Ethical Superstore meets Trevor Baylis
Posted by wendy on 23rd May 2008 at 11:23 am, in Uncategorized.
The genius inventor behind the famous wind up radio, Trevor Baylis OBE, talks to Ethical Superstore about getting off your backside; his brand new Mini Eco Radio and having an ego as big as a truck.
Ethical Superstore: How did the wind up radio come about?
Trevor Baylis: You don’t get up in the morning and try to invent something – ‘chance favours the prepared mind’ as they say. I was, by pure chance, watching a programme on HIV/AIDS in Africa and how they needed the power of education to stop the spread.
ES: Radio being the perfect way, right?
TB: Yes, but most of Africa was without electricity, and batteries were horrendously expensive. Now, picture this – I was in my 60s, sitting with a pipe, and a wind up gramophone at my side with a great big horn on the top – colonial I suppose (laughs) – and I think to myself, if you can get all that power by winding a spring, surely you can generate enough to turn a dynamo which would power a radio.
ES: So what did you do?
TB: I did the right thing and got off my backside! I started playing around in my workshop with a small motor and an old transistor radio. Then, I had this genius idea. I took a bucket of water and wound it up over a tree with a rope and pulley, and as it slowly descended it drove a gearbox that powered a radio. I eventually made my first radio, which ran for a few minutes on a one to two-minute wind. Not a great trade off, but proved it could be done.
ES: So from idea to marketable product, was it an easy ride?
TB: I filed for a patent and got it, but then came the hardest part. I went to all the government authorities and the Design Council – who said they help inventors – but got rejection after rejection. It was awful. But, I’ve an ego as big as a truck, which helps (laughs), and carried on! I got in touch with the BBC – they were enraptured – and the Tomorrow’s World team featured me. The rest, well, went like clockwork.
ES: Do we support inventors enough in the UK?
TB: No! We are brilliant in Britain at inventing, but not so good at bringing the products to market. Think about all the great and famous inventors – they died in poverty.
ES: So we have the inventive minds: are you optimistic that we can develop the technologies to cope with global problems such as climate change?
TB: Absolutely, yes.
ES: What green technologies inspire you?
TB: I believe that one of the biggest potential is tidal movement. You can’t stop the tide rising twice a day and the potential energy is colossal. Sunshine and wind we must harness, sure, but I believe water energy offers the greatest potential.
ES: Something you could put your inventive mind to?
TB: I’m going to stay focussed on what I’m best at – wind up technology!
ES: Your new wind up Mini Eco Radio has arrived in the era of the iPod, is this why you delivered something so compact?
TB: Well that is just it! The new wind up radios are extremely energy-efficient, and run for a considerable amount of time. New technology is getting better and energy requirements smaller – I’m improving the designs all the time. You can’t see the circuits these days, as they are lost in a chip. Wind up technology is going forward and there are some blinding new products coming through. We’re also looking at ‘satnavs’ and wind up phones.
ES: You didn’t come up with the idea of the wind up radio until you were 60. What were you doing before then?
TB: I’ve always followed my heart. It’s like kids on skateboards, we don’t always understand why they do it, but they do (laughs). I was a stuntman for most of my life and I worked in the Berlin circus as an underwater escape act. I’ve always done what gives me a buzz.
ES: What’s in the future for you Trevor?
TB: I want to continue to help inventors – it’s my first love – and prevent others going through the same hardships that I did. I want to make sure the ideas of today’s young inventors are properly protected from vulture capitalists. I want to bring invention as part of the national curriculum and change the image of inventors – we’re not all fruitcakes (laughs)!
Trevor's latest invention, the Mini Eco Radio is available for £24.99.
This is Trevor's smallest wind-up AM/FM radio to date, with an integrated LED torch and red LED map reading light. The Mini Eco radio is not only wind up but also solar powered and USB rechargeable. The USB lead also lets you use the radio as a mobile phone charger.Google+