04/05/01 The etymology of 'battery' is interesting. Originally a collection of guns that could be fired at once, it was adopted by 18th century electricity researchers as a term for a set of capacitors -- Leyden jars, as they were then called -- that could discharged in one go to build up more voltage. Now it seems the term's coming full circle, as Dell recalls laptop batteries after one went wonky and caused "minor property damage". Mmm. Minor property damage. Dell is not alone -- I don't know of any laptop manufacturer who hasn't had to recall batteries at some stage or another. It's going to get worse. New technologies pack even more power into smaller areas, meaning that any fault that drains that power quickly is going to include bonus sparks and absolutely free smoke. (Some technologies also use sulphur, leading to fire and brimstone -- should please the fundies who think all technology has Satan Inside.) We may not get to the stage predicted in the 50s where pocket-sized nuclear reactors power our every portable radio, but just in case you haven't got enough to worry about -- the humble battery as capable of turning on its makers as it is of turning on your laptop. Sleep soundly now.