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Publication numberUS3670322 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJun 13, 1972
Filing dateAug 17, 1970
Priority dateAug 16, 1969
Also published asDE1941671A1, DE1941671B2
Publication numberUS 3670322 A, US 3670322A, US-A-3670322, US3670322 A, US3670322A
InventorsRainer Mallebrein
Original AssigneeLicentia Gmbh
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Programmable keyboard
US 3670322 A
A programmable keyboard having a plurality of information input elements constituted by small cathode-ray tubes connected to present a display of the type of information to which they relate.
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

0 United States Patent [151 3,670,322 Maliebrein [4 1 June 13, 1972 [54] PROGRAMMABLE KEYBOARD [56] References Cited [72] Inventor: Rainer Mallebrein, Singen, Germany UNITED STATES PATENTS [73] Assignee: Licentia Patent-Verwaltungs-G.m.b.l-L, 3,187,321 6/1965 Kameny ..340/365 Frankfurt, Germany 2,875,951 3/1959 Schreiner ..340/324 A Fi A g 17 Wagner u 3,259,794 7/1966 Krawitz ..340/334 [21] Appl. No.: 64,439

7 Primary Examiner-John W. Caldwell [30] Foreign Application Priority Data I Assistant Examiner-Marshall M. Curtis Aug. 16, 1969 Germany ..P 19 41 671.8 Kaye 52 us. Cl. .340/324 A, 340/365 1 ABSTRACT [51] Int. Cl. ..G06f3/l4 A programmable keyboard having a plurality of Information [58] held of Search ..340/324 R, 324 A, 3526/3336? input elements constituted by Sma" cathode ray tubes nected to present a display of the type of information to which they relate.

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Rciner Mallebrein ATTORNEYS.

1 PROGRAMMABLE KEYBOARD BACKGROUND or THE INVENTION The present invention relates to input devices for data processing systems and particularly .to a programmable keyboard for such purpose.

A programmable keyboard is a device for feeding control instructions and/or data into a data processing device, such as an electronic computer, which can determine the inscription and thus the significance of each individual key. Such a keyboard offers very flexible input possibilities and can have a reduced number of keys, compared with keyboards whose keys have fixed meanings, so that higher typing speeds result.

Such a programmable keyboard-the designation key" is here to be understood in the broad sense to relate to a fingeroperated signalling means-is known in the form of a character-writing electron beam tube in whose screen there are inserted small wires which function as keys" to produce a signal when contacted by a finger which acts to detune an electric bridge. The tube is able to write characters onto the screen in thevicinity of such a wire, which characters indicate the significance of the respective wire-key. I

While such keyboards function satisfactorily, the single, tube is relatively large and expensive to produce. Even a minor malfunction might necessitate replacement of the tube. Moreover, the actuated area of the tube is not readily distinquishable from the areas adjacent thereto.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION It is a primary object of the present invention to overcome or minimize these drawbacks and difficulties.

Another object of the invention is to improve the construction of programmable keyboards.

The present invention provides a programmable keyboard which has a small depth, which can be economically fabricated, and which may be so designed that an actuated key is depressed and clearly distinct from the non-depressed keys and can also be locked in this position if desired, and in which individual malfunctioning keys can be easily replaced.

A programmable keyboard in which the meaning of the in dividual keys is determined by a data processing device is characterized, according to the present invention, in that each of the individual keys is in the form of a cathode-ray tube.

According to one embodiment of the invention, each cathode-ray screen tube can be depressed, by finger pressure,

in a direction perpendicular to the screen surface. In this case it is desirable to connect each cathode-ray screen tube to a mechanical memberwhich actuates a switch when the tube is depressed. I

In another embodiment of the invention, the screen surface, or another screen viewing surface, of each cathode-ray screen tube is provided with an electrically conductive, particularly a transparent, coating which triggers a signal when the surface is contacted.

In further accordance with the present invention, characterproducing beam deflection voltages are fed to all cathode-ray screen tubes in parallel while the intensity modulation voltages for the beams are individually fed to the tubes. Moreover, staircase voltages are fed to the cathode-ray screen tubes to produce rows and/or columns of characters.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is partly a schematic elevation view of a portion of a programmable keyboard according to the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a plan view of the keyboard of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a schematic illustration of one embodiment of a circuit arrangement used with the keyboard of the invention.

FIG. 4 shows the upper part of a cathode-ray tube with a transparent, conductive coating and serving as a key, there also being shown a finger of an operator, and circuits connected to the coating.

