Laptops

Wild IBM laptop patents: Telescoping screen, pop-up magnifier, and more

Portable computer - Figure 2 (U.S. Patent 6504707)

For decades, IBM was a pioneer in the portable computer market, introducing the venerable ThinkPad laptop brand--sold to Lenovo in 2005. And when Big Blue was still designing laptops, its engineers and designers came up with some pretty strange ideas.

The U.S. patent drawings in this gallery showcase four of those ideas:

A telescoping display designed for frequent fliers
A self-contained, pop-up magnifier to make the display larger
A scissor-hinge lid for the ultimate in display flexibility
A collapsible glare shield that looked like a giant, square ice cream cone.

While none of these ideas made it to market in their original form, they illustrate the creativity of IBM employees. They also provide a glimpse of current technologies that were being toyed with years ago--such flippable displays (found in many convertible, tablet laptops).

U.S. Patent number: 6,504,707
Filed: May 11, 2001
Issued: Jan. 7, 2003
Inventors: Hiroaki Agata, Kenshin Yonemochi, Takehiko Noguchi, Hisashi Shima, and John Peter Karidis
Assignee: International Business Machines Corporation (IBM)

In 2001, inventors from IBM designed a very unique laptop with a telescoping display.

According to the patent document:

"In consideration of the above described facts, it is an object of the present invention to provide a portable computer which is intended to be capable of adjusting the display's height and angle without deteriorating the keyboard's operability, and to make the operability be more favorable for a user in the adjustment of the display's height even when the place for installing the portable computer is restricted int eh rear space or the upper space. "

Figure 2 of the patent document illustrates how the display screen would extend up from the laptop's lid.

Image taken from U.S. Patent 6,504,707 - Digitized by Google

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

28 comments
bward11
bward11

What's with the reissue of 2010 non-news anyway?

Regulus
Regulus

This whole issue including this article is a "Multi-Media' circus. If your intention was to entertain the airheads while the techies were cooking the turkey with solar radiation, you have succeeded.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

Contraptions like these remind me of the joke about NASA, when they put astronauts in space and found out the pens wouldn't write because there was no gravity to make the ink flow. NASA spent millions developing a pen that would write in zero-gravity. The Russian cosmonauts used a pencil.

cb
cb

Over the years, IBM came up with a lot of interesting screen and keyboard concepts. The ThinkPad 360 and 750 of the early 1990s had a convertible display similar to the one shown in this patent. Then there was the IBM Transnote that also used a variation of this approach. In many respects, these solutions were actually better than the single rotating pivot hinge that almost all notebook convertibles have had for the past ten years or so.

jeffmakoni
jeffmakoni

they deserve their respect. They were the pioneers of present day technology when it was still a dream light years away from that time.

chris.cornell
chris.cornell

Hardware company employees used to be encouraged to submit any idea to patent or extend the company's portfolio. Companies like the former Cow Spotted computers from South Dakota paid engineers, technicians and production employees for their ideas if it resulted in a patent for the company. Even if the idea seemed a wacky.

lsemmens
lsemmens

We used to use something similar in the 1980's to cut down reflections on our terminals! A couple of suspension files and a roll of tape! We even had some photos around somewhere, but, not sure where they are now! Some were even decorated with appropriate comments in relation to the job, or not, as the case may be!

Chomps
Chomps

My first Thinkpad had a detachable back on the screen so you could use it with an overhead projector - it used it many times for teaching and presenting. It can with an elastic strap to hold it on the projector. A great idea.

cmhatte
cmhatte

I like the dual screen laptop idea better.

freaknout
freaknout

Obviously, all of these weren't really practical but we have the benefit of hind sight. Considering the dates on these it seems some of these have been done later in different fashions to get around patent issues. Interesting to see how progressive some of them are at the time though

Trs16b
Trs16b

Can we discuss the relative merits of the 386SX next.

mfang329
mfang329

Simply hideous in design, no practical of any real world use! Anyone can file a design patent of all sort, but can they produce a product for massive market? Not really! When was the last time IBM came out with innovative design for the massive market, YESTERDAY = Lenovo latop. If they want to be a TRUE compatitor in the market, then must make something practical sense to SIMPLIFY life and not to COMPLICATE it more. Apple got it Right.

whatisnew
whatisnew

It costs a lot more to make and not convenience to carry around (the ice cream corn thing).

jlb
jlb

Remembers the screens in the Monthy Pytons' movie "Brazil"! Maybe they should deserve the patent instead of IBM ;-)

jmoller51
jmoller51

Laptops have keyboards too high or screen too low... for those with RSI who must work on a laptop, a potential solution.

kels83
kels83

IBM gives their employees a $$ bonus for each patent filed, so I can imagine there are some cooky ideas out there. I think it was $5k per patent.

miguel_lantigua
miguel_lantigua

Moving device + a lot of moving parts = short term life.

R Woell
R Woell

I could have used a few of these devices. Even the ideas that made it to market didn't receive the attention they deserved. I do much of my work in the field, frequently away from easy power sources and good lighting. Two things I wish I had on my Thinkpad replacements: One was the little light on the display that pointed down and illuminated the keyboard. The second was the battery pack that could go in the CD/DVD slot doubling or tripling the battery life. When our IS group distributed the Thinkpad replacements, I pointed out these two features. They were not aware of them.

GrizzledGeezer
GrizzledGeezer

Yet another example of patents that are invalid because they are obvious and trivial.

mckinnej
mckinnej

This is just another application of a standard accessory in use for decades on analog and sampling oscilloscopes. The "hoods" as we called them were used to view signals at a very fast scan rate. Anyone who has used analog o'scopes to view fast rise time signals has used one. I'd be surprised if this wasn't covered by a broader patent somewhere along the line.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler moderator

When I saw the scissor hinges, my first thought was of how many people's fingers they would have pinched.

Sensor Guy
Sensor Guy

The patent awards are now down to $100. Retirees or those laid off don't get anything. The days of the carrot are gone. Now the prevalent method is the stick, or threat of layoff if you don't produce something.

wyattharris
wyattharris

I remember in the 90's when people would bring in IBM's to the shop. It was always interesting to see what new doohickey IBM had created to make their laptops odd and do something unique. Then you'd have to work on the thing and my only thought would be, "Why do they have to make them so ridiculous."

jprice
jprice

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought that as soon as I saw it. Now where's that huge bluetooth ear piece he used to wear and those nifty square computer disks for the library computer? Oh right....