Clash of the Technologies

I teach an old computer new tricks.

I have a 20th Anniversary Mac. I bought it about six months after they were released and got a pretty good deal on it. It sits on a table in my living room, a piece of functional art. It runs System 7.6 — if anyone can remember that. The cool thing about this computer — other than the fact that both a floppy disk drive and CD ROM drive are built into the monitor — is that it has a Bose sound system. It also has a stereo receiver and, somehow, my cleaning lady has learned how to tune in Mexican music while she works.

Anyway, I bought an iPod Photo a few months back so I could write about it. I really don’t need an iPod Photo, but once you have something like that, you try to come up with ways to make it useful. I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if I could attach the iPod to the Mac, play music through those Bose speakers, and show photos onscreen?

Remember, the 20th Anniversary Mac is old technology. It dates back to ADB, Serial, and SCSI ports. There wasn’t any USB or Firewire in those days. But it does have an S-Video port and a microphone-in port. So I started experimenting.

The iPod Photo’s dock includes both an S-Video port and an audio line-out port. I didn’t have an S-video cable with the multi-pin connectors on both sides. But I did remember someone saying that an ADB cable’s pins are the same configuration as an S-video cable. So I took an old keyboard cable from the office, brought it home, and used it to connect the Mac to the dock. Then I took a standard RCA-type stereo cable and connected it from the line-out port on the top of the iPod to the Mac. (When I connected that cable from the dock to the Mac, I had no volume control and I still can’t figure out why.)

I fired up the two devices and set up a slide show. The iPod’s music immediately played through the Mac’s Bose speakers. It sounded really good at any volume. But to get the video to show up, I had to fire up an application that comes with the 20th Anniversary Mac. I think it’s called Apple Video Player. It enables me to use the built-in TV tuner (which doesn’t work here on the edge of nowhere) or to take video from an external source. It recognized the iPod Photo’s signal and displayed the images onscreen as a slide show. The only drawback: I had to set monitor resolution to 640 x 480 to get it to work right.

So now, when I have company, I can entertain them with music and a slide show, playing in the background while we chat.

Needless to say, I use the 20th Anniversary Mac a bit more often now.

What do you think?