back to article Apple files patent for 'polished meteorite' keyboard

Apple has filed a patent application for a key-travel design that it claims will allow for a "thin profile, aesthetically pleasing keyboard." Keyboard aesthetics, the filing claims, is of great importance because "outward appearance contributes to the overall impression that the user has of the computing device." Quite …

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Unhappy

And this is so earth shatteringly unique it requires a patent?

Actually, I hope this does NOT come to a keyboard near me soon. This long lever action is just asking for a pile up of dust and muck

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Anonymous Coward

BEEN DONE BEFORE

that's why the ZX81 was discontinued.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: BEEN DONE BEFORE

Exactly what i was thinking when I started reading it. Though had Clive SInclair gone for metorite instead of dead-flesh, maybe things would of been no different as they are now. Old IBM keyboards that could break bones if dropped on them were the best, although noisy they were just lovely.

Next Apple will patent a keyboard layout that is more effecient than the current QWERTY one :0.

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Silver badge

Dead flesh keyboard ?

The ZX-81 had a zombieskin keyboard ? Damn ! Why didn't I know that before ? I would have bought one just for the unique ability to blast pixels with an already-undead interface.

Ah, yet another missed opportunity in my life.

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Coffee/keyboard

Polished Meteorite? Pah!

Everyone (including Apple) is thinking too small. The key caps on my cheap generic USB keyboard are made from material that came from the core of an exploding star.

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Pirate

prior art?

It sounds very similar to me the same as how an old fashioned manual typewriter keyboard works....

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Devil

Re: prior art?

I have an actual computer keyboard in front of me right now which works exactly the way described. It's in the front panel of a piece of equipment made in the 1970s and is obviously not meant to be typed on, more for pushing buttons to command the machine to do things. The key hinges are half an inch above the bit you press, but you do get a nice click action.

The icing on the cake is that the key caps are actually little transparent perspex windows which you can pop off with a suitable tool (watchmakers screwdriver) to customize the key legends, i.e with printed paper, slivers of wood, metal, meteorite, etc.

I wouldn't for an instant want to bet on Apple not getting awarded their patent though. (Twats.)

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Devil

Re: prior art?

My exact thought.

My granddad's typewriter which he "appropriated" from the retreating German army in 1944 works along the same principles.

Going to some newer examples I can recall several models of IBM electromechanical typewriters which retained the lever design to ensure that the typists got the same tactile feedback as a "real" typewriter. Some of these could be connected via an RS232 interface to a computer as a keyboard as well.

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Re: Re: prior art?

Watch them patent "being aesthetically pleasing" next...

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Gold badge

Re: Re: Re: prior art?

As rounded corners serve no purpose bar aesthetics, in effect they already have.....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Re: Re: prior art?

@TeeCee

"As rounded corners serve no purpose bar aesthetics"

Rounded corners are part of engineering 101! The purpose they serve is to distribute stress and avoid concentrating it at a point. A sharp edge tends towards infinite stress under load, which is why they chip off so easily. My 'O' level technical drawing class covered this in 1984, and all exterior edges were to be drawn with a "radius" (i.e. rounded off).

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Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: prior art?

This is also why airplane windows are small and have rounded edges. As de Havilland discovered the hard way.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: prior art?

Not only is it similar to old fashioned, mechanical typewriters, but the original reason why QWERTY keyboards have their keys offset is precisely so "the levers won't get in each others' way".

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Anonymous Coward

Prior art.

That looks pretty much identical to how the keys on a synth are constructed to me. Hinged at the back end, long lever, pressing down on a contact toward the front; all the main points match.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Prior art.

Sure is - that's how the manuals in the church organ I play are constructed. Been like that since they were refurbished in 1968.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Prior art.

How about a telegraph key?

https://www.sciencephoto.com/image/363550/530wm/V4000068-Morse_s_telegraph_transmitter-SPL.jpg

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Boffin

Re: Re: Re: Prior art.

Exactly what sprung to my mind when I saw the diagram - that's a telegraph key.

