Apple Files New Notebook Patents with Bottom Side Optical Drive
On January 25, the US Patent & Trademark Office published two of Apple’s patent applications respectfully titled Access system for a portable device and Disk drive media access system. Apple’s patents basically present us with an overview of future notebooks that will implement a new bottom side optical disk drive in an effort to create thinner, lighter and more economical notebooks. Apple introduces us to an invert icon mechanism and describes a mobile motion module in length. This report combines the highlights of both these patents.
Invert Icon and Mobile Motion Module
Apple’s notebook example below in FIG. 2 demonstrates a new invert icon which is to indicate that the computer is entering an eject mode, and the arrows within the invert icon 204 symbolize an instruction to the user to invert the portable computer.
Apple notes that the future notebook will also contain a mobile motion module (“MMM”) 202 that is a triaxial gravitational force (“g-force”) detector. In use, the MMM 202 provides important protection for the portable computer 200 by detecting dangerous force-related events such as dropping of the computer. Upon detecting such an event, for example, the MMM 202 can then instruct the hard drive (not shown) and the ODD 108′ of the portable computer 200 to park the drive heads to protect against damage upon subsequent impact. The MMM 202 also contains circuitry that continuously reports information concerning the physical orientation of the portable computer 200.
In operation, the MMM 202 is connected to the controls for the door 304 to prevent the door 304 from being opened when the portable computer 200 is in its ordinary, upright operating orientation. Only when the circuitry in the MMM 202 detects a gravitational force of minus 1 g will the door 304 be allowed to open.
There are several ways in which the user may then open the door 304 to access the ODD 108′. One such method, for example, is to actuate a key or key combination on the keyboard 106, such as a ‘disk eject’ command, instructing the portable computer 200 to open the door 304. Such a scenario is illustrated in FIG. 2, where the invert icon 204 then indicates that the computer is entering an eject mode, and the arrows within the invert icon 204 symbolize an instruction to the user to invert the portable computer 200 (as well as to close the display 102), to permit the door 304 to open for access to the ODD 108′. Otherwise, in one embodiment, if the portable computer 200 is not inverted within a reasonable, preset time, the circuitry of the MMM 202 will cause the eject command to be aborted.
As shown in FIGS. 3 and 4 below, another means for accessing the ODD 108′ is to first invert the portable computer 200 (as shown in FIG. 4) and then touch the actuation button 306. The actuation button 306 may be, for example, a capacitative sensor that is flush with the surface of the bottom surface 302 of the portable computer 200. The circuitry in the MMM 202 will disable the actuation button 306 when the portable computer 200 is not inverted to prevent inadvertent release and opening of the door 304. Optionally, the indicator light 308 may illuminate and/or blink to provide confirmation that the open command has been received and is being processed. The indicator light 308 may also be used in conjunction with the keyboard actuation mode (optionally including, for example, the display of the invert icon 204). For instance, the indicator light 308 may be used as a count-down timer before the door 304 actually opens.
The MMM 202 and its circuitry thus enable opening of the door 304 and insertion or ejection of a disk from the ODD 108′ upon determining that the orientation of the portable computer 200 exceeds a predetermined threshold from a horizontal orientation (for example, that it is upside down or nearly upside down). In one embodiment, the MMM 202 and its circuitry continuously detect the orientation of the portable computer 200 to smoothly enable and perform such access control for the door 304.
Active User Interface
Apple’s FIG. 3 presents a bottom view of a future notebook. In this embodiment, the active user interface 300 that is located on the bottom surface 302 of the housing base 104 is a door 304 for the ODD 108 (not shown, but see FIG. 4 below). The door 304 is shown in its closed position, thus covering the ODD 108.
