Electronics History: Why aren’t there “B” batteries?

Saw this link from MentalFloss on my Facebook feed just now, posted by a friend-of-a-friend:  Why aren’t there B-size batteries?  Well, it turns out that there are, er, there were:

Reader Donna wrote in wondering why there are AA, AAA, C and D batteries, but no B. Well, there used to be, but they’re not really needed anymore.

Around the time of World War I, American battery manufacturers, the War Industries Board, and a few government agencies got together to develop some nationally uniform specifications for the size of battery cells, their arrangement in batteries, their minimum performance criteria, and other standards.

In 1924, industry and government representatives met again to figure out a naming system for all those cells and batteries they had just standardized. They decided to base it around the alphabet, dubbing the smallest cells and single-cell batteries “A” and went from there to B, C and D. There was also a “No. 6” battery that was larger than the others and pretty commonly used, so it was grandfathered in without a name change.

As battery technology changed and improved and new sizes of batteries were made, they were added to the naming system. When smaller batteries came along, they were designated AA and AAA. These newer batteries were the right size for the growing consumer electronics industry, so they caught on. C and D batteries also found a niche in medium- and high-drain applications. The mid-size A and B batteries simply didn’t have a market and more or less disappeared in the U.S..

The article goes on to say that A batteries used to be used in some early laptops, and both A and B size batteries are still out in the wild.  However, a quick search at some of the obscure electronics sites has left me empty-handed.


(Publushed from a Starbucks in Burr Ridge, IL)

One comment

  • B batteries were the higher voltage batteries which provided the plate voltage for portable vacuum tube devices. It used to be common to refer to the main DC supply in schematics as the B+ voltage.

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