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Meh

Re: Prior art.

Indeed. Its how the keys and pedals on a fucking organ work for gods sake. Prior art from he 1400's anyone ?

Apple, divert your legal funds to R&D, please. (And everone else).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Prior art.

Once Apple get a time machine we're all fu*ked!

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Anonymous Coward

Funny, but I can't see the keys when I am using...

Funny, but I can't see the keys when I am using a keyboard because my fingers are in the way. I don't care how my keyboard LOOKS, I care how it WORKS. Can I reasonably touch-type? Heck, the Compaq keyboard I am using at work is so mushy compared to the Model M I have at home that it really does slow my typing down.

This reminds me of the old Gallager joke about scented toilet paper: Why? who will this impress? My thumb?

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Boffin

Re: Funny, but I can't see the keys when I am using...

The sad thing is that people buy their stuff primarily on how they look. This goes for everything, mobile phones, apartments, cars, clothes, food etc. In some cases the primary function of the stuff does not even factor in as a buy criteria.

This is why there are colours on the box, which leads to a pet theory of mine:

"The quality of a product is inverse proportional to the number of colours on the box it comes in."

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Re: Re: Funny, but I can't see the keys when I am using...

Yes, people do make judgements on how things look- ultimately, life is too short to make controlled tests of everything we might think of buying, so we go with looks. Granted, these assumptions can by cynically used against us - what Pirsig called "All shit with a thin veneer of quality". However: If a product can be made with taste and restraint and good judgement on the outside, it is more likely that the same CAN be implemented on the inside. Likewise, if we see a member of the opposite sex who looks well put together on the outside, we are more likely to believe that their genetic machinery is in good working order throughout.

There are reasons why we judge on appearances. As Oscar Wilde remarked: "Only shallow people refuse to judge on appearances". He was only being ironic because he cared.

Indeed, Oscar also had a few things to say about Honesty of Materials. One can see that honesty in Dieter Rams' work, and that of Sir Jonny, be it honesty to injection moulded plastics or to extruded aluminium. 'Polished Meteorite' would not fall into this category, but it was being used as an EXAMPLE to illustrate how broad that facet of the concept could be.

Compare that to the typical PC case-front of the late 90s: Superfluous plasti-chrome mouldings with arbitrary curves that do nothing but take up space and make the ports and drives more difficult to access than they should be, whilst wasting plastic and the time of a tool maker.

If you don't think things should be beautiful, or be used as tools to make other things more beautiful, then we must agree to disagree.

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Happy

Re: Re: Re: Funny, but I can't see the keys when I am using...

It is not really what I said. First of all, I didn't really comment on what things should be like, I commented on what people think they should be like. Second, I have no problem with, and have not said anything to suggest that, things being beautiful. In fact I prefer things to be beautiful. You see, beautiful things tend to be more pleasing to the eye. I have however come to terms with what I regard as beauty differs from the opinion of the majority, but I digress.

What I do mean however, even though I didn't say it in my post, is that function should be more important than form when judging a product/tool. Or at the very least, equally important.

I do think we disagree though. If drag in Oscar Wilde to justify buying products not because they serve our needs, but because the manufacturer made it "shiny", then I feel we disagree on a lot of things. I am perfectly alright with that (see smiley face).

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Re: Re: Re: Funny, but I can't see the keys when I am using...

Form and function are not two separate things - they have to work together. Bad form makes excellent function impossible to use; bad function on good form takes us back to the "thin veneer on shit" quote.

Suitably geeky folks can get around bad form, but geeky folks make up a tiny minority of the purchasing public.

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Thumb Down

Re: Re: Re: Re: Funny, but I can't see the keys when I am using...

Incorrect Sir! function does not have to be impeded by lact of pleasing aesthetics.

There are many examples of this, I'll just give you two examples an IT angle and non.

I.T. angle: my usb memory stick on which the casing got smashed. I wrapped the pcb in string and insulation tape, it looks crap but still functions as well as before, if not better since it's new housing takes up less space so it fits better around other devices.

non-IT angle: cleaning staff at work are particularly unattractive individuals, however my desk is shiny and clean in the morning and the floors freshly mopped.

