Repurposing ‘Old, Old HomePod’

This post was originally written in June 2021 for Hemispheric News; subscribe at the Patreon site One Prime Plus to receive this monthly newsletter and other benefits that are linked to the Hemispheric Views podcast.

If you’re into technology, you probably have a lot of old things lying around your home. Although I try to recycle some items, quite often nostalgia takes over. This is certainly the case when it comes to Apple products; I’m not quite a hoarder, but give it another 20 years and who knows where I’ll be?

One of my all-time favourite and nostalgic Apple products is the iPod Hi-Fi. Released in 2006, it was discontinued in 2007 after many complained that it was too expensive and lacked some of the extra features of other iPod-docking audio systems at the time, such as radio.

I was in Year 9 at high school when I first saw this device; I fell in love with it but naturally didn’t have the money to spend on it. Fortunately, my father bought if for me as a generous gift for achieving certain marks at school. He took me out shopping at the local Apple reseller and I did not expect to leave with the unit. I’ve used it in various rooms and aince moving in with my wife Natasha, she has referred to it as ‘old HomePod’.

What I love about the iPod Hi-Fi is that while it’s very ‘Apple-y’—both in its minimalist design and its focus on iPods—it includes an auxiliary jack in the back and a slot for AA batteries. This means that you can use it away from home. Both of these attributes make it much more flexible than the more recent HomePod and HomePod mini, which lack batteries and alternative (wired) input.

Some time ago, I was motivated to breathe new life into my iPod Hi-Fi by connecting it to an (also discontinued) AirPort Express. Jason Snell of Six ColorsRelay FM and The Incomparable shared how easy it was in a blog post and accompanying video.

For the last couple of years, this set-up has been on my bedside table, with the AirPort Express allocated the label ‘iPod Hi-Fi’. This ensures that it appears clearly in all AirPlay screen options, whether looking on my iPhone or the Apple TV in our lounge room. With this wireless functionality and the HomePod’s discontinuation in mind, this now makes ‘old HomePod’ the ‘old, old HomePod’.

In the last week, however, I was simultaneously tempted to gain more space on my bedside table and expand the options for music playback elsewhere in the house. When an idea such as this enters my head, I become a little bit consumed and need to do something about it.

Then I had a brainwave! I moved the iPod Hi-Fi into the study, and by simply using a new splitter and an extra auxiliary cable, I also plugged it into our record player in the room, which has a less-than-excellent inbuilt speaker. Here’s the result…

With the flexibility afforded by one auxiliary jack and splitter, I now have an audio system that spans three technological eras of music consumption:

  1. an external speaker that provides better sound for our vinyl collection;
  2. a nostalgic trip back to the days of iPod+iTunes, accepting any number of my collected iPods with supported plastic inserts; and
  3. an accessible AirPlay device that can be used by anyone with a recent Apple product.

This is by no means an earth-shattering or super-complex discovery but I feel happy in extending the useful life of an older product. The iPod Hi-Fi was a quirky failure in Apple’s history, among numerous others. When my son Mac is older, it will be fun to use this in showing him just a few of the different ways that people have enjoyed music over time. By that stage AirPlay itself might have been relegated to the dustbin of history. Who knows?! Digital technology moves quickly.

Turning to you, dear reader… what old devices are sitting in your collection, perhaps buried somewhere at the back of your wardrobe, which could be repurposed? Whether it’s for an environmental purpose in keeping old things running, or simply to have a conversation starter on display, what is just waiting to be resurrected?

If you have something similar to share, send your stories and any relevant photos to oneprimeplus@hemisphericviews.com, or post them @HemisphericPod on Twitter or Hemispheric Views on Micro.blog! Of course, despite the technological bias of our podcast, it doesn’t have to be an Apple product!