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The Computer Corner


By Charles Miller


The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same


The original French epigram pinned by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in the 19th century is “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” The more things change, the more they stay the same. I am glad that proverb applies to a lot of technology, because it provides a bit of stability and continuity. But one area of technology where this observation does not apply is the subject of batteries.

Battery technology has seen great improvements, many of which have come in this century. This change is something all mobile device users need to learn about, and soon. The changes in battery technology are not obvious, yet they are extremely important to understand because by treating batteries improperly many consumers are doing irreparable damage. This is so easily prevented with a small change of habits.

It makes me cringe every time someone shows me their phone, tablet, or laptop and I notice the battery status icon shows the battery is down to the last 5 or 10 percent of its charge. If I see an electrical outlet nearby, I almost invariably launch into my standard lecture, telling the person to plug in their device and charge it immediately, and from now on whenever an electrical outlet is handy they should be charging their phone, tablet, or laptop.

The person on the receiving end of my lecture will often retort, “I thought you were supposed to run the battery down before charging it!” That procedure was recommended two decades ago but not today. The most common rechargeable batteries twenty years ago were nickel-cadmium (NiCad) batteries, but today’s batteries are very different. In the quest to provide longer battery life and better power-to-weight ratio, the manufacturers of mobile devices have almost all switched over to using batteries composed of Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMh) or Lithium-Ion.

The worst possible thing you can do to these newer batteries is to discharge them completely! Well, actually the real worst thing might involve a ball-peen hammer, so the second worst thing you can do is to neglect charging your battery several times a day or every chance you get.

There is an iPhone replacement battery shortage right now because the newer phones put increased demands on the battery and because so many people are ruining their batteries by failing to charge them frequently. Apple’s high price for batteries leads some iPhone owners to seek cheaper replacements. There is a video available on Youtube at showing what happened when one shopper decided to test the authenticity of a replacement battery by biting down on it. Why he did that is entirely outside my understanding. The battery retaliated by exploding in a ball of flame.

Okay, it looks like I need to correct myself once again. Forget the ball-peen hammer. The absolute worst possible thing you can do to your batteries is to put one in your mouth and bite down on it.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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