everyone at the party was on their best behavior, as were the new rechargeable AAs I was using. You can read more about those and order them at: http://www.usbcell.com/ and http://www.usbcell.com/product/1/cases/4

It is true, these batteries are a small step, but when it comes to simplifying my set-up and lightening the load in my bag, every little bit helps.

One response to “Gobsmacked by a new piece of technology”

  1. I’ve stayed away from NiMH rechargables in the past because of previous experience with their drain characteristics, that is they didn’t power drain at linear rate, that they can drain faster when they have less total charge left than when they’re fully charged.

    That said, i didn’t quite realize, but now do after some research following reading your article that they perform better and have superior drain performance under load than do Alkaline batteries.

    To quote:
    NiMH cells are particularly advantageous for high current drain applications, due in large part to their low internal resistance. Alkaline batteries, which might have approximately 3000 mA·h capacity at low current demand (200 mA), will have about 700 mA·h capacity with a 1000 mA load.[20] Digital cameras with LCDs and flashlights can draw over 1000 mA, quickly depleting alkaline batteries. NiMH can handle these current levels and maintain their full capacity.

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