2 DESCRIPTION. OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS FIG. 1 shows a portion of a keyboard in approximately its actual size. The keyboard is composed of a plurality of small cathode-ray tubes 1 each having an associated tube socket 2 supported by a Ushaped bar 3. Each bar 3 rests on a compression spring 4 which can be compressed by a few millimeters and which is fastened to the center of the bar, the other end of the spring resting on, and being immovable with respect to, a stationary U-shaped bar 5. The stationary bar 5 carries, between its upper ends, a microswitch 6 disposed inside bar 3 and arranged to be actuated by means of a key peg 6a extending therefrom. Each tube socket 2 bears a plug 2a for actuating the associated key peg 6a and electrical connections 2b.

The front plate 1a of each tube 1, which is just above the tube screen, extends slightly above a cover plate 7, the tubes being guided in circular cutouts 7a in the cover plate 7. Each tube 1 can be pressed downward a few millimeters against the force of spring 4 by slight finger pressure on its front plate la, the associated plug 2a then also pressing the key peg 6a disposed therebelow downward so that the associated microswitch 6 is actuated.

In FIG. 3 there are shown the portions of tubes 1 which contain deflection plates 1x, ly in one row and in another row those portions containing the tube beam intensity modulation grids 1h, not all the tubes of a keyboard being represented. The microswitches 6, which are actuated by depressing the associated tube, are also shown schematically in a row, again less than all of the microswitches being shown.

By closing a microswitch 6 a voltage is applied to one input line of coding matrix 8 which generates a preferably digital code identifying the closed microswitch 6. This code is conducted through a parallel-series converter 9 and into a line 10 and through this line 10 to an electronic computer.

The computer determines which meaning a signal produced by each depressed key is to have and controls the inscribin g of characters on the tube screens of a desired number of keys so that the meaning of each such key is indicated to the operator by the characters appearing on the screen of the associated tube 1, whereupon the operator can depress the key whose tube screen presents the appropriate indication.

As is known an image repeat memory is required for the simultaneous visual indication of a plurality of characters'on the screen of a cathode-ray tube, which memory emits the data required for writing all of the characters on the screen in a cyclic, repetitive manner to provide a flickerfree representation of the characters. The image repeat memory may be a part of the computer memory, but often it is advisable to use a separate memory 11, which receives information representing data from the computer through a line 12 and an electronic coupling system 13. Memory 11 may be, for example, a feedback coupled delay line memory which cyclically and repetitively emits the data for writing all of the characters for the tubes.

In order to write each character, memory 11 indicates, by

' delivering a code to character generator 14, which character is to be written. The character generator 14 then emits a sequence of x and y deflection voltages to the deflection amplifiers Vx and Vy which effect the stylus-type writing of the character, character generator 14 also generally activating an intensity modulation control for writing the individual characters, which control is effected by an intensity modulation control circuit 15.

The characters to be written must furthermore be positioned on the screen. When only one line of characters is to be written, this can be accomplished by a staircase voltage fed to horizontal deflection amplifier Vx to produce a stepwise horizontal shift after each character has been written. In the circuit of FIG. 3 a staircase voltage generator 16 is provided for this purpose, this generator being cyclically and repetitively controlled by the signals from the image repeat memory 1 1.

in the operation of the circuit of FIG. 3, the output voltage of the x deflection amplifier Vx are fed in parallel to the x deflection plates 1x of all of tubes 1 and the output voltage of the y deflection amplifier Vy are fed in parallel to the deflection plates 1y of all of the tubes. This means that character writing beam movements corresponding to the respective total contents of the image repeat memory 1 1 take place simultaneously in all tubes 1. The intensity modulation control grids 1h of tubes 1, however, are individually connected to the intensity control circuit and the intensity control circuit 15 also receives signals from the image repeat memory 11 which determine on which tube 1 a character whose code is just being emitted from memory 11 is to appear. The other tubes are then blanked by the intensity modulation circuit 15.

It is quite clear that the characters could be written in a column, i.e. vertically, on the screens of tubes 1 if the staircase voltage generator 16 were connected to y deflection amplifier Vy and, moreover, that a number of rows can be written on the screen when a staircase voltage generator is connected to each of amplifiers Vx and Vy, both generators being controlled by image repeat memory ll. In order to write two horizontal rows, for example, the staircase voltage generator connected to amplifier Vy would need have only two voltage steps which are selectively produced at the proper time under the control of image repeat memory 11.

The key designations which can be represented on the screen of tubes 1 are not limited to alphanumeric characters.

As is known, it is also possible to produce certain different types of graphic representations on a screen when suitable digitally controlled beam control generators, such as vector generators in particular, are used. Such representations may thus appear as programmed key designations on all or some of the keys in the form of symbols, e.g. switching symbols or track diagram symbols.

Thus the computer, when it executes or is to begin a program needing the cooperation of a human operator, can inscribe significances in the form of characters, signs, or graphic representations on a desired number of the tube-keys by feeding corresponding data to the repeat memory, and the operator can initiate an operation according to the meaning of a tube-key by depressing it.

