Hacking an Apple TV Remote

Geek Culture

An Apple TV remote is glued to a piece of wood to prevent easy loss.An Apple TV remote is glued to a piece of wood to prevent easy loss.

The Apple TV Remote re-imagined for the family room. Modern white plastic fused with sustainably harvested pine, hand finished and perfectly balanced. Photo by Brad Moon.

If you thought I was going to pull one of Apple’s remote controls apart, whip out the soldering gun and show off some serious hackery, I’m afraid that’s not the case. In this case, the hack involved is decidedly low tech. Nevertheless, gluing the thing to a chunk of wood solves the biggest problem with the tiny Apple TV remote (at least so far as parents are concerned): the fact that it spends roughly fifty percent of its time in a state known as “lost.”

If you have an Apple TV in the house (old school version with the wee white remote or the latest black edition with the wee silver remote), and you have kids, you undoubtedly know the drill. Where is the AppleTV remote? There are many possible answers:

  • Between the couch cushions
  • In someone’s pocket
  • Under the couch
  • Behind a pillow
  • Lost within the folds of a blanket
  • Under a magazine
  • Under a DVD case

I’m sure there are hundreds of variations on the theme. I finally snapped and got sick of playing “find the remote.” Yes, I have a secret stash of the things (I have a few Apple TVs through the house and Apple used to include those same remotes with iMacs and MacBooks), but that’s not the point. If I keep replacing the remote, eventually they’ll all be lost and then it’s 15 or 20 bucks a pop to start buying replacements.

So I glued it to a chunk of wood. Problem solved. Too big to lose, too big to slip behind a cushion or slip into a pocket. I’m not a complete animal, though. I chose the chunk of wood carefully, sanded and stained it to matched the furniture, rounded the edges to reduce the risk of accidental injury and carefully glued the remote so that it’s centered. The wood is light pine, so it’s not too heavy for the kids. And yes, I checked to make sure I could still easily change the battery.

I’m sure that if he were to get wind of this abomination, Jony Ive would like nothing better than to send in an Apple recovery team to rescue his cutting edge industrial design (I’d call my version skeuomorphic, but I don’t think remote controls were ever made out of wood, except possibly in a Flintstones episode). The thing is, much as I respect Ive’s design talent, this is hardly the first time I’ve disfigured an Apple product. The top case of my 17-inch MacBook Pro is completely covered by an Underwood typewriter sticker (yeah, that’s a skeuomorphism), I replaced the black glass back panel on my iPhone with wood veneer, an iPod Video has had its black and chrome completely covered with mod-themed skinsand I have an iPod Shuffle I use while barbecuing that’s hooked up to (shudder) a 20-year old pair of bright yellow Sony Sports Walkman headphones. I had to stick a Dell monitor on an iMac as a second display (totally ruining the vibe) — because Apple’s Thunderbolt display doesn’t pivot to do portrait. I like Apple gear, but nothing’s untouchable around this place.

Despite being glued to wood, the Apple TV remote still functions.Despite being glued to wood, the Apple TV remote still functions.

The “hacked” remote in action. Photo by Brad Moon

The Apple TV remote hack has been in place for roughly a month. In that time, the remote has been lost exactly zero times. There has been no impairment to functionality, I’ve changed the battery without incident and it’s become somewhat of a conversation piece. On the downside, kids being kids (and my 10-year old boys are master of fashioning makeshift weapons out of twigs, cardboard or anything else at hand), there have been several Apple TV-related injuries reported since the upgrade. Fortunately, the light weight and those rounded edges have gone a long way toward reducing the severity of the wounds — and given the fisticuffs that would occasionally break out after someone would be accused of intentionally losing or hiding the remote in the past, I’d say it’s been a fair trade-off. And man, it’s been a lot quieter down in the family room…

To complete this hack, all you need is one chunk of wood, a bit of sandpaper, stain and glue. Go have at it.

Liked it? Take a second to support GeekDad and GeekMom on Patreon!