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Bizarre Microsoft patent: Clear box that's a reading stand and book holder

One of Microsoft's early US patents had nothing to do with computers. Drawings show a reading stand and book holder that Microsoft patented in 1986.
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1 of 9 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
One of Microsoft's earliest US patents had nothing to do with computer software or hardware. These drawings show a reading stand and book holder that Microsoft got a patent for in 1986.
U.S. Patent number: 4,588,074
Filed: Mar. 21, 1985
Issued: May 13, 1986
Inventor: David W. Strong, et al.
Assignee: Microsoft Corporation
In 1985, a group of people from Microsoft designed a box that would act as both a case and reading surface for books and magazines. The inventors included David Strong, Patricia McGinnis, James Peterson, Vern Raburn, Horothy Hall, David Fleck, and Steven Ballmer.
The patent describes the devices as "a holder for books and similar items that may be used to both store the books and support them in open position at a fixed angle, even if the books are substantially shorter and narrower than the holder."
Image taken from U.S. Patent 4,588,074 - Digitized by Google
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2 of 9 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
Figure 1 of the US patent documentation, shows an isometric view of Microsoft's holder with the lid closed. A book (20) is shown inside the holder. The inventors envisioned the holder being made of a transparent material to "permit the contents of the older to be identified without requiring any external labels." The "double-acting" hinges (18) are also shown.
The inventors believed their design was an improvement on previous "holders," as it had better hinges and provided a stable support for open books even if they were "substantially shorter and narrow than the holder."
Image taken from U.S. Patent 4,588,074 - Digitized by Google
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3 of 9 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
Figure 2 shows the holder with the lid in an open position, and a book resting on the lid "at an angle that is convenient for the reader." This drawing was also used on the first page of the patent application.
Image taken from U.S. Patent 4,588,074 - Digitized by Google
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4 of 9 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
Figure 3 is an enlarged, cross-sectional view of the holder's side. The drawing shows the lid opening from the closed position.
Image taken from U.S. Patent 4,588,074 - Digitized by Google
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5 of 9 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
Figure 4 illustrates how the holder's lid closes along one of the body's upper corners.
Image taken from U.S. Patent 4,588,074 - Digitized by Google
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6 of 9 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
Figure 5, 6, and 7 show the design and function of the holder's "double-acting" hinge. Figure 5 shows the hinge separate from the holder's lid and body.
Image taken from U.S. Patent 4,588,074 - Digitized by Google
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7 of 9 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
The cutaway in Figure 6 shows how the hinges are attached to the holder's lid and body.
Image taken from U.S. Patent 4,588,074 - Digitized by Google
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8 of 9 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
Figure 7 illustrates the hinge with the holder's lid in the full-open position.
Image taken from U.S. Patent 4,588,074 - Digitized by Google
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9 of 9 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
Figure 8, the final drawing in Microsoft's patent application, offers a side view of the holder with the lid in the full-open position and with a book resting on the lid in a reading position.
Image taken from U.S. Patent 4,588,074 - Digitized by Google

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