Mac applications developer Panic has found something interesting inside an Apple video adapter: a computer.
While trying to figure out why video output from some iDevices was so poor, the company cracked open a Lightning AV Adapter, a $US49 accessory that is sold as allowing Apple devices to send video to HDMI devices in glorious 1080p HD, and found a CPU and RAM inside.
Why does a video adapter need a CPU?
An answer, very unusually, seems to have been provided by an Apple employee who joined the burgeoning thread following Panic's blog post about its find.
The comment offers the following explanation:
“The reason why this adapter exists is because Lightning is simply not capable of streaming a 'raw' HDMI signal across the cable. Lightning is a serial bus. There is no clever wire multiplexing involved. Contrary to the opinions presented in this thread, we didn’t do this to screw the customer. We did this to specifically shift the complexity of the “adapter” bit into the adapter itself, leaving the host hardware free of any concerns in regards to what was hanging off the other end of the Lightning cable. If you wanted to produce a Lightning adapter that offered something like a GPIB port (don’t laugh, I know some guys doing exactly this) on the other end, then the only support you need to implement on the iDevice is in software- not hardware. The GPIB adapter contains all the relevant Lightning -> GPIB circuitry.”
The comment later offers the following:
“Certain people are aware that the quality could be better and others are working on it. For the time being, the quality was deemed to be suitably acceptable. Given the dynamic nature of the system (and the fact that the firmware is stored in RAM rather then ROM), updates **will** be made available as a part of future iOS updates. When this will happen I can’t say for anonymous reasons, but these concerns haven’t gone unnoticed.”
That reads an awful lot like an Apple employee breaking cover and ignoring the company's infamous veil of secrecy to actually – shock horror! - comment on something other than how great Apple's products are.
If that's the case, one imagines some of the nastiest HR forms used at Cupertino may just be about to get an airing.
Here in Vulture South, however, we prefer to take a sunnier approach to this story, as an adapter with a CPU and RAM inside might just be the first ever product of its sort to justify its price tag. ®