You're finally airborne, cruising in a 747 at 30,000 feet. Time to get to work. You pop open your notebook computer and — nothing. Dead battery. You've been hauling around a useless lead brick.
No laptop or cell-phone lasts as long as it should on rechargeable batteries. So never, ever hit the road without taking battery chargers for your equipment. Even on a day trip, I've drained the battery in my cell-phone before I got to the airport. You should also arm yourself with extra batteries.
If you're using old NiCad batteries, try to replace them with nickel-metal hydride models or, even better, lithium ion batteries. Nickel-metal hydride batteries tend to withstand repeated charges and offer better endurance than NiCads. But neither type will last forever. Lithium ion batteries deliver the most life per pound. Trouble is, they don't come in standard battery sizes. You must go through the notebook or cell-phone manufacturer to get lithium ion batteries, and they may not be available for your machine.
New batteries usually arrive flat. So charge them up first and then completely drain them two or three times. This will ensure that the batteries will take a maximum charge in the future.
Try to avoid the "memory effect," where a partially charged battery fails to take a full charge the next time you plug in. Though opinions differ as to how severe it really is, the memory effect is most pronounced in NiCad batteries. Partially charging a NiCad (or a nickel-metal hydride battery) is considered battery assault and should be avoided.
Store batteries in a cool, dry place. Excessive heat tends to discharge them. And give them a workout every once in while. Just remember to drain them completely and then charge them before you leave the office.
A version of this article appeared in the April/May 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.