However both your point and my two counterpoints are completely invalidated by the much more important fact that the definition of "good form" is entirely subjective to the aesthetic preferences of the individual appreciating them.

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Happy

Re: Re: Re: Re: Funny, but I can't see the keys when I am using...

Sigh, I have not said you have to choose either or, in fact I have repeatedly said the exact opposite. However, it seems that the finer points of the English language eludes me once again. When I talk about function I also include ease of use etc. And when I talk about form as the opposite to function I talk about everything that does not have a "function". So the colour of an ambulance have a very important function, but the gray colour on a private car usually does not have a function and is thus part of the form.

If this is incorrect usage of the terms in English I apologize. If you continue to hold it against me, sue me, I am Norwegian.*

*That does make the apology sound bitter and sarcastic. Here have another smiley face.

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Form v Function

I like things to work well. But a lot of what is considered functional design is just a styling trope. A better name for it would be "functionesque".

Ask anybody who occupies a 1950s "machine for living in" (le Corbusier) with a flat roof how functional it is. Check out all the "functional" 1960s buildings that are now rightly being demolished because they're inefficient, uncomfortable and badly-made. Try spending any length of time sitting in a Barcelona chair (Perhaps I'm being unfair here - Mies van der Rohe was apparently horrified to learn that people wanted to sit in them. He designed them as chairs for looking at.) You see many examples in the kitchen, where homely implements that have evolved to do a job are stylishly redesigned so they don't work very well, like the Philippe Starck lemon squeezer.

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Flame

@ Dave 126

Dave 126 wrote :- "Yes, people do make judgements on how things look- ultimately, life is too short to make controlled tests of everything we might think of buying, so we go with looks"

Yes, but the judgement is often made on features of the appearance that clearly can have nothing to do with performance - or go against it.

My fave example is loo-roll holders. Once-upon-a-time they were held directly to the wall by two strong screws. You could put your weight on them (I gather my mother did). But even though the screws could be nice chrome-plated pozidriv's, very tasteful I thought, people started replacing them with ones having concealed screws, which people tell me "looks nicer".

The concealed screw versions typically have a single tiny plate screwed to the wall onto which the outer visible part fixes with a little grub screw tightened from underneath. Half the time they wobble about (still looks nice?) and with any stress they come off the wall altogether (as my mother demonstrates).

Even worse, today we have the "half-a-coat-hanger" style, which people think looks nice because of the "minimalist" theme, even though, in the loos of modern small houses, when a fat lady goes in she knocks the paper roll off and onto the floor - or straight into the pan.

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So they want to patent sticking things on top of keys?

How is that different from sticking things on top of other keys? Both just end up with thicker keys, surely?

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jai
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Re: So they want to patent sticking things on top of keys?

helps if you read the article, not just the headlines, they're patenting the way the key action works. making it easier to use different material for the tops of the keys is a side effect.

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Re: Re: So they want to patent sticking things on top of keys?

Which they've included in the patent; presumably because they want no-one else sticking things to keytops?

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MrT
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The Royal Society...

...for Putting Things on Top of Other Things

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1f-kfRREA8M

Have they included fossilised T.Rex leg-bone keytops in the list? If not, I think I see an opening on the market...

http://www.reghardware.com/2011/11/02/ipad_2_made_from_t_rex_fossils_costs_5m/

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"Scissor-switch keys provide fine feedback, but are so 20th-century chubby"

Then long levers must be 19th century, if not 18th.

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WTF?

Re: "Scissor-switch keys provide fine feedback, but are so 20th-century chubby"

The Sholes and Glidden typewriter, initial design 1867, eventually placed on the market as the

Remington 1 in 1874 by gunsmiths Remington & Sons who were trying to diserfiy from arms manafacture.

There are several disturbing aspects to this patent, it claims that prior to this so-called invention that all keys were made of plastic, is this an attempt by crApple to patent non-plastic keys?