Adjacent the door 304 is an actuation button 306 and an indicator light 308. The actuation button 306 may be, for example, a capacitative sensor for user contact to initiate opening of the door 304. The indicator light 308 may illuminate (e.g., blink) to provide a warning that the door 304 is about to open. Thus, the actuation button 306 and the indicator light 308 provide additional forms of active user interfaces on the bottom surface 302 of the portable computer 200 that can be utilized, for example, when the portable computer 200 is oriented upside down (as shown in FIG. 4).
In order to keep the surface of the bottom surface 302 of the portable computer 200 smooth, the actuation button 306 and the indicator light 308 may each be mounted flush on the bottom surface 302.
Apple’s FIG. 5 presents us with a figurative cross-sectional view of a portion of a future notebook.
The motor 502 and the laser sensor 504 of the ODD 108 are shown beneath a disk 112 which has been inserted into the ODD 108 beneath the open door 304. The nesting of the wing 118 beneath the keyboard 106 and into the space 120 can also be seen, illustrating the space-saving inter-fitting therebetween.
As also shown in FIG. 5, the ODD 108 is located substantially adjacent the bottom surface 302 of the portable computer 200, and the enclosure 506 of the ODD 108 has been reduced to a minimalist frame, further reducing the thickness and the weight thereof. The enclosure 506 can be thus reduced because the housing base 104 of the portable computer 200 provides the necessary structural integrity and EMI shielding for the ODD 108. In one embodiment, therefore, the ODD 108 does not have its own EMI shielding and its own rigid structural enclosure.
Various Optical Drive Door Options Presented
Both of Apple’s patents present us with a wide overview of the various implementation options being considered in deploying the bottom side optical disk drive, as follows: FIG. 4 is a view of the structure of FIGS. 2 and 3, inverted and with the display closed. FIG. 35 is a view similar to that of FIG. 3 with a drop-and-slide door. FIG. 36 is a view of a pop-and-rotate door. FIG. 37 is a view with an iris door. FIG. 38 is a view with a garage door. FIG. 39 is a view of a sit-and-spin door.
Apple’s patents also discuss various details pertaining to break-away hinges and the use of magnets on a variety of these doors.
Apple’s List of Advantages
It has been discovered that the present invention thus has numerous advantages.
A principle advantage is that the present invention provides an access door that opens outwardly from a portable computer and that is nevertheless protected from damage.
Another important advantage is that the present invention provides such a door that includes a door hinge mechanism that is also protected from damage.
A significant advantage of the present invention is that it readily affords media access on major surfaces of a portable device other than the peripheral edge surfaces, notwithstanding the need for vertical rather than lateral access to the drive.
Another advantage of the present invention is that it provides solutions for efficiently and economically providing better user access to disk drives of this sort in an ergonomically user-friendly manner for readily accommodating changeable media for use with such drives.
Yet another important advantage of the present invention is that it valuably supports and services the historical trend of reducing costs, simplifying systems, and increasing performance.
These and other valuable aspects of the present invention consequently further the state of the technology to at least the next level.
Thus, it has been discovered that the disk drive media access system of the present invention furnishes important and heretofore unknown and unavailable solutions, capabilities, and functional advantages for efficiently and economically providing user access to disk drives in an ergonomically user-friendly manner. The resulting configurations are straightforward, cost-effective, uncomplicated, highly versatile and effective, can be implemented by adapting known technologies, and are thus readily suited for efficiently and economically manufacturing and implementing robust disk drive media access systems for portable devices.
It should be noted that Apple states that the term “portable device” within these patents denotes a personal electronic device having mobility attributes analogous to those of a portable computer, and includes, but is not limited to, cell phones, portable personal music players, and so forth.
Yet unless Apple has future plans in implementing some form of mini-disk that would work with their iPod/iPhone, I’ll take this notation as nothing more than mere boiler plate patent verbiage. Then again, we never know what Apple has up their sleeve – now do we.
Apple lists the inventors of these patent as being, Chris Ligtenberg, Gregory A. Springer, Bartley K. Andre, Brett William Degner and Jonathan P. Ive.
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Written and researched by Neo.