updated 11:35 am EDT, Tue March 25, 2008
Apple clickwheel patent
Apple has today officially been granted several patents by the US Patent and Trademark Office, among them two for some long-standing technologies. Of these the most important is Touch pad for handheld device; while its wording refers broadly to a "pocket sized handheld computing device," it is illustrated specifically with an image of the first/second-generation iPod, which had a manual control wheel with rim-mounted buttons. The patent application is more recent than that player, however, having only been submitted in March of 2006.
Apple has also been granted a patent for a flexible display arm, matched to the lamp-like iMac G4; it was originally submitted in 2001, but was filed again in an alternate version in September of 2006. The patent's design differs from that finally used by Apple, as it is able to coil, thanks to "ball-and-socket assemblies" which create multiple joints. Among those credited with the invention are CEO Steve Jobs and lead designer Jonathan Ive.
An application from 2005, meanwhile, has had to be reissued, due to unspecified improvements to the original. It addresses technology for a multi-touch virtual keyboard, in particular applying standard modifier commands like Shift, Control or Alt to later key presses. It "recognizes simultaneous touchdown of four fingers on, above, or below the home row of keys as a modifier chord," and halts modified typing only once none of the chord fingers are touching. To help mixing capital and lower-case letters, the Shift modifier can be released just temporarily, as need mandates.