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Biofuel Cells May Makes Desktop Macs Jealous

Just A Thought - Biofuel Cells May Makes Desktop Macs Jealous

by , 10:00 AM EST, April 3rd, 2003

I was told that people who talk to inanimate objects are a wee bit more than eccentric; the talkers to the azoic run the risk of being carted away to the local funny farm where, it is reasoned, they can talk to whomever, or whatever, to their heart's content without disturbing the normal among us. So you can understand my reticence to reveal to you that I often talk to inanimate objects.

Oh, I don't yammer at any old thing, so your toaster and your easy chair are both safe from me. Usually the objects (literally) I direct my one-sided conversations to belong to me, and they are normally items of convenience. Like my Cube, for instance, and the 12" PowerBook I intend to buy soon. I suspect that Chunk, that's my Cube, and Dink, that'll be the name of my PB, will get along famously. This is especially true since both are only marginally closer to being alive than your garden variety rock.

All that may change soon, however, if a team of scientist at Saint Louis University have their way. These eggheads are designing fuel cells that use organic materials to produce electricity. So far they've created a fuel cell that can run for several weeks on a few drops of ethanol. For those of you who may have slept through that portion of science class, ethanol is the stuff in vodka that gets you drunk. In fact, if you had one of these new biofuel cells powering your PB, when your power runs low you could give it a few drops of your best brandy and be good to go for another month.

Beyond the obvious jokes about getting your laptop drunk to take advantage of it, there are other implications to having an organically-powered battery. The biofuel cell won't make Dink any closer to being alive, but it will mean that Dink is more organic than Chunk. Being more organic may make it easier for me to talk to Dink than it would Chunk since Dink and I will have more in common, it being at least partially organic and all. Will Chunk become envious of Dink's organic power pack? Will Dink flaunt its quasi-biology at Chunk, thus causing the computerized version of sibling rivalry? These are obviously questions I will need to keep in mind when I chat up my computers.

I may have to pay more attention to Dink anyway because of its bio-parts. The article says that beer should be avoided when refueling the bio-battery. Are there other concerns? Will Dink be susceptible to infections? Will the words 'computer virus' take on a whole new meaning? And if Dink does get sick will I have to be concerned about medical and pharmaceutical costs? Some complain that the 12" PB gets hot, with the biofuel cell, it could well be running a fever!

Hold on. I seem to recall that some fuel cells produce water as a byproduct. I sincerely hope this is not the case with biofuel cells; I hate the thought of having to potty train my laptop. And I state here and now that I will refuse to buy a laptop version of Pampers. Won't do it!

Now that I think about it, talking to my gadget IS a bit strange. Maybe I need to get a plant or a dog. People talk to their dogs all day long and don't get weird looks. Still, with the possible exception of Milo, the Jack Russell Terrier in The Mask, dogs can't help you surf the Web, balance your checkbook, or help you maintain long distance relationships. My computers can, so I guess I'll keep talking to them.

It's when they start talking back on their own is when I need to worry.

Vern Seward is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

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