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As you know, whenever the earbuds for your iPod or phone are not directly observed, they come alive, like thin, angry snakes. Their single-minded focus is to tie themselves into annoying tangles of knots. My hypothesis is that earbuds hate humans because we are always sticking their tiny heads into our waxy ear holes. If a giant did that to you, you'd probably wait until he was napping and tie his shoelaces together. So I think that's what's happening with the earbuds. It's a revenge thing.

Every time I get to the gym, I remove my iPod from my gym bag and discover that my unobserved earbuds have knit themselves into a dense birds' nest. I spend the first ten minutes of my exercise time sorting them out and muttering under my breath that there must be a better way.



So I decided to invent that better way. I didn't want to carefully wrap the earbuds up and place them in some sort of protective case. That would be a bother. I wanted to toss the mess in my bag as always, but without the birds' nest problem.

My idea was that if I could easily snap the earbuds to the back of the iPod case before tossing the whole mess in my gym bag that would be enough to prevent tangling. I made a prototype of my design using a rubber band. I used the rubber band to secure the ear-ends of the earbuds to the back of the case, and kept the plug connected to the iPod. With both ends of the earbuds secured to the iPod, the dangling cords resisted tangling. I just took it out of my bag, shook twice, and the cords relaxed into a loopy, untangled state. Success!

Now I needed a more elegant solution than a rubber band. So I bought some Velcro self-stick material and put one strip on the back of the iPod. A second strip would secure the earbud cords to the first. The Velcro didn't add enough bulkiness to the iPod for me to notice when it was in my pocket.





Success! In field trials, my design worked every time. It was simple to attach the earbuds between the Velcro strips and the cords never tangled in my bag. I was quite proud of my invention.

As you know, pride is that wonderful feeling you experience between the time you have a great idea and the time you show it to someone else. I demonstrated my brilliant invention to my teenaged step kids as they watched quietly, in awe I presumed. I used an actual gym bag to demonstrate how the cords would tangle when my concept was not used. Then I wowed them with my invention. I even added a flourish when removing the iPod and cords from the bag. I gave the iPod a casual shake and the cords dropped into a loose, untangled position. I waited for the slow-clap that would become a standing ovation. It was my finest moment as a step dad. Finally, after years of trying, I would earn the respect I craved.



My step daughter, who was not in awe of my demonstration, took the earbuds out of my hands and said, "Or you could do this." She directed me to the little rubber connector on the earbuds themselves that allow you to snap one earpiece to the other. After several trial runs I determined that this too keeps the earbuds from tangling in the bag.

So it turns out - and I did not see this coming - that Apple has some engineers who think of stuff too. Nicely played, Apple engineers.

 
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Sep 1, 2013
I've been using this method for years, works great!
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RbMg79dsLlE
Basically just wrap the cord around your hands and pass the end through.
 
 
Aug 23, 2013
I caution you that the plug remaining in the ipod is susceptible to being bent and damaged. A coworker (maybe a teenager, not sure) showed me that by wrapping the cord into a figure 8 around your thumb and index finger, you will find it does not tend to tangle.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 17, 2013
@chuck.milner:

Just make a knot in the cable of your right earbud.
 
 
Aug 16, 2013
I have found two problems with the built-in clip Apple provides - if you don't want to leave the buds plugged into the iPhone the free end of the chord is very skilled at looping its way between the two clipped strands and creating a tangled mess. Also the clip's grip is not very strong and can get undone in your pocket fairly easily.

My unnecessary solution to this problem would be to replace the clip with a long, flexible tube. When you are using the ear buds, you slide the tube down to the single-wire half of the ear buds. When you want to put them away, you slide the tube up over the split wires. The tube could be very thin, and thus not add much bulk or weight.

I would do a google search to see if this already exists - but it would just depress me to find it on Amazon or discover that some kickstarter dude already raised $200K to build it - as typically happens with so many of my unnecessary inventions.
 
 
Aug 16, 2013
Ok, Scott, here's another challenge for you:

After I untangle my earbuds, and I put them in, I have a 50/50 chance of putting them in backwards (left earbud in right ear, right earbud in left ear). I notice this after putting them in, so I switch them back.

I should have a 50/50 chance of getting it right. So, how come it seems closer to 99% of the time that I get it backwards? The L, R marks on the earbuds are too small to read, and the Apple engineer who decided that light grey on a white background was a good idea was obviously much to clever and had to be promoted to management.
 
 
Aug 16, 2013
An Apple engineer who designed something that isn't infuriating?? Apple needs to fire that renegade ASAP!
 
 
Aug 16, 2013
I recently read you can use the loop of your jeans to keep the buds, so the rope won't knot.
 
 
Aug 16, 2013
I hope you've learned your lesson. When it comes to tech gadgets, always ask the teenager first.

BTW, I love today's strip. Not often you see the phrase 'small animal snuff film' in a comic.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 16, 2013
http://www.niteize.com/product/Curvyman.asp
 
 
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 16, 2013
So THAT's what that little rubber clip is for!! I just assumed it was for people who, for some bizarre reason, felt that the position where the single wire split into two wasn't quite right for them and wanted to adjust it.

Thank you Scott (or rather, Scott's step-daughter) for your service to me, and mankind in general, for alerting us to it's real purpose. From now on my iPhone headphones will remain untangled.

(N.B. my effusive praise, particularly since I'm British, might come across as OTT and therefore like I'm taking the mickey. I'm not. I'm being sincere!)
 
 
Aug 15, 2013
Two cordless bluetooth earpods with powerful magnets, strong enough to attract each other through the human head.

There are a few little audio and medical details to work out. I'm waiting for venture capital.
 
 
Aug 15, 2013
i'm giving this blog the thumbs up on the grounds that i, too, fall victim to the intense paternal urge to tell stories that have no other significant point except that I get to mention my kids. well done, human.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 15, 2013
A s h t o n ? Really now, naughty-word nanny?
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 15, 2013
!$%*!$ Kutcher says *Super-Big Problem solved!*
 
 
Aug 15, 2013
You've got an RTFM problem there Scott.

And on a side note, I must have been using Windows for 8 years before I found out you can make a window fullsize by double clicking the bar at the top.
 
 
Aug 15, 2013
Is it just me or is Scotts thumbnail freakishly long? lol
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 15, 2013
Or you could get these:
http://www.amazon.com/ReTrak-Retractable-Earbuds-for-iPod/dp/B000CS0S0C
I carry a pair in my gear bag to listen to my phone, tablet, or iPad wherever I am.
 
 
+17 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 15, 2013
Teenagers think they know everything. Now and then it turns out they do.
 
 
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 15, 2013
Or you could buy bluetooth headphones and never have any cords, ever. Much better for running because you don't have to deal with them bouncing around.
 
 
 
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