iPod of Theseus


I recently had the urge to bring out my iPod Mini and take it with me to the coffee shop. This was going to be a very hipster move on my part. The iPod Mini turned on without issue. The last time I had booted it, I reminisced at the music that was stored on the drive. It was a digital music time capsule. This time though, there was no music. I thought this was odd, but perhaps I had erased the device before I stored it last time. Unfortunately, I was met with a sad iPod icon after trying to sync music to the device. The drive was failing, or rather had already failed.

After a bit of research, I determined that I could replace the original drive with a Compact Flash Card. Unfortunately, Compact Flash memory is rather expensive when compared with SD Cards. Fortunately, I found an SD Card to Compact Flash adapter that was well reviewed and seemed promising. I was able to purchase the adapter and a 128GB SD Card for the same price as a 32GB Compact Flash Card. I also figured it’d be worthwhile to replace the battery while I had the iPod apart, so I purchased a replacement battery as well.

Once the parts arrived, I set aside some time to begin my project. I was concerned about marring the top and bottom caps or the metal frame around those plastic caps. After a bit of research, I decided to try a method I found in a few different places: use hot glue to attach a piece of wood or pencil to the plastic caps and then pull the caps up enough to pry them off. This took a few tries, but worked surprisingly well. The hot glue peeled off easily and it avoided disfiguring the caps or the metal case.

The rest of the procedure was fairly uneventful. I switched out the drive and the battery, then pushed the internals back into the case and connected the click wheel ribbon cable. Before I sealed the iPod, I wanted to verify that everything was working. After connecting the iPod to my computer, I found my Mac was unable to recognize the iPod. I hadn’t bothered with formatting the SD Card and now my Mac didn’t understand what was going on.

As I disconnected the click wheel ribbon cable again, I heard an unfortunate popping noise. After formatting the SD Card and trying again, I discovered my click wheel was no longer functioning. That unfortunate popping noise was the connector on the ribbon cable snapping and the solder on the pin pads had cracked. I do not have the equipment at this time to repair that solder. I think this would require a scope or, at the very least, a strong magnifying glass and a very fine soldering iron head.

Fortunately, I was able to find a replacement click wheel until I can get the original repaired. After carefully reassembling everything, I finally have a functioning iPod Mini again. It’s difficult to call this iPod Mini my original iPod Mini. At a certain point, is it possible it’s now an iPod of Theseus? I’ve pondered this while listening to music on the device, thoughtfully reminiscing about how much this device has meant to me over the years, especially in the years after I had purchased it. This was my first Apple product of many. This iPod Mini was the gateway product that, quite possibly, shaped my career; it deserved a proper restoration and I’m thankful I was able to provide that.