The patent desribes a membrane keyboard (how very ZX81), levers which can either rotate about a pivot point or be made of bendy material, and gluing the key to the lever !!!!!!!

US patent law imposes a duty upon the patent applicant to disclose all known prior art references that would be material to the patent applicatyion, these include:-

* Printed publications anywhere in the world.

* Known or used by others in the US.

* Patented outside the US.

* Described in a published US patent application.

* Described in a granted US patent.

* Described in a published PCT patent application designating the US.

* In public use in the US.

* Sold or offered for sale in the US.

Still, when did prior art bother crApple?

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@Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

Once upon a time (or at least so I am told) it was required that a US patent application be for something which was not obvious. Sadly, I'm not sure that has been true within my lifetime.

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F.F.S.

Nothing else.

Just:

FFS

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I'm sure the old joystick I had back in Spectrum days seemed very similar to this - it had metal domes on strips of copper that were pressed from above by plastic arms attached to the joystick itself. I found that out when I pulled it apart after the metal domes started to split through wear and tear..

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Headmaster

Speccy Joysticks

IIRC these were leaf switched joysticks, pretty much the cheapest joysticks you could get and the least resilient.

Us hardened gamers soon tired of the fragility of these sticks and went for micro switched models instead. Although microswitched model still wore out, a switch would tend to totally fail about a month after it went out of warrenty where as leaf switched joysticks would just deteriorate without usually totally breaking.

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Anonymous Coward

In other news...

... I plan to file a patent for a left or right hand, moving in an up and down motion against a blood filled, skin covered part of a males anatomy.

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Meh

Re: In other news...

Prior art since the dawn of man I'm afraid.

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Go

Do I understand your patent correctly?

You mean the throat?

This invention could be useful for dealing with IP lawyers.

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Pint

Re: Do I understand your patent correctly?

Have a beer sir - made me choke on my morning brew in mirth.

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Bronze badge

That's meaty o'right!

So NOW we know where all the pieces of meteorite lost by NASA have gone!

Any guess as to how much an Apple keyboard with meteoric keys might cost?

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WTF?

Re: That's meaty o'right!

Well seeing as its from crApple it will be touted by the fanbois as a must have product.

My question is this though...don't we already have coverings over they keys currently? I believe they are typically made of plastic and sometimes painted with the letters and numbers on them...

So am I now, or soon to be, in violation or apples amazing new patent for the G19 I use at hole or the standard keyboard at work?

In addition to other options for key coverings check out the following link....

http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/optimus/

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Silver badge

Ummmm, sorry, but no...

That is a telegraph key invented by Baron Schilling von Canstatt in 1832 then made famous by Samuel Morse.

http://www.pimall.com/nais/pivintage/telegraph.html

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Mushroom

Re: Ummmm, sorry, but no...

Don't worry...Crapple will be suing their estates & heirs shortly.

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Boffin

Re: Ummmm, sorry, but no...

No, it is nothing like a telegraph / morse key - as you can clearly see in that photo, the standard design of a morse key has a partially balanced beam with a pivot-point fairly near to the centre. Apple's design is much more like _some_ typewriter keyboards, in having the pivot at the extreme far end.

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Anonymous Coward

Already patented in a keyboard in the 90's

See US patent 5.569,889

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Already patented in a keyboard in the 90's

As mentioned below, (and I feel the need to comment here as well in case anyone else mistakenly up votes this comment) they are not even close to being the same patent, other than both being about keyboards.

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FAIL

Re: Re: Already patented in a keyboard in the 90's

I think you got it wrong. From what I can see they are virtually identical, even going so far as mentioning that it makes the keyboard more aesthetically pleasing and slimmer in profile. The thing is, just because apple or anyone else files a patent doesn't mean it is valid. One of the reasons why it takes so long for patent approval is that the patent office needs to review and verify the uniqueness of the application before it can be granted. I suspect Apple, MS, Google and others routinely have hundreds of patents denied each year. This will be one of them.

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