Of Batteries and Epoch Men

One retro thought often leads to another. In my case, one retro thought often leads to ten others. I had to change a AA battery in my wireless mic today. As I did so, I began to wonder if my daughter’s generation will even know what disposable batteries are. It’s possible they won’t. It’s possible they will be so used to recharging everything via USB cable that they will never know the “joy” of trying to find replacement batteries for your handheld electronics, of learning AAA, AA, B, C and D, of trying to figure out which way the batteries were supposed to go in, of losing the lid to the battery well, and all the other quirks that went with batteries. Batteries weren’t toys, but they were so connected with the toys of the 80s that I have a lot of quasi-fond memories about them.
That thought led to a memory of one particular handheld device I had and my time trying to find batteries for it. That device was called Epoch Man.
Epoch Man was clearly a Pac-Man clone (re: rip off). I realized that even at an early age. But it somehow found its way into my grubby hands and I loved playing it. Until the batteries went out. The way batteries ran out in these devices is that the device would flicker in and out of life. It wouldn’t just shut off completely. It would still linger for a while. Because of this, I thought the problem was the device and not the batteries, and I responded as any reasonable grade-schooler would: I hit it. With my hand. Hard. Too hard, in fact. Though this technique did somehow draw a few more seconds of Epoch Man-playing power out of the batteries, it had the unfortunate side-effect of breaking Epoch Man permanently. The broken Epoch Man hung around my toy box for a little while as what I would years later come to call a “brick”, and then it disappeared.

It’s one of my saddest memories. Rip-off or not, I really liked Epoch Man, and I was sad to see him die and disappear. But that’s how it went with handheld electronics in the age of batteries.