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Patent application proposes sun-lit MacBook displays

updated 12:05 pm EDT, Thu March 25, 2010

Designs would 'harness' sunlight

Apple has been experimenting with the idea of using the sun or other light sources to illuminate notebook displays, a patent application reveals. Submitted in September 2008 but published just this week, a filing explains various means by which external light could be used to amplify an LCD's output, including more mundane options such as a light bulb accessory. The solar option would involve a rear-mounted "light harness," reflecting light into the back of a screen.

While potentially cumbersome, the technology would make notebook screens easier to view outdoors. A harness could operate in tandem with internal LED lighting, or be removed entirely if the back of a notebook was positioned to directly face a light source. Rays would pass through a permanent or removable translucent surface, most likely hardened to prevent an LCD from breaking.

Aside from improving outdoor computing, Apple also notes that a light harness would improve battery life. The concept is credited to a Peter H. Mahowald.

by MacNN Staff



  1. WiseWeasel

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Something tells me this is one of those patents we'll never see shipped as an actual product. How many people like to spend a lot of time computing in direct sunlight?

  1. brainiac

    Joined: Dec 1969


    When I was a lad

    I would get a magnifying glass and direct the sun in a similar manner to melt stuff, burn patterns in wood, and zap ants. I never tried toasting an Apple though.

  1. tortenteufel

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Where I live

    we would be thrilled with a Mac that uses rain for energy...

  1. Paul Huang

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The diagram is a joke

    The sun is way way too far from the earth to have the ray travel in different angles other than parallel. A lightbulb positioned a few inches away behind/above the screen may do that, but not the sun.

  1. ff11

    Joined: Dec 1969


    @ Paul Huang

    I don't think the diagram is meant to instruct you to place the laptop so that the sun is located between the LCD and the light harness. The idea is that the harness is designed to work at multiple angles from the sun.

  1. Herod

    Joined: Dec 1969


    this is awesome

    looks like one of those reflectors people hold under their neck to get a suntan.

  1. danviento

    Joined: Dec 1969



    That concept has about as much chance of being viable as solar power a.k.a. NONE.

  1. Paul Huang

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Regardless, it's a joke

    Apple may want to take a look at one of Sony's Mavicas from a decade ago. Its LCD is supplemented by sunlight very evenly.

    None is right.

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