Fishing for AirPods with Magnets

Note to self: if you’re going to hack at 4 in the morning, have a plan to deal with the inevitable foul ups. Like being able to whip up an impromptu electromagnetic crane to retrieve an AirPod dropped out a window.

Apartment dweller [Tyler Efird]’s tale of woe began with a wee-hours 3D print in need of sanding. Leaning out his third-story window to blow off some dust, he knocked one AirPod free and gravity did the rest. With little light to search by and a flight to catch, the wayward AirPod sat at the bottom of a 10-foot shaft below his window, keeping company with a squad of spiders for two weeks. Unwilling to fork over $69 and wait a month and a half for a replacement, [Tyler] set about building a recovery device. A little magnet wire wound onto a bolt, a trashed 100-foot long Ethernet cable, and a DC bench supply were all he needed to eventually fish up the AirPod. And no spiders were harmed in the making of this hack.

Need to lift something a little heavier than an AirPod? A beefy microwave oven transformer electromagnet might be the thing for you. And confused about how magnets even work in the first place? Check out our primer on magnetism.

33 thoughts on “Fishing for AirPods with Magnets

  1. I’m all up for hacking stuff together, but it would have been way easier to just go down stairs, politely explain the situation and climb out the neighbours ground floor window.

    1. Physically easier, yes. Psychologically easier, well, it depends on the kind of person you are and what kind of backlash you’re willing to accept from waking someone up at 4 am. This was the psychological path of least resistance and he wasn’t short on psychical energy.

    1. Exactly.
      I think almost everyone on HaD, including the worst of the trolls, has a set of HDD magnets lying around.

      No offense [Dan Maloney], but “not a hack”.
      I still luv ya tho.

      1. Then again, I had an instance where I would have much rather had an electromagnet that the permanent magnet I had attached at the end of my fishing line.
        Somebody, not me, dropped something expensive down the well.
        Never got it back, been using a water filter ever since… :/

    2. One situation where the electromagnet would be superior would be if there were a lot of iron/steel obstacles in the vicinity of the Airpod. With an electromagnet you wouldn’t have to worry as much about it sticking to the wrong things. (It’d work even better with a little basket on a string to drop the Airpod into after picking it up.)

    3. There’s generally a lot of metal on the way down. With an electromagnet, you can first bring the magnet as close as possible to the airpod, and then switch it on to fish it up. Makes sense to me.

      1. well yes of course. wouldn’t make much sense without it.
        and the next step would be to use this cord to charge the batteries of these wireless Bluetooth earpods with the phone. for longer playtime.

  2. A permanent magnet would be attracted and stick to every ferrous object on the way down. Might make it challenging to get to the target. With an electromagnet he could at least trigger the field so this isn’t a problem, plus he only brings up an airpod and not every stray bolt and shard of metal it brushes by.

      1. By then he’s already coming up, so not as big a deal. Yanking on the permanent magnet on the way down would cause it to swing, which would then make it stick to something else.

  3. Why is there an enclosed shaft with apartment windows? Is it a herd thinning tool to remove people that fall down it from the gene pool? Is it a ‘stuff trap’ to allow the building owners to get free stuff when the tenants drop it in? (if so then I guess the they have the good taste not to go for Apple products) Does the architect of this place also design space ships? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqRdT8m1Suo

    1. Not a lot of planning went into these structures here in Gold Rush / Boom Town / SF. Though when these were built the shafts were to provide light and ventilation as back when they were built, residential electrification wasn’t super common and was too expensive for daytime illumination. Also people still cooked with gas / coal.

  4. A better hack would be to implant permanent magnets in your ears, so you can click the airpods on them.

    Hmm. Maybe there’s a thought. Remember: you heard it from me first, prior art!

    1. I feel like that could really catch on with the bodymod community. there are definitely alot of Implant-safe magnets on the market, and certified professionals willing to put in all manner of piercings for you.

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