On the record: Apple bags patent for iDevice to play LPs

From Norman Cook to Tim Cook

A patent granted to Apple this week suggests the iGiant is, if not actively working on, at least entertaining the thought of introducing some modular hardware into its lineup – including, bizarrely, an old-fashioned record player. 

The patent [PDF], which was rubber-stamped by US officials on July 25 after being filed a little over two years ago, describes plugging portable Apple screens – presumably iPads – into a hinge connected to a baseplate. The baseplate could contain a processor, battery and memory, according to the filing.


Apple's modular computer design, showing the base, slotted hinge w/detachable screen and accessories – Click to enlarge

That base, in turn, could be used with a variety of accessories, including a keyboard, an additional display or any other "modularized computing and input devices" that Apple or its hardware partners could theoretically come up with. 

Like, for example, a record turntable. That's one such modular innovation Apple proposed in the patent filing, which indicates that such bits and bobs could be snapped in place on the modular base with the assistance of magnets. 


Apple's modular computer could even help you DJ – Click to enlarge

"The computing device can be utilized by a music producer, a disc jockey, an audio engineer, or the like to generate music in one configuration while also being modular to permit the user to remove the input device and removably attach a keyboard or second display," Apple wrote of its hypothetical turntable mod. "Thus, the device can be reconfigurable … to efficiently accommodate users in various operational applications."

Additional possibilities mentioned by Apple include a piano keyboard, drawing tablet, and other hardware like mixing boards with various knobs, buttons and dials. 

One crazy patent that actually might work, or at least draw eyeballs

For some time Apple users have longed for Macbooks with touchscreens, or any new hardware with more of that good ol' Apple innovation than is found in the existing – rather staid – iLineup. 

Instead of that, Apple has filed (among many others) more than 250 patents for automotive technology, devices that fold themselves if dropped, roll-up screens, and even a reinvented miniaturized Apple II instead. 

Rumors of a new Apple form factor, even just in patent form, are enough to get many fans excited – especially critics who think Apple's best innovations are behind it.

As is always the case with patents, whether this modular device will be anything other than another iDream is unknown, it may ever make it into commercial form, and Apple didn't respond to our questions. Then again, the patently expensive Apple accessories that could be sold are sure to be a motivator that could make this more of a priority for Cupertino.

Regardless, corporations like Apple routinely file patents for devices they never intend to produce. Like a laptop powered by an iPhone, or a touch-sensitive laptop case that doubles as a solar charger – neither of which has materialized. In the case of the latter, it's been nearly a decade.

In other words, don't get your hopes up for a big reveal at the next WWDC. ®

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