Hacker revives dead devices with iPhone and Apple Watch

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Mac keyboard and mouse running an iPhone
Tap through your iPhone, 1980s-style, with a vintage Mac keyboard.
Photo: Niles Mitchell/YouTube

The living can communicate with the dead — and Niles Mitchell regularly holds seances on YouTube to prove it.

Mitchell is a true medium, putting contemporary technology like the iPhone or Apple Watch in touch with obsolete hardware. He connects the two worlds and gets devices, old and new, to work together in ways likely never imagined by their creators.

From an Apple Watch, he has burned CDs and streamed music to an 8-track player. With an iPhone, he has opened Zip disks. He also used an iPhone as a display for an original Macintosh keyboard.

Hardware hacker: because he can

The question Mitchell, an app developer and AppleScript expert from Indianapolis, routinely gets is, “Why?”

“I don’t know why, but I’ve always liked extremes in the things I’m interested in,” Mitchell told Cult of Mac. “It’s fun to do something other than have old and new side by side because these things can communicate.”

Mitchell, 47, goes by napabar on YouTube. Several of his videos appear in a series called “Will It Work?”

Hardware hacker Niles Mitchell makes the iPhone and Apple Watch do more than even Apple imagined
Niles Mitchell makes the iPhone and Apple Watch do more than even Cupertino imagined.
Photo courtesy of: Niles Mitchell

He has been doing these videos periodically for a few years, but most recently, he has been enthusiastically making use of additional internal storage Apple added to the iPhone this year.

His projects are conducted thanks to a host of adapters that are readily available online. Mitchell used his iPhone to open Zip disks, Magneto Optical disks and, most recently, a 2.2GB hard disk connected to a Castlewood ORB drive. Mitchell was able to open files on the handset.

To run music from his Apple Watch to a Panasonic 8-track player, Mitchell used an adapter that holds cassette tapes. In it, he placed a Bluetooth cassette adapter that picked up the stream of music running on his watch.

Streaming music from Apple Watch to 8-track: Going way back for this one.
Going way back for this one.
Photo: Niles Mitchell/YouTube

His most popular video shows him running an original Mac keyboard and mouse on his iPhone.

“I love seeing where we’ve been and where we are now,” Mitchell said. “What I’ve planned for the next few videos is going to be extra retro, so stay tuned into the new year.”

Below are a few of his videos that just might convince you to keep your old drives and disks a while longer.