Down With the Mini-plug

I have a text file in which I collect fragments of ideas that may or may not make it here. One of them was “iPod = defacto car connection”, an abbreviation meant to remind me that it’s the unique, breakthrough popularity of the iPod that’s finally pushed car manufacturers like BMW to provide direct connections to its stereo.

dash with iPod plugged in

I thought of that when I saw that GM plans to include a mini-plug connection in the dash of some of their 2006 models.

That’s nice and all, but jesus! What took so damn long? We’ve been dealing with crappy cassette adapters for CD players for ages. Despite some admirable upgrades, they’re a poor solution (ours tends to get very hot.) Ditto FM adapters like the iTrip, which are nice enough, but a pain when you want to use shuffle.

Would it be so hard for the automakers to hash out a generic digital connection? Even if it required an adapter of some kind (such as something that plugged into the iPod’s dock connector), wouldn’t it be great if all cars had a standard connection that allowed you to bring your tunes with you? It might not have all the capability of each specific player, but hey, even some track/artist advance options and a connection for dash display would rock.

Twenty years after the CD, and several years post-iPod, I just can’t believe that the best GM can do is plug into the headphones slot. This is what happens when you don’t have common standards.

6 Responses to “Down With the Mini-plug”

  1. b Says:

    Fuck all that, I just want a pair of RCA inputs and an optical in.

  2. jsp Says:

    Well, a nice Toslink connector would certainly be better than a mini-jack, yes. But what about steering-wheel controls? Don’t you want to be able to skip a song without fumbling for the player?

  3. b Says:

    Don’t you want to be able to skip a song without fumbling for the player?

    Not really, I hate steering wheel controls. Besides, I’m sick of all this special-purpose shit. Why can’t the “radio” be a computer with wireless internet? Then I could play whatever files I want, from wherever I want. All standards do is lock us in to 10 year old technology.

  4. jsp Says:

    Well, I would hope that once the hard work of bringing the car manufacturers together had been accomplished, they’d be open to meeting again to keep the standard relatively current. (But I understand your point.)

    Also, by wireless internet, do you mean like WiMax-style long-range (something I’ve long been on record as supporting) or more along the lines of a car with a 802.11g, to which you could stream music from your WiFiPod?

    (And hey, if you want a car computer right now, I hear the Mac mini is a perfect fit..)

  5. Dennis Says:

    I remember back at some NACHA standardization meeting, some bureauwonk admitted (I’m paraphrasing, this was a long time ago), “Ultimately, standards are a method of control that grants power to someone. Our objective is to democratize the standard enough so that no one gains a monopoly but not too much so that it is no longer a standard.”

    So even standards are political. Nevertheless, I agree, they can be good politics if there can be enough consensus without too much concentration of power.

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