Clockwork computer power planned for next year

South African outfit to license $50 wind-up device

The Freeplay Power Group of South Africa is the latest in a series of outfits working on clockwork computers. And tantalisingly, its current prototype is running on an Apple eMate. Recent rumour has had it that Apple, in its quest for a killer design for its return to the low-cost educational market eMate was aimed at, has been considering wind-up technology. On the plus side, this could produce acceptable endurance. On the minus, if a clockwork computer turned out to look ludicrous rather than like a killer product, Apple could come in for another strafing of the sort it collected from Doonesbury, when the Newton wasn't quite right first time. Freeplay is currently working with General Electric on a clockwork generator (with a solar panel in addition), although no deal seems to have been inked. The target price of the wind-up power source is $50. Freeplay plans to license the manufacturing of its gizmo, and joint chairman Rory Stear expects to have it ready for market next year. So far ancient Apple hardware is the favoured by inventors - Brit Trevor Bayliss OBE has been there, done that. He's best known for his windup radio, but he also developed and demonstrated in 1997 an Apple eMate 300 that could have its battery life of 24-28 hours extended by four to five hours by winding up a charger. He did a demo at the Commonwealth conference in Botswana, where 30 seconds of hand cranking gave about 15 minutes of computer use. Bayliss worked with the BaygenPower Group to develop the wind-up. There is still the slight problem of connecting to the Internet from remote locations without electricity, but one day, she'll be right and satellite phones may even be on a chip (Er, Graham - wouldn't the satellites need to be beaming death rays for this to work? - Ed). ®

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