Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

N Size Batteries Can Go To Blazes

N size batteries

If you're lucky, you'll never need N sized batteries. If a device doesn't have its own built-in rechargeable battery these days, then it likely uses AA, AAA, and somewhat less frequently C, D, and 9 Volt. Today even button cells are easier to locate and cheaper than ever. Fair enough. The problem lies with devices whose hunger for power is of a more demanding taste.

My father's early 70s Commodore LED calculator used N size batteries. They're about the same thickness as AAA, at half the height. They were difficult to find even back then, usually necessitating a trip to the camera shop, the answer to all oddball power requirements. Once located, the batteries weren't cheap - and the calculator required four of them. hence I never got to use the calculator for fear that boyish carelessness would have lead to expensive, dead batteries. So thanks to N size batteries, I had to actually learn to do multiplication tables in my head - an arduous affair I can assure you. Once in high school, I saved up enough money to fund a solar powered calculator, the newest thing in the 80's. No more sneaking behind my father's back to check my homework.

So I thought I was done with N size batteries... I'd even forgotten that they existed, but two recent events triggered this battery-powered memory. I was going to buy a wireless doorbell, and thought to check the battery requirements of the transmitter. N size. Bastard. I walked away in disgust. Then a few days later, I came across a vintage calculator and as if by reflex popped out the ancient batteries... horrifying N size batteries. The consensus is that they're still ideal for low current applications like door chimes (damn), and laser pointers. Perhaps, but that means one more battery size to stock at home, and at $1.50-$3 each for less than special performance, I know we can do better.

I realized that this ancient experience with oddball batteries is what makes me bristle today when buying a new device with its own proprietary rechargeable battery that becomes expensive and difficult to source in just a few years. Is it wrong to buy something and to want it to work for the rest of my life? I realize that these devices have obsolescence built in, but hey... this is Retro Thing. I want my stuff to work forever. After all, I have to think ahead to what I'll be writing about in 2060.

Amazingly tiny 80's Walkman made useless thanks to odd battery
Radio controlled Ferrari from Sears that ate all the batteries it could get
Prehistoric battery powered calculator watches


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