Cool accessories from the past

Issue 59 (January 1998) of MacFormat UK Magazine starts with a section called Gadgets Galore!, and lists a series of ‘seasonal gift suggestions’ for those who want to make a last-minute purchase of a useful geeky present for their Mac friends. There are mice, joysticks, PDAs (Psion Series 5!), webcams (Connectix Color Quickcam!), but what caught my attention was the last entry, two products for PowerBooks manufactured by a company called Keep It Simple Systems (KISS): PowerCover and Mercury II.

Here’s the except taken from the magazine:

The one problem with Apple’s portable PowerBooks is that the battery tends to run out pretty quickly — a mere four hours after you’ve switched it on in some cases. Unless you have additional batteries or a handy mains socket, you’ll be reduced to notepad and pencil. Or perhaps not, if you get one of these clever gadgets from Keep It Simple Systems.

The products in the KISS range bring the power of the sun to your portable system. The Mercury II [you can see an image here] is a solar panel that plugs into your PowerBook and charges the batteries, extending their life by up to 45% (depending on how sunny it is). You can also leave batteries connected to the panel to charge them fully throughout the day.

The PowerCover is especially neat because it fits into the BookCover slot on PowerBook 1400s, so you can leave it on more or less permanently. This will extend the battery life by around 35% (the PowerCover is, after all, a bit smaller than the Mercury II). KISS claims you can expect its products to give you up to 20 years of free energy. An extreme example of these devices’ usefulness is that of Ralph Harvey, a research scientist who uses a solar charger on his PowerBook in the Antarctic where power’s clearly at a premium. […]

The entry also mentions another solar recharger from KISS for the Apple Newton, called the Luna II.

PowerCover for the PowerBook 1400

It’s interesting to note that the excerpt talks about ‘a mere four hours’ as regards to battery life in the PowerBooks of that time. It is actually a good performance, and it shows that even 11 years ago Mac laptops generally lasted more than their PC counterparts on battery alone. Anyway, I completely forgot about those solar chargers, and I very much like the PowerCover. Of course today it’s not possible to purchase them new from the manufacturer. Googling ‘Keep It Simple Systems’ gives little results, but maybe one can find something on eBay. If you’re into vintage Macs, or you’re still using your trusty PowerBook 1400 for writing (it has a really nice keyboard, by the way), perhaps you can try to locate these products to give an eco-friendly boost to their (surely aging) batteries.

[The excerpt from MacFormat UK Magazine is © Future Publishing Ltd. It has been reproduced in the spirit of fair use. It can be deleted any time if the copyright holder requests me to do so.]

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