September 1965 Electronics World
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
Electronics World, published May 1959
- December 1971. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
Little could Electronics
World magazine editor William Stocklin have known in 1965 when he wrote this
"The Battery Renaissance" article the advances in technology that would occur half
a century later. Consumer products were at the time just becoming small, energy
efficient, and inexpensive enough for widespread adoption, having only recently
evolved from high voltage and power vacuum tube circuits to transistorized versions
of radios, televisions, tape recorders, and other portable devices. Carbon-zinc
batteries still dominated the markets and came in relatively high voltage packages
to power voltage multiplier circuits for tube biases, but alkaline and mercury batteries
did the job for transistors where non-rechargeable cells were used, and nickel-cadmium
(NiCad) was the rechargeable battery of choice. Those chemistries ruled for decades,
until nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) came on the scene in the 1990's with a higher
energy density than NiCad, and then the advent of Lithium-Polymer (LiPo) trumped
them all. Of course at the same time semiconductor devices were shrinking in size,
power consumption, voltage requirements, and cost. It is hard to imagine where the
market goes from here. I won't be here fifty years from now to find out, but hopefully
you will be.
For the Record: The Battery Renaissance
Wm. A. Stocklin, Editor
Electronics will always be a fascinating subject. Just think of such past developments
as the laser, the super conducting cryogenic magnet, and satellite communications,
for example - all, of course, involving highly sophisticated equipment of major
interest to the professional electronics man. Yet, unsuspected by most, a great
new era of electronic products is emerging, which will influence every man, woman,
and child. This era encompasses not sophisticated devices but rather simple, low-cost
products in the area of portable tools and appliances for the home, and even industry.
A combination of events has been occurring slowly, not so much in the technology
but in the reduction of manufacturing costs, so that a breakthrough is evident.
G-E has just announced that SCR's with a 150-watt rating will be made available
in quantities at 35 to 50 cents each, and these are small enough to fit in the base
of an electric light socket. Power transistors are steadily improving in reliability
and prices are being reduced. Rechargeable batteries of the nickel-cadmium and alkaline
types are reliable and reasonably priced, just awaiting more applications.
The conventional carbon-zinc battery had its renaissance some twelve years ago
with the employment of the transistor in the portable and pocket radio. One and
a half million transistor sets were produced in 1953 and this increased to a total
of 17 million sets in 1963.
Mercury cells, sophisticated devices but not rechargeable, are finding wide application
in both military and medical electronics. The cardiac Pacemaker (where the battery
is imbedded in a person's body) is a good example of a case where reliability and
battery life are major factors. Also, hearing aids and some wristwatches depend
on mercury cells as their sources of operating power.
The rechargeable type, however, will be the key product in the upcoming, portable,
cordless-power era. Today's market for rechargeable batteries alone is nearing $50
million, compared to $50 thousand in 1948.
Just imagine 4.5-million cells used to date in the $35-million electric-toothbrush
Twelve-million cells have been sold to date for cordless electric shavers. Major
manufacturers intend eventually for all shavers to be both 117-volt a.c. and battery
Multi-million cell use is anticipated for the rapidly developing electric slicing-knife
When production costs come down, the nickel-cadmium auto starting battery is
a possibility. Even the electric auto is not as remote as one might believe.
There is no end to the many types of portable, battery-operated items that will
be produced in the near future. A present list we have seen already exceeds 1000,
which includes all types of home tools and appliances.
The day isn't far off when most home-owners will have a simple, built-in battery
recharging system. Batteries will simply be plugged in after use and stay on charge
In view of the cutback in military expenditures, many manufacturers are channeling
their efforts toward diversification. This, combined with recent reductions in prices
of batteries and electronic components, will result in a crash program in marketing
cordless consumer products.
The rechargeable group of batteries is, of course, a major factor. Yet it is
only a stepping stone between now and the time when economically priced fuel cells
will become available.
"Is it portable?" will soon become as important a question as "Is it a.c./d.c.
or gasoline-driven?" is today. With portability one must use batteries - and not
just one type since there is a choice of various kinds. There will be applications
where the low cost, throw-away non-rechargeable ones will be most suitable. There
are other applications where more sophisticated and more reliable, but not rechargeable,
batteries will be employed. Then, of course, there are the rechargeables. All of
these will find their niche, whether it be in consumer products, in industry, or
in military applications.
Batteries may seem like uncomplicated items yet the variations among them are
extremely important, especially when designing new products.
In view of this, our next month's issue is a "Special Issue" devoted to the subject
of batteries - all types. Four major articles, covering the four major types of
batteries presently available, will be included. See page 4 for details.
Posted August 9, 2022