Power where there is none: a mobile AC outlet
October 5, 2005
Two laptops and two digital camera batteries. How could we keep them charged in an area where Internet service is spotty and electricity is as rare as a white bison? Our only known sources of power were the 12-volt plugs in our rented SUV.It was the biggest concern that reporter Scott Condon and I had while traveling to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast region on assignment for The Aspen Times. Calling in without a story or photos was not an option.
After flying to Pensacola, Fla., we stopped by the local Wal-Mart to shop for basic necessities, including some type of power source to run off the 12-volt plug. The packages boasted, “For your computer, TV, radio,” etc., but all I wanted to know was the power rating. As a U.S. Navy electrician with another two years in the private sector, I knew that the higher the power rating, the more equipment you can use. Within reason.I bought one with a rating of 200 watts at 120 volts AC that was fan-cooled and had two outlets. If we can charge a computer and a camera battery at the same time, then maybe we’ve killed two birds with one stone.The first test was our third morning. One of my camera batteries had died overnight, but I was able to charge it in about an hour while driving to Pearlington, Miss. The next day, Scott was able to power his computer and write a story while parked in Pearlington. With two outlets on the unit, I could plug in my computer and download photos from my camera, and Scott could write a story at the same time. Later, while I was driving to Biloxi, some 50 miles away, he continued writing. No problems.
Overall, the unit worked perfectly and gave us comfort, knowing we didn’t need to find a live electrical outlet. Many of the photos in this edition were downloaded and stored using the PowerLine mobile outlet.