iNterface Your iPod
With all the aftermarket products available for the iPod
these days, it makes you wonder if you can’t hack into the
iPod yourself and build your own iPod gizmos. Yes you can! With
the dock connector, the iPod can be charged, connected to a PC,
connected to a stereo, or connected to a serial device and controlled
via the Apple Accessory Protocol. Here is a quick overview of the
docking connector and ways to utilize it.
by TJ Byers
In a nutshell, the Apple iPod is a
personal MP3 player, about the size of a
deck of cards, that is capable of storing
thousands of tunes on its internal hard
drive. It connects to Apple Macintosh
computers equipped with a FireWire
interface (all modern Macs) and syncs
with Apple’s iTunes 2 (free) MP3
However, the iPod also doubles
as a portable hard disk drive that can
be used for traditional data storage. It
can even be used as
a boot volume. The interface types
include FireWire, USB, TTL serial,
audio, and video ports.
The dock connector was introduced with the third generation iPods.
The connector is proprietary (Figure 1)
and manufactured for Apple by JAE
(Japan Aviation Electronics). Until
recently, you had to contact Apple, sign
a Non-Disclosure Agreement and jump
through hoops to obtain the mating
connectors for the iPod. Fortunately,
you can now find them from the
following suppliers for about $2 each.
• Ridax — (646) 257-2080, http://
• Spark Fun —
FireWire is the trademarked name
of Apple Computer for the IEEE-1394
personal computer — and digital
audio/digital video — serial bus interface.
Virtually all modern digital camcorders
have included this connection since
1995, as well as many portable computers, including all Apple, Dell, and Sony
laptops (where it is known as i.Link).
The iPod uses a six-pin connector for
the FireWire link (Figure 2). Pins 1 and 2
are used to charge the iPod’s internal
battery via a 12-volt source. The data is
transferred via two twisted pairs using
CAT- 5 cable or any of several ready-made Fire Wire cables. Typically, you load
the music or video file into the computer, then transfer it to the iPod using the
Fire Wire connector at data rates of 100,
200, or 400 Mbps, depending on the
particular model, using Apple’s software.
This doesn’t prevent you from using the
FireWire port with other devices — like
video editors — using their software.
The iPod supports the more popular
and widespread USB 2.0 Universal Serial
Bus, using the type A connector (Figure