This easy-to-use, useful and cheap kind of radio receiver was invented… in the late 80’s – nearly on the threshold of the digital era.
Clockwork radios need no batteries or electrical grind, all they need is the user’s muscle power. The crank winds the spring, and a full winding will allow several hours of operation. Clockwork mechanisms have now been replaced by batteries charged by hand-crank generators in commercial crank-powered radios.
Now they produce clockwork radios completed by solar panels that feed the battery – which is the best solution for camping and travelling, we believe. Such radios can provide you with non-stop music – as soon as the sun is shining and/or your arms can twist the handle!
Like other self-powered equipment, clockwork radios were intended for camping, emergencies and for use in areas of the world where there is no electrical grid and replacement batteries are hard to obtain, such as in developing countries or remote settlements. They are also useful where a radio is not used on a regular basis and batteries would deteriorate, such as at a vacation house or cabin.
Interesting to admit, the idea of clockwork radio, like most genius ideas, came to the inventor’s mind quite spontaneously. It was 1989 when British accountant Trevor Baylis was watching a TV programme about widely spreading AIDS in Africa and the lack of means to transmit information on health education to poor people in the areas where folks never heard of electricity.
So Trevor came up with the idea and made the first clockwork radio. In 1996 he cofounded Baygen Power Industries (now Freeplay Energy PLC), which produced the first commercial model. The key to its design was the use of a constant velocity spring to store the potential energy.