If you’re like me, you were stupid enough to not buy an iPod. You convinced yourself you were too independently minded to give into the faddish brand. You demanded that your personal MP3 player come equipped with an FM tuner, because you insisted you were too substantive too listen only to music; you required also NPR.
Instead of buying an iPod, I bought this lil’ guy, the Creative Zen Micro– both cheaper and smaller (just compare ‘em) than the then-popular iPod Mini, and equipped with an all important FM tuner. Yeah, she was a sweet ride those first 8 months. I never quite developed the dexterity to navigate her touchpad controls. But I savored the luxury of being able to check in and out of Morning Edition on my way to school in the mornings, and All Things Considered walking home in the afternoons. More importantly, I relished not feeling a like a main-streamer, a consumer subjugated by branding and marketing, a corporate tool.
But alas, these feelings were cut short. About three weeks ago, I began noticing a problem with my Zen Micro. The audio on the headphones would go in and out. Sometimes it’d be mono, sometimes it’d be drowned out altogether. After tinkering around with it a bit, I realized that wiggling the headphone wire, near the area where the headphone plug met the headphone jack, would correct the problem. But if anything ever so slightly touched the headphone wire near the headphone jack, the broken audio signals with recur. The problem, I figured, was a poor connection somewhere.
Initially, I thought the problem was with the headphones. “Factory-installed” headphones can be cheap, lo-fidelity and poorly manufactured. The wire near the jack on my headphones, I figured, had worn out. All I needed to do was replace the headphones. So I did.
No dice. The same audio problem recurred.
So, I got to thinking. If it’s not the headphones that were the problem, it must be either (a) my ears or (b) (dang!) my Creative Zen. Fortunately, it was not my ears. I could hear everything else just fine. Unfortunately, the problem lied in the headphone jack of my 8-month old, $180 Creative Zen.
I was a little annoyed. I wasn’t going to let this happen to me. I went out of my way to not buy an iPod. I wasn’t going to let Creative screw me into branded conformity. So, I went to Google.
Google. Search: “headphone jack repair.” Mind you, I was only searching for general information on how to fix headphone jacks. I figured whatever was my problem, it was unique to my headphone jack. So, I was a little surprised to see the first search result was a tutorial on how to repair the headphone jack on the Creaitve Nomad Zen. The Nomad is the Micro’s bulky, older (literally) brother. Apparently, so many people had had a similar problem with the Nomad, that there was a impressively illustrated and annotated tutorial on how to fix it. The problem, it seemed, was with the way the headphone jack was fastened to the circuit board. The poor worksmanship came undone over time, but could be repaired by opening the device and resoldering and reinforcing where the jack connected to the circuit board.
And some further cursory research revealed that other irrate owners of the Micro were having the same problem with the Zen. Apparently, those bastards at Creative had been pumping out this cheap crap for sometime.
This is where my story get (un)interesting. Google. Search “creative zen micro headphone repair.” Nothing. No how-to tutorial, like the one published for the Nomad. Frustrated, I was ready to give up looking, and just pry the damn thing open. But fortunately, I remembered reading this article, which reminded about MSN Search, Microsoft’s well-funded but underused competitor to Google. If Google doesn’t have it, I figured, then it probably doesn’t exists. But I tried anyways.
MSN Search. Search “creative zen micro headphone repair”. Jackpot: the first hit was equally nicely illustrated and annotated tutorial on repairing the shoddily manufactured Micro headphone jack. (The (un)interesting part is that MSN Search at least this instance yielded superior results to Google. As Google wanders further from its core competentcy, searching, are the other search engines catching up or surpassing it?). Yet, the question remained: was I actually going to be able to take this thing apart, resolder it, and put back together?