Yes. It can be done….and I don’t mean exercise bikes!
This way: No exercise = no power = no TV.
Here is a link to the specs for the bike-powered TV. It even includes videos! The guy who made the site is in his early fifties so you do not have to be an Olympic athlete to do it. This is such an obviously cool invention that screen-centric kids will find it intriguing to build and maybe even use it. Be the first in your neighbourhood. Say goodbye to childhood obesity! Say farewell to scheduling workouts into your day!
Science and Math teachers looking for environmental science projects will find a detailed lesson plan on that site just for you. See the link at the bottom of this page: http://www.los-gatos.ca.us/davidbu/pedgen/power_learning.html
What about running my desktop on pedal power?
If you are thinking that your desktop monitor is a lot like a TV, you are right. You would probably have trouble reading and using the mouse while pedaling but you can pedal to store energy in ultracapacitors for later use in your home office. At least that way, seat-time can be ‘earned’ or (more positively put) you can give yourself a break from sitting all day. If you think there is a possibility that you could sneak this contraption into your office cubicle, it is worth experimenting with Butcher’s notes. See his photos of the ‘homeless home office’ here: http://www.los-gatos.ca.us/davidbu/pedgen/pppm_live.html
What about my laptop?
Yes, definitely doable because laptops require a lot less energy than desktops. If you are more interested in the taking your laptop off-the-grid idea than in the fitness thing, you may be interested in solar power cells for recharging your laptop battery. Be warned: Solar cells for laptops exist but they are not cheap (yet). See:
Sierra Solar Systems: http://www.sierrasolar.com/prod_store/LAP_laptop.html – US$250 and up
Gaiam: http://www.gaiam.com/retail/3/SL_BatterChargers_BattCharger – closer to US$170
Backup-Power.ca: http://www.backup-power.ca/laptop.html – factors to consider and links to products.