Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What happened to the "B" batteries?

Who's asking: Matthew and Henry Lavinder, Mechanicsville, VA

Have I mentioned that my three-year-old nephews are ridiculously bright children, and paragons in every way? Well, they are.

Santa Claus was extra good to them this year, and brought them a number of toys that require batteries. (This is something that seems to disappear in adulthood. The only batteries I ever buy any more are for my toothbrush and my remote controls. Why don't I have cool battery-operated toys? Wait, don't answer that.)

Anyway, the boys were shopping with their mother for C batteries, and Peggy went through the battery display with them: AA, AAA, AAAA, C, D, nine-volt. Where, the boys wanted to know, was B?

B batteries are no longer widely available because nothing uses them any more. Old radios used to operate on vacuum tubes that required two different batteries: an "A" battery to heat the vacuum tube, and a "B" battery that ran the rest of the radio. Improvements in technology did away with vacuum tubes in consumer electronics, which ended the need for the "A" and "B" batteries.

Before I forget, a very happy birthday today to Mr. Tod Goldberg, who may now officially be too old to be called wunderkind any more.

Five Random Songs

I skipped this last week because I had no access to my iTunes. The new MacBook has brought my iTunes back in all their glory. Hurray.

"You Will," Too Much Joy. Back in the late '90s, this was really sharp satire about telecommunications advertising campaigns. Now I have been faxed at the beach, and it doesn't feel so funny any more.

"The Busy Girl Buys Beauty," Billy Bragg. Ooh, it's Mock the Consumer Society morning on my iPod Shuffle! Did everyone read the New York Times article last week about how those fancy skin products do no good at all? My devotion to Oil of Olay has been vindicated.

"Come, Let Us Go Back to God," the Soul Stirrers. From The Ladykillers soundtrack, which I've raved about before.

"You Won't Have to Cry," The Byrds. No one sounds like them, even now.

"Yesterday," The Beatles. Some Beatles songs are so familiar that we don't really listen to them anymore -- and then one might catch us by surprise, as this one did, and we hear it as new and realize what geniuses these guys were. If you haven't listened to "Yesterday" or "Hey Jude" lately on headphones, by themselves and without distraction, I recommend that you do so, just to restore your sense of wonder.

1 comment:

JJ said...

Another thing that has disappeared is the vacuum tube tester they used to have in grocery stores.

When your Hi-Fi stopped working, you used to have to pop out the tubes and take them to the store and plug them into the sockets in the tester one at at a time until you found which one was bad.

I thought about this the other day when I saw my brother in law's new stereo, complete with high tech vacuum tubes.

If you wait long enough...