Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ypsilanti's Battery-Powered Depot

This story started out as just a picturesque depiction of a day at the Ypsilanti Depot. Well, then the guy goes and mentions an obscure early battery, and I spent the rest of the day researching early batteries and completely geeking out. Husband even got out his voltmeter and we were testing stuff in the kitchen, no joke. This was late at night, even. But I did manage to learn something, and I hope today's Citizen story is as interesting to read as it was to research.


Dusty D said...

As usual, the (paper) Encyclopedia Britannica really came through on this story, with the single most lucid essay on the evolution of battery technology I've ever read. I learned a lot online as well, but that was just a lot of scattered bits here and there. Thanks to the Britannica I now know how to build my own voltaic pile, for those days when I feel like building a voltaic pile or two.

It's remarkable how interesting the ordinary little things in life turn out to be. I never really understood how wet cell batteries worked. Once you start digging into it, it turns out to be an astounding, weird, and fascinating story.

Dusty D said...

I also enjoyed learning what a doodlebug is. I hadn't known such a thing existed. The older I get, the more I realize how ignorant I am. Luckily that also means that there is a limitless amount of new things to learn.

BF said...

Ok... this reminds me of a story. Not related to Ypsi history, but since when has that ever stopped me from rambling on?

About 1978 I was attending a lecture by theatrical lighting designer Nan Porcher. She told the story of doing a show in Mexico City, and wondering why the lights didn't perform the same from one show to the next - the rate of fade when dimming, for example, was never consistent.

When she went backstage to complain, the stage manager yelled out the stage door to the alley. Nan went out there to discover that the theatre didn't have a dimmer board, but instead had a series of clay pots filled with an electrolytic solution and neighborhood boys hired to raise or lower strips of copper into the pots to vary the electricity flowing to the lights.

She stopped complaining, realizing her artistic vision couldn't compete with the needs (and distractions) of the boys.

Dusty D said...

BF: Very neat story! I can just picture that.

The clay pots remind me of the Baghdad battery; I originally heard that it was used for electroplating jewelry but I see its Wikipedia article discounts that.