Winding Up: Crank-Operated Gadgets


When it comes to environmentally-friendly living, we need more cranks.

We’re talking about the hand-mechanical energy generation technique that is making it socially unacceptable to use batteries in certain products. (Unless you recharged your batteries with a crank recharger, of course.)

It’s a praiseworthy fad that is only a few mainstream years old, and designers and engineers are just beginning to play with the possibilities. The main constraint is the amount of power produced: don’t expect to wind a crank for 10 minutes and get an evening’s output from your 40-inch Plasma screen.

For this reason, it’s the small, handy appliances that are getting the crank treatment – things you carry in the back of your car, rather than display on your coffee-table. Take the American Red Cross FR400 radio (70% proceeds to the worthy cause in question). Or if DAB radio is your style, why not try the Grundig FR200? No, not particularly stylish – no crank-powered BeoCenter 6 anytime soon, I suspect. How about cranked-up TV? Well”¦.black & white, sure.

What else could you charge? The above items will charge up your cell phone – inestimably handy for those long trips. What about charging your iPod? Er…it’s possible to do it yourself, as GeekTechnique report here, but it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. Maybe this is a better option.

The big crank success story is the flashlight, like this Tri-LED Dynamo. These aren’t just useful – they’re potentially lifesaving.

And if winding a handle isn’t your thing? Shake it, baby.

Image: atanas

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.