Potato power keeps a Web site cooking

eBriefing: The news behind the Net; e-world: Living with technology; eworld@usatoday.com; Tech: www.usatoday.com/tech.htm

Like a lot of interesting Internet projects, the Spud Server began with suds. As in a few pints at the local pub, reports Steve Harris, one of its builders in Southampton, England.

The Spud Server is exactly what it sounds like: a server powered by potatoes. Specifically, lots of potatoes sprouting metal prongs. The water and salt in the potatoes conduct electricity, turning the potatoes into batteries.

"It was a bet," Harris says. He and others who run the non-profit Net company Temple ov Thee Lemur were talking about potato-powered clocks at a pub, one thing led to another, and thus was born an ultra- low-power, stripped-down computer fed by spuds.

"It's not like it's an important technological leap," Harris says. "Apparently, it also works with beer, but we haven't tried that yet."