The Original Apple TV, Six Years Later

Although, I received my Apple TV eleven months after its release it was an amazing moment for me. I had been living without cable television for a year-and-a-half and my main source of entertainment was podcasts that I would sync to my fifth-generation iPod and playback on my TV using Apple’s AV connection kit. It had a remote, but you weren’t able to select videos with it and I had to move the iPod back and forth from my computer to load it up with new videos.

So, I was extremely excited about the Apple TV announcement. It was exactly what I had been waiting for — an Internet-connected set-top box that could sync with my iTunes library wirelessly. It was perfect, except, that it wasn’t. The interface was clunky and streaming video from your iTunes library left a lot to be desired. At that point the interface was still essentially a beefed up Front Row. But, I still loved it none the less. It was certainly worlds better than syncing my iPod over USB.

But, time passed and the annoyances became more and more frustrating. Syncing it over Wi-Fi took forever and the streaming performance was so poor that I never even bothered with it.

Apple eventually replaced the old Pentium M-based Apple TV with a brand new, sleeker version that was smaller, faster, and ran cooler than the older model. I received the second generation Apple TV as a Christmas present the year of its release and I initially retired the original Apple TV to the bedroom. I had dreams of hacking it with aTV Flash so that it could output composite video to an old CRT television. But, those dreams didn’t last long. The hack made it even less stable and it was too difficult to read the menus on the blurry CRT. So, back in the closet it went and my old iMac took over as the bedroom television using Front Row as its primary application. And that’s how it was, until this last December when we finally bought an HDTV for the bedroom.

The TV is a 24-inch Philips and definitely isn’t anything to brag about. But, it was an excuse to dust off the old Apple TV for a few months until we inevitably buy a newer Apple TV to replace it. It’s not the greatest piece of technology in my home, but at 6-years-old it gets the job done. It, unfortunately, isn’t capable of playing back some of the higher quality video that I had encoded with the newer Apple TV in mind, but all of the newer TV shows that I record and most of my older videos are still easily playable on the aging device. I really wish it had Netflix streaming, I have grown reliant on it to help fill in when the networks aren’t airing new episodes of my favorite shows, but YouTube can often fill some of that time.

I’m not really in a hurry to purchase a newer Apple TV to replace the original. It doesn’t have the feature-set and trying to stream video from the Mac Mini in the other room can often be a pain, but the vast majority of the time the original Apple TV does exactly what I need it to do. I’m sure I’ll eventually grow tired of some of its more annoying drawbacks, but until then I’m happy using the old Pentium M-powered set-top box to take care of all of my video playback needs.