Breathing New Life Into A Broken IPod


[Craig] had a busted 2nd Gen iPod Nano that was well out of warranty. The play/pause button no longer worked, leaving him unable to play or pause music, nor power off the device. He didn’t want to scrap the iPod, so he figured out a way to add an external play/pause button instead.

He ordered an iPod dock connector from SparkFun and found that it had just enough space inside for the electronic components he would be adding. He consulted some online references for pinout information, then got busy cramming an ATiny13 and a pushbutton into the dock connector.

To minimize the drain on the iPod’s battery, he puts the ATiny into sleep mode when it is not being used. When the button is pressed, it wakes up the microcontroller and sends the proper signal to the iPod. Based on his estimations, it would take nearly 250 years for the ATiny to drain the iPod’s battery completely, so he’s pretty comfortable leaving the dongle attached at all times.

If you have an iPod with similar issues, he has made his source code available so you can save yours from the trash heap as well.

13 thoughts on “Breathing New Life Into A Broken IPod

  1. @mrbippers

    and then you have to open it up, replace the part and then make sure everything seals up properly.

    actually seems easier and less frustrating to make an external dongle like this!

  2. lol, if you’re ok with quick, ugly, and cheap, did you consider opening the stupid thing up and trying to fix the button?

    or add a new button by soldering to the board?
    what’s the most ghetto thing you could have possibly done?
    remove the play/pause button and have two wires coming out of the resulting hole that you can short?

    arguably less goofy and accident prone than that dongle sticking out.

  3. Nicely done, it is pretty amazing how much you can do by interfacing with the dock connector. The serial ports on it are pretty fun to play with to once you install iPod Linux or RockBox, although this one is basically acting like the remote. The next step should be using the line-out and the remote functions in conjunction with a 3.3V opamp coming from the line-out for a much better sound and more fucntionality which can be trasferred to any iPod device. Did one once, LM and TI have some great chips that run off that voltage.

    Remote codes are well known and can be easily emulated with an ATTiny like here, PIC, or MSP430. The MSP430 would have been a better choice for battery and cost, but they are not exactly popular…..

    Good Luck man!

  4. @synth

    Shorting two wires may or may not work, depending on what kind of handling there is for a button press. If there is no/little delay between button presses, it may actually be hard to get a single button press by touching wires together. Plus it would be really easy to accidentally touch them together in a pocket or something.

    Personally I think this is a sweet hack.

  5. I have an iPod mini 2g with something like the same problem – it pauses at will. When I turn it on, it pauses tens of times until goes to a state that it “kind of works”. I think I need to change the clickwheel…For me, in Brazil, I could even think about it. But in USA? Buy a new click wheel :o) Or recover the broken one! :oD

    I need a new iPod…4GB is not enough :(

  6. So you’re saying to just buy another one? BRILLIANT!

    I admire the balls in trotting out that kind of blatant jackassery on a site devoted to hacking.

    Fight the good fight, and good luck with those test scores.

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