I’m a regular watcher of The Gadgeteer. Undoubtedly, this is the
best web site out there for those of us who are afflicted with gadgetitis.
I use a Palm V (just recently upgraded to the Vx), and have used various PDAs
since one of the earliest Sharps years ago.
A couple weeks ago I saw a reference to the TCL Emergency Charger for the Palm V
from Tech Center Labs.
Right now I can’t recall where I saw it. But, I went to their site and
looked at it…a simple little Palm V adapter that hooked to a 9-volt battery
for recharging the Palm V without the adapter (or electricity). It’s a bit
pricey, I think the delivered cost was about $34. But, as I often travel
to weird places in the world, I thought it was a bit of insurance. Little
did I know…
I ordered it on a Wednesday to have it sent regular mail. The darn thing
arrived on Friday. I glanced at it and tossed it in my computer bag.
The next evening I left on a miserable overnight flight via Miami, through La
Paz, to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. It’s near the Paraguayan and
Brazilian borders right smack in the middle of South America. The hotel
was rated as five-star (by someone who was slightly numerically challenged), but
liveable for a week or so. I was attending a conference that was being
held in the hotel.
One evening I was on my laptop and it hit me that I hadn’t charged my Palm V
since I had arrived. My battery was showing about 40% discharged. I
pulled out my travel adapter and looked for a place to plug it in. The
hotel used U.S.-style electrical outlets that could also accommodate European
round pin plugs. I was using the only readily available outlet near the
table for my laptop, so I went into the bathroom and plugged in the Palm V
travel adapter to the outlet near the sink. I let it charge until I
returned from dinner.
Well, then I had a bit of a problem. The wall outlet would NOT let go of
my travel adapter. Nothing I could do would get it out of the socket.
I tried prying, pulling, and anything else without getting electrocuted to no
avail. I called the main desk and about 20 minutes later a maintenance man
showed up. He didn’t speak English, nor I Spanish, but it was obvious what
problem was. I showed him by my pulling and prying that the adapter would
not come out of the wall plug.
Well, he stared at it for a minute or so. Then he grabbed the cord and
gave the adapter an almighty yank! Of course, it immediately came out.
Unfortunately, it left the two flat pins and various parts of the adapter inside
the wall outlet.
He shrugged, left, and a few minutes later came back with a new wall outlet,
which he put in without shutting off the power. Every couple minutes I
heard a snap and something in Spanish that might have been “oh,
fudge,” but he eventually came out and proudly had me come in and look at
the new outlet in the wall.
After he left I looked at the remnants of the travel adapter and remembered the
TCL emergency charger. I didn’t have a 9-volt with me, but bought one the
next day. And the charger worked fine. I kept my Palm V charged
fully for the remaining week I was there with one 9-volt.
It would have been impossible to replace the travel adapter there — this place
is NOT on the cutting edge of technology. I couldn’t even find an English
newspaper in the town.
Most Lithium-Ion chargers use a two step process, the cell is charged to 4.1V (or 4.2V) with a constant current, followed by a constant voltage for the final 30% capacity. 3-Com’s cradle (and
the emergency charger) use a current limited constant voltage. The charge indicator LED changes brightness
while charging so you can tell at a glance how the charge is progressing.
The instructions give a certain sequence for plugging in the adapter and then the battery. If I
had had a 9-volt battery with me, I probably would have just attached the battery to the connector and then to the Palm…which is exactly BACKWARDS
of what the instructions say. I don’t know if it would do any damage, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.
So, for your readers who travel off the beaten path and use a Palm V —
invest $30+ in the emergency charger. In fact, if you are really traveling
light, it would be the only thing you need.
Portable backup charger.
Works with a regular 9v battery.
Don’t need access to an electrical wall outlet.