About TREVOR BAYLIS,
the inventor of the windup technology
Trevor G. Baylis
was born in Kilburn, London, in 1937 and spent his boyhood in Southall
near London. Trevor was always an avid swimmer and by the age of 15
Trevor was swimming competitively for Britain. At 16 he joined the Soil
Mechanics Laboratory in Southall and began studying mechanical and
structural engineering at the local technical college.
At 20 years of age he began his National
Service as a physical training instructor, and he swam competitively for
the Army and Imperial Services. Upon leaving the army in 1961, Trevor
joined Purley Pools as a salesman. He quickly advanced in this firm and
was soon involved in research and development. He went on to start his
own successful swimming pool company. His love of swimming led led
Trevor to work as a stuntman on various television shows performing
escape feats underwater. Trevor's house even has an indoor swimming pool
where he can relax. His other passion has been inventing, especially
inventing products that might help the physically handicapped. Another
part of his house has a fully equipped workshop.
In 1993, Trevor watched a program
about the spread of AIDS in Africa, which observed that in many regions
radio was the only available means of communication, but the need for
batteries or electricity made them too expensive or too difficult to
access. There was a need for an educational tool that did not rely on
Trevor picked up on the
word 'need'. Need is the catalyst for an inventor's 'raison d'Ítre' and
Trevor rose to the occasion. In his workshop at home he experimented
with a hand brace, an electric motor and a small radio. He found that
the brace turning a the motor would act as a generator that would supply
sufficient electricity to power the radio. The addition of a clockwork
mechanism meant that a
spring could be wound up and that as the spring unwound the radio would
play. His first working prototype ran for 14 minutes on a two minute
wind. Trevor had invented a clockwork (windup) radio!
Trevor attempted to
promote his invention, but manufacturers were not convinced of its
commercial value. After many rejections Trevor got lucky. In April 1994
Trevor's' invention was featured on on the BBC program 'Tomorrow's
World'. The product's potential was immediately recognized by corporate
accountant Christopher Staines and South African entrepreneur Rory Stear.
In South Africa, the details of the invention were broadcast over a
Johannesburg radio station. Hylton Appelbaum, head of The Liberty Life
Group, heard the broadcast and was immediately impressed by the
relevance the Freeplay technology had to South Africa, a country where
the vast majority of people are rural, poor, and do not have access to
With funding from The Liberty Group, Staines and Stear in 1995, set up BayGen
Power Industries in Cape Town. Next, the possibility of having disabled
people do the radio assembly was considered. Dr. William Rowland,
President of Disabled People South Africa endorsed the idea. Liberty
Life provided the funding to begin production, in conjunction with a
group of organizations for the disabled, who became business partners in
the venture. Technical development was provided by the Bristol
University Electronics Engineering Department. Shortly thereafter
production of the radio began in Cape Town by BayGen Products PTY South
The BBC program 'QED'
filmed and broadcast an award winning documentary about Trevor's
development of the radio.
In June of 1996
the Freeplay radio was awarded the BBC Design Award for Best Product and
Best Design. Trevor Baylis met Queen Elizabeth and Nelson Mandela at a
state banquet and went to South Africa with the Dutch Television Service
for a program that documented his life. He took part in the BBC's update
of the 'QED' program "The Clockwork Radio" which was broadcast in
In 1997, the new
generation Freeplay Radio 2 rolled off the production line in South
Africa. Smaller and lighter than the original model, the new radio had
been designed specially for the Western consumer market and would run
for up to an hour with a thirty second wind. Trevor participated in the Sky TV
program 'Beyond 2000' featuring his inventions. He was awarded the
President's Medal by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and addressed
the Conference of Commonwealth Ministers in Botswana for the British
Council. In October, Trevor was awarded the OBE
by The Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace, and was featured in an
edition of "This Is Your Life".
Trevor continues his
tireless work to promote the concept of 'personal power', as well as his
campaign to establish a Royal Academy of Inventors.
Trevor Baylis the inventor of
the Baygen Freeplay Radios and Flashlights.
Trevor Baylis O.B.E.
Smoker of the Year
THIS' by Trevor Baylis
January The Pipesmokers Council has held the
prestigious Pipesmoker of the Year Luncheon.
In the preceding year the Council meets to make the most
important decision: who should receive the honourable
accolade. Apart from
being a public personality, the nominee must of course
smoke and love the pipe!
Written in his own words about his life as a swimmer,
escapologist and inventor.
The story how he conceived the windup technology and
brought the BayGen products to market.
'The key to success is
to risk thinking unconventional thoughts.
Convention is the enemy of progress. As long as you've
more perception that the average wrapped loaf, you could
Trevor Baylis OBE