Apple patents a computer inside a keyboard

A side photo of a Commodore 64 keyboard
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Apple has filed a patent for a computer inside a keyboard, designed for easy transportation.

The patent document, titled "Computer in an Input Device", shows a computer housed entirely in a keyboard, reminiscent of the computer-keyboard combinations popular in the eighties.

Apple's design calls for an input device with a single I/O port for connection to a display and possibly other devices. It could also send or receive power to those devices.

One suggested configuration is a computer housed inside a keyboard, such as Apple's Magic keyboard.

Apple describes the contents of the keyboard as a high-end computer, and says that it would be a useful way to transport a small-footprint, high-end computer without extra cabling that could plug into any display.

This would create "a portable desktop computing experience at any location having one or more computer monitors", the patent document added. "For example, a user can transport a keyboard that houses a computer, as opposed to carrying an entire laptop or a tower and keyboard."

The configuration could also take other forms, it said in its filing.

"The computing device 100 can, for example, correspond to a virtual keyboard, a track pad or touchpad, a mouse, a tablet computer, a combination thereof, or other input devices," it said. A keyboard input mechanism could use capacitive touch rather than moving keys, it added.

Computers housed entirely in keyboard enclosures were a mainstay of the eighties computing market, when all-in-one devices such as Commodore's 64 and Amiga, and Atari's ST housed all of their computing components in a single unit. Even then, they would need external power cables and come with external storage devices or mice. More recently, Raspberry Pi introduced its 400 model, which includes its lightweight computer inside a keyboard (but still uses external power cables and a mouse).

It's possible that we could see a computer inside a keyboard from Apple. However, technology companies often file patents that never lead to commercial products.

Danny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury has been a print journalist specialising in technology since 1989 and a freelance writer since 1994. He has written for national publications on both sides of the Atlantic and has won awards for his investigative cybersecurity journalism work and his arts and culture writing. 

Danny writes about many different technology issues for audiences ranging from consumers through to software developers and CIOs. He also ghostwrites articles for many C-suite business executives in the technology sector and has worked as a presenter for multiple webinars and podcasts.