Did your TV remote control suddenly go dead? Wireless mouse died near the end of your term paper? Need AA batteries and all you have are AAA? I’ve got a quick hack for you to get you through those last minutes until you can get to the shops for some proper batteries. Time needed is about 5 minutes, supplies needed cost about 50 cents – not including your AAA batteries. You may very well have all these items on hand.
I did this today when my mouse died and I realized all I had were AAA batteries. I popped out the AA batteries and looked at them compared to the AAA batteries. Both put out 1.5 Volts per battery and the same Amps. That’s important since it means we won’t damage the electronics inside the mouse. The AA battery does have greater capacity, meaning it will run the same device longer than a AAA would – but this is a stop-gap hack, not a permanent solution. The only real difference between the two sizes is, well, size. The diameter of the AA is greater than that of the AAA. If you’re curious about differences in batteries and types such as Li-Ion or Ni-Cad, check out my article, Not All Are Made Equal: Using The Right Batteries For The Job.
How would I deal with the issue of diameter? I didn’t bother searching the web for a solution, because I wanted to see what I’d come up with on my own. Duct tape came to mind first, but that is a bit of overkill. How about plain old transparent tape? You can find that in almost any office or junk drawer. I took the AAA battery and began spooling the tape on to it, just like in the picture below.
It wasn’t long before the diameter of the AAA battery was about the same as that of the AA. You don’t have to be exact here. You just want to make sure that the ends of the battery are relatively centered with the contact tabs inside the battery compartment.
When I went to put the AAA batteries in, I realized that they were significantly shorter than a AA battery. I don’t know how I didn’t notice this before, but that’s the way life goes sometimes. How could I fix this? My first thought was to ball up a bit of tinfoil, but I didn’t have any at the office. Also, tinfoil could cause problems if two pieces of it happened to touch each other, or touch a part of the mouse’s circuit board. Tinfoil just didn’t seem like the ideal solution.
Wouldn’t a spring be just perfect? I thought to myself. It would give enough pressure that the batteries wouldn’t jiggle loose, like tinfoil might. What could I salvage a spring from? I opened my drawer and saw a bunch of paperclips. “Hmmm,” I thought, “How can I make a spring without any tools?” Fortuitously, I recalled that most ball point pens have a small hole perpendicular to their main shaft.
I stuck the end of a straightened paperclip into the pen housing, and wound the clip around until I had a spring. Using the cap of the pen, I managed to get the bent bit out of the hole. Maybe you shouldn’t stick it all the way in.
Again, good fortune smiled on me as I realized that this straight piece would help the battery make contact much more surely. That’s when I put a similar bend on the other end of the paperclip.
After making two of these, I easily got the batteries into the battery compartment, and then slipped the springs into the gaps. As you can see in the photos, the LED illuminated. After some testing by using the mouse as I normally would, I found that the batteries were, indeed, securely in place. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t have been able to write this article.
Although this is maybe more of a little trick than a real hack, it shows you a few things. You’re not helpless even when you think you are helpless. Also, it shows you that when you start to try to solve a problem in earnest, little things tend to happen along the way that help you even more. And lastly, and most least, it shows you that sometimes I have too much time on my hands. Have you got a little time on your hands? Nancy Messieh has a nice piece on little hacks you can do at home, 10 Great Geek Hacks: Repurpose Everyday Objects & Get The Most Out Of Your Electronics. If you’re thinking of something a little more advanced, try Saikat Basu’s, The 7 Best DIY Tech Hacks For Your Car. A lot more advanced than my little office hack, but it gets the mind thinking about what might really be possible!
Have you ever solved a little office problem in a similar manner? Can you think of any other ways to solve nagging problems at least temporarily? We’d all be glad to hear your office hack stories, and we all might learn a thing or tow in the process. After all, we’re here to help.
Image credit: tomblois/flickr