Trevor Baylis, inventor of wind-up radio, is no more

Thursday 08 March, 2018
Photo: YouTube


Trevor Baylis, creator of the wind-up radio, has died at 80 after a lengthy illness, said David Bunting who runs his company, Trevor Baylis Brands.

Baylis invented the Baygen clockwork radio in 1991 after he saw a documentary about AIDS in Africa that suggested educational radio programmes could help tackle the spread of the virus, and learning that people weren't getting lifesaving information because they didn't have electricity and couldn't afford batteries to power radios.

Designed for a Third-World application, the original one had a clockwork-like mechanism with an ingenious double-spiral spring. It wound off one pulley onto another and would run for about 15 minutes.

Later versions lasted longer and were powered by rechargeable batteries. They were charged up with a crankable dynamo or could be plugged into the mains or solar energy panels.

After Baylis appeared with it in 1994 on Tomorrow’s World on BBC One, it was put into mass production in Cape Town, South Africa, by a company that employed disabled workers to manufacture it.

The invention won him an OBE, international acclaim and an audience with South African icon Nelson Mandela, but he also complained of financial difficulties after revealing he had received little of the profits from sales of the device, and urged the government to introduce stronger legal protection for inventors.

He later formed a company to help inventors protect and market products and also advised other inventors on developing their ideas and campaigned against theft of intellectual property.

"Inventing is not about the money," he was quoted by the BBC as saying. "Who wants to be the richest man in the graveyard?"

United Kingdom
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