Playing with fire, first blood

It was a sensation: PowerBook 5300, the latest ambitious creation of the company, which, since 1991, was leading in the market of laptops turned deadly. Rough handling with its batteries could cause fire…

He could, and cited. Officially recorded two cases in which injured employees of Apple, but the media sensationalized, announcing hundreds of such cases. Burnt property, loss of lives, huge damage…

Documented none of these cases been confirmed, although they could to hush up, Apple still had no problem with cash. In any case, the sensation was exaggerated and brought the writing fraternity a lot of revenue, but Apple’s reputation was irreparably damaged.

Apple in its history behaved arrogantly and haughtily, began the press releases mention that she started the computer revolution and created the personal computer industry. Some of the company and its exploits were admired, but from where it was just annoying, it was always much more. And suddenly such an occasion!

PowerBook 5300 was, as always, a progressive and, by and large, still good. This model had serious design flaws, the management crisis has not affected – but if these PowerBook’and not “lit”, they still would have been successful, and problems in the construction would inevitably be eliminated.

Moreover, the cause of all these unpleasant cases were not Apple…

Battery, fire!

Lithium is the metal with the highest electrical potential, and in addition, with the lowest density. Per unit weight it is able to allocate the large amount of energy, he is a champion – and its application in batteries was inevitable. But the best, alas, have to pay.

The first lithium battery was created in 1912, the American electrochimic Gilbert Newton Lewis. Battery was a promising, effective, and dangerous. About any commercial use of it was not, it was an experiment.

Gilbert Lewis, without exaggeration, was a great man. 41 times he was nominated for the Nobel prize (and in the scientific and technical category this award will only include the most outstanding discoveries and research), but never was awarded it. Just unlucky.

In 1946 he was found dead in the laboratory, but no plots or historical mysteries with his death linked to will not work. He conducted experiments with cyanide of hydrogen, and, most likely, have neglected safety.

Materials research lithium battery, including the description of lithium-ion batteries, was available to the scientific community, but until the 70s of the last century no one was looking for them practical application. They are really superior in efficiency, all other batteries, but was too sensitive and dangerous.

In the mid 70’s created a demand for batteries with maximum specific energy, and several leading companies in the field of electronics engaged in the topic. In 1979, in one of the rooms BINTI (Bulletin of Foreign Scientific and technical Information) published an article about the batteries, an Israeli company designed for military equipment, surpassing all other batteries of the time in five or six times. The military “for life” are connected with dangerous items, and they are not used to such situations, the more precise instructions are not personal whim. Duty.

Details were given of a little, most likely the subject was classified, but the first time I saw the term “lithium ion battery”.

In the 80s there were the first such batteries to ordinary people. No sensation they had not fired, accidents, it seems, was not. The potential of this technology, as yet, has not been used fully, the large companies were very cautious…

The first Li-ion cells had a high energy efficiency and high cost, because the embedded chips in them to keep the batteries in safe mode.

One of the parameters that determine the value and advanced portable devices and devices operating alone was and remains the duration of their Autonomous operation. Most popular laptops of the mid 90s, computing power, almost not inferior to desktop counterparts, provided two and a half hours of battery life, and the one who managed to significantly increase this period without bringing him to sacrifice the performance characteristics of the device can claim triumphant success.

According to unconfirmed reports, the idea to use flammable items in PowerBook have occurred to the engineers who developed the system of independent power supply for them, back in 1990, but the company’s management, in particular John Scully, in consultation with the experts of the Apple and with the most authoritative experts in the field, gave this idea to escape to the real world.

The idea’s been raised several times, but for various reasons have not been implemented in any of PowerBook’s 200 or 500 series.

In August 1995, noble flaming one battery took its place in the compartments of the new laptop from Apple…as usual, the company became the first computer company in the world, decided to take a chance.

Sony opens fire

Sony to sell lithium-ion batteries since 1991, there has been a decent experience for their application in domestic and industrial equipment. Security measures have been worked out and tested repeatedly. If there were some excesses, most likely they are not too serious: serious cases it would have been impossible to hush up.

Despite the insanity of the CEO, Apple engineers, knowing about the dangers of this energy source, together with the engineers of Sony, has conducted additional testing of these batteries, exposing them to the most adverse combinations of various factors.

The results of these tests in the battery and in their “security system”, there have been many changes. Finally, the engineers of both companies have given approval for the release of lithium-ion batteries in the light. The cost of all these precautions seemed justified: the series PowerBook’s, despite high prices, were sold in incredible numbers. The hundreds of thousands.

In preparation for the start of sales, Apple has ordered Sony to tens of thousands of super-batteries. Time for their production was very little, and judging by what happened, even Japanese quality assurance system, in terms of Abraham, could easily fail.

The results of the investigation, 30 of thousands of batteries in only one single party, in a thousand small (or rather unknown) products was a manufacturing defect. All the others were safe.

But… Now nobody wanted to buy laptops, known for their incendiary nature, and the assurances of Apple and Sony is that the bug is fixed and will never happen again, was powerless to change anything.

All PowerBook 5300 with lithium-ion batteries have been recalled for replacement of these batteries on safe NiMH batteries, with an efficiency of only 70% of Li-ion.

But Apple’s reputation, especially its laptops, has been irreparably damaged. Sony is almost not affected, except that paid for the review of the computers, replacement batteries and damages.

Price own pleasure

The case of the PowerBook 5300 was the first manifestation of Flammability of lithium-ion batteries, which learned the General public. But not the last.

In the absence of defects in the security system that prevents out of safe mode, they are reliable and safe – but our valiant species, almost with pride, not hiding that error is his distinguishing feature. Errare humanum est.

On account of the “batteries” hundreds of laptops, Tesla electric cars (in General, where the electronics of these magnificent machines preprogrammed in primitive conditions), and even Boeing 787 Japan airlines (error field engineers).

In the world used at least three billion of these batteries, and several hundred incidents involving them account for less than one hundred-millionth of percent of that number. In all cases, which occurred in the last decade, blame the craftsman, at your own risk of something changing in a potentially dangerous structures…

To be continued. Next opus will talk about the PowerBook 5300, and about his family. And to discuss this article in our Telegram chat

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