Thursday, April 12, 2012

The House of Batteries

Leyden Jars [Wikipedia]
Batteries are the kind of thing we take for granted and use all the time, even though they are amazing things.  Ancient things, too. Archaeologists in the 1930s discovered, near Baghdad, objects that looked to be early galvanic cells in pottery jars; they are known as the Baghdad Batteries. Benjamin Franklin was the first person to use the term "battery" to mean a device using electricity, back in the mid-1700s; scientists were using glass jars called Leyden jars to house electrically charged pieces of glass and metal. It wasn't until the mid to late Victorian period, though, that people started inventing the early versions of the modern battery.

I'll bet you could name five or ten things things you use that require batteries, right off the top of your head. But I'll bet you never though your could build a house out of them, did you? Neither did I, until I saw this little article in Popular Science (August, 1940 issue) about a man in San Antonio, Texas who did just that. Joe Perrin worked for a battery company, so I guess he got the idea from seeing all the used batteries there. He used 5000 old storage batteries, just the way you'd use bricks, to make a 3 room house. After the battery bricks were laid, he covered them in chicken wire and two coats of plaster, and he had himself a House of Batteries.

Speaking of batteries, my internet research (including the sleuthing I did for this post) often very much depends on a good HP Laptop Battery - I'll bet yours does, too. So I appreciate being able to buy them easily and for a good price. We may not be building houses out of them, but we couldn't build our online lives without them. Happily, though, we can skip the chicken wire and the plaster - not to mention the glass Leyden jars.

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