FIG. 4 shows the upper part of a cathode-ray tube serving as a key which can be actuated, instead of depressing the tube, by merely touching its upper face with a finger. The head-part of the glass bulb 1 of the tube, including the front plate In, is coated with a thin layer 17 of a transparent, conductive material such as zinc-oxide; A metal ring 18, which surrounds and contacts the layer 17 on its cylindrical part, is connected via wire 19 to an electrode of a glow-lamp 20. The other electrode of the glow-lamp 20 is connected, via a resistance 21, to the secondary winding 22 of a transformer 23-22. The other end of winding 22 is connected to earth. The primary winding 23 of the transformer 23-22 is connected to an a-c power supply. The glow-lamp 20 is, together with a phototransistor 24, encased in a light-tight casing 25.

When a finger 26 of the operator touches the layer 17 on the upper surface la of the tube, an a-c circuit is established from earth via the resistance (as symbolized by 27) of the operators body, the layer 17, ring 18, wire 19, glow-lamp 20, resistance 21, winding 22, to earth. The glow-lamp 20 fires and illuminates the phototransistor 24 causing it to emit a signal to terminal 28, which is connected to one input line of coding matrix 8. When finger 26 is taken away from the surface 1a, the said a-c circuit is interrupted, glow-lamp 20 extinguishes, and the signal of phototransistor 24 ceases. Of course, another photoelectric device could be used instead of phototransistor 24.

it will be understood that the above description of the present invention is susceptible to various modifications, changes and adaptations, and the same are intended to be comprehended within the meaning and range of equivalents of the appended claims.

I claim:

1. In a data processing system including a programmable keyboard composed of a plurality of individual key elements for writing information into the data processing system, which system includes means for storing a representation of the infonnation to which each key element is to relate, the improvement wherein each said element comprises an individual cathode-ray tube having a visible image producing screen and the system includes an electrical connection connected between said storing means and said elements to receive signals corresponding to said representations for causing an indication of the information to which said representations relate to appear on selected ones of said screens, said electrical connection comprising: an image memory connected for receiving, under control of the system, selected ones of said representations to produce image data corresponding to the indication to appear on at least one said screen; circuit means connected between said memory and said tubes for producing on said screen the indication determined by said image data produced for the respective tube; and a plurality of switch means connected in the processing system and each operatively associated with a respective one of said tubes to be actuated by an operator's finger contact on said tube for providing to the system an identification of the tube with which said switch means is associated; whereby actuation of each said switch means initiates delivery into the system of data corresponding to the identification of its associated tube.

2. An arrangement as defined in claim 1 wherein each said tube is mounted to be displaced by finger pressure in a direction perpendicular to the surface of its display screen.

3. An arrangement as defined in claim 2 further comprising a plurality of actuation members each mounted on a respective one of said tubes, and wherein said switch means comprise a plurality of switches each arranged to be actuated by the actuation member of a respective tube when said tube is displaced.

4. An arrangement as defined in claim 1 wherein each said tube includes an electrically conductive coating disposed on a screen surface and connected to said switch means and a power source connected to the coating, said switch means being arranged to initiate an electrical signal when said coating is contacted by an operators finger which connects said coating to ground.

5. An arrangement as defined in claim 4 wherein said coating is transparent.

6. An arrangement as defined in claim 1 wherein said circuit means comprise beam deflection voltage means connected in parallel to all of said tubes and beam intensity control means having a plurality of individual controlled outputs each connected to a respective tube.

7. An arrangement as defined in claim 6 wherein said circuit means further comprise means connected to said tubes for cylindrically producing a voltage having a staircase waveform to control the tube beam deflection so as to permit each tube to produce characters at different points on its screen.

8. An arrangement as defined in claim 4 wherein said switch means comprise, for each said tube, a glow-lamp, said conductive coating is connected to an electrode of said glow-lamp, the other electrode of said glow-lamp being connected to earth via a resistance and the secondary winding of a transformer, and said switch means for each said tube further comprises a photoelectric device arranged to be illuminated by said glow-lamp as long as an a-c circuit firing said glow-lamp is established by touching said conductive coating.

9. An arrangement as defined in claim 7 wherein said memory is an image repetition memory which cyclically and repetitively emits the image data associated with the indication to appear on said at least one tube screen, and said circuit means further comprise a character generator connected between said memory and said deflection voltage means.

10. An arrangement as defined in claim 1 further comprising coding means connected between said switch means and the data processing system for producing an individual signal identifiable by the system upon the actuation of each respective switch means.

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US3811113 *Dec 19, 1972May 14, 1974Matsushita Electric Ind Co LtdKeyboard operated pattern generating device
US3879722 *Dec 10, 1973Apr 22, 1975Bell Telephone Labor IncInteractive input-output computer terminal with automatic relabeling of keyboard
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U.S. Classification345/175, 341/22
International ClassificationG06F3/023
Cooperative ClassificationG06F3/0238
European ClassificationG06F3/023P