Chains of Events

Chains of events are interesting. The historian of ideas James Lee Burke once called his own particular take on such chains of events the “ping pong theory of history.” If you have planned any project of some complexity than you are somewhat familiar with such chains: you begin, for example, with wanting to replace the tile countertops in your kitchen with something with fewer cracks in it, some lovely solid, smooth surface like granite or quartz or formica. You can do that, but then you realize that that will change the overall look of the kitchen and perhaps now would be a good time to change out the cabinet doors. But wait, can you simply change the cabinet doors or do you need to reface the cabinets completely or do you need to replace the cabinets? And if you are going to do that, then it might be time to replace the dishwasher. Of course you have to balance this with what you can afford, but you also want to do things in a logical order and do it right. And so you begin with an overall outcome but then you have to backtrack to the correct beginning of things, with the first nail to be pulled that will begin a complex series of events that will eventually give you the kitchen of your dreams.

Of you can have happen to you what happened to us yesterday.

On Friday afternoon the new monitor for the kitchen computer arrived, a lovely 24-inch Viewsonic. The thing is far wider than we imagined: it’s like having the windshield of a car in front of you, but the clarity of the screen is so much better than the old 19-inch Dell VGA monitor we had. The width of the thing meant it spreads across the small kitchen desk quite a bit more than the old monitor, which left little to no room for the old Cambridge SoundWorks speakers we had. They weren’t great speakers, but they served well.

The New Monitor

But they no longer fit. I dug out a pair of Apple Pro speakers which I’ve had lying around for several years now, ever since retiring my Power Mac Dual G4 at work. They look great and fit perfectly under the monitor, as you can see in the image below, but they require hacking to work with a regular stereo minijack port, because the Apple Pro speakers came with one of Apple’s limited life special dongle/ports — I forget its pretentious name. I have a dead Power Mac somewhere that I saved for express purpose of taking the digital audio connector out of it so I don’t have to cut into the wires of the speakers.

But as long as I am interested in hacking speakers, why not hack those Cambridge speakers? I’ll need an amp for the Apple Pro speakers, I believe, having researched their hacking a bit. And so I destroyed the cases of the Cambridge speakers, took out the amp and the speakers and then quickly re-soldered things to see if they worked. (They did!)

To see if they worked, and here at least we turn to the ostensible topic of this post, I needed a mini-jack output device into which I could plug the speakers. But I wasn’t so sure of my wiring, especially my soldering, and of the consequences of a short-circuit, that I felt comfortable plugging the speakers into the kitchen computer or my phone or my laptop or any other hand device.

*Ah!* I thought. I have an old iPod Video somewhere. I haven’t used it in years and I would be willing to sacrifice it for the sake of this experiment. I dug through the usual collections, and then I turned to the less usual collections. No iPod Video. (I still don’t know where it is.) But I did come across a 4G iPod and a portable CD player. It turns out that the iPod has a bad hard drive — I remembered it dying after I plugged it in and saw the unhappy face on the screen — and the CD player proved my wiring, and soldering, was good to go.

Fortunately the CD player worked and after some confusion, due to having the wrong power cord plugged in, the newly hacked speakers were producing sound. Here they are in their new enclosure:

Speakers All Wired Up But with No Enclosures