US RE40421 E1
A palmtop computer utilizes SD memory modules or other types of memory modules to provide expansion memory. The expansion memory module plugs in to the palmtop computer via an external slot or compartment that is easily accessed by the user. This provides additional memory to the palmtop computer. To facilitate use of expansion devices such as sled or cradle based devices, a connector is provided on the palmtop computer that not only includes conventional power, ground and serial communication terminals, but also provides direct access to the memory module for use by the expansion device. This provides the advantage that the sled or cradle based device can directly access the palmtop computer's memory without using the palmtop computer's processing resources.
1. A method of expanding capabilities of a palmtopmobile computer with a memory expansion module, comprising:
coupling the memory expansion module to a processor within the palmtopmobile computer;
coupling the memory expansion module to an expansion port of the palmtopmobile computer; and
coupling a sled device to the palmtopmobile computer, so that the sled device is coupled directly to the memory expansion module and to a communication port of the palmtopmobile.
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at said sled device, directly accessing music stored on the expansion memory module.
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7. A palmtopmobile computer having enhanced expansion, comprising:
a central processor connected to a bus;
an expansion memory operatively coupled to the bus to provide the central processor with access to the expansion memory;
a communication interface operatively coupled to the bus to provide the central processor with communication with devices outside the palmtopmobile computer; and
a connector, operatively coupled to the communication interface and to the expansion memory, to permit an external device to communicate with the central processor via the communication interface and to permit the external device to directly access the expansion memory.
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14. An expansion device for a palmtopmobile computer, the palmtopmobile computer having a central processor, an expansion memory, a communication interface and a palmtopmobile-side connector, the palmtopmobile-side connector being operatively coupled to the communication interface and to the expansion memory, the expansion device comprising:
an expansion device-side connector suitable for mating with the palmtopmobile-side connector;
an expansion device-side communication interface connected to the expansion device-side connector for communicating with the communication interface of the palmtopmobile computer; and
a memory interface connected to the expansion device-side connector for directly accessing the expansion memory of the palmtopmobile computer.
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The present invention relates to the field of expansion mechanisms for a palmtop computer. More particularly, the present invention relates to a mechanism for sharing memory access with an accessory such as a palmtop sled based accessory.
As the components required to build a computer system have reduced in size, new categories of computer systems have emerged. One of the new categories of computer systems is the “palmtop” computer system. A palmtop computer system is a computer that is small enough to be held in the hand of a user and can be “palm-sized.” Most palmtop computer systems are used to implement various Personal Information Management (PIM) applications such as an address book, a daily organizer and electronic notepads, to name a few.
While these palm sized computers (“palmtop” computers) have dramatically reduced size when compared to a desktop or notebook computer, the user would like to be able to perform many of the same types of functions performed using physically larger and more powerful computers. Such functions often require substantial amounts of memory and/or circuitry that is not generally incorporated within a palmtop computer. An example of such a function is that of an MP3 music player. It is conceivable to embed such a player within a so-called “sled” device that couples to the palmtop computer. Unfortunately, such devices are taxing on the processing power of a palmtop computer if the music is stored either on the palmtop computer itself or on a storage device associated with the palmtop computer. In order to access such storage for real time audio playback using an MP3 player, the data stored in the memory device of a conventional palmtop must be converted to a serial format to be transferred through the processor to the serial connector of the palmtop before being played back by such a sled based MP3 player. This is cumbersome and taxing on battery life and processing power of the palmtop computer. Nonetheless, such an arrangement would have advantages since the MP3 player or other sled-based device could theoretically use the palmtop computer as a user interface and could use an existing memory interface to store music or other relevant data.
Unfortunately, the above listed drawbacks may be prohibitive in implementing such an arrangement. Thus, the cost of such sled accessories may suffer by needing to supply an additional connector to support its own memory for storing data (e.g. MP3 music) or personality programs.
Accordingly, what is needed is an arrangement to permit a sled-based device to directly access a palmtop computer's memory.
In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, a palmtop computer utilizes SD memory modules or other types of memory modules to provide expansion memory. The expansion memory module plugs in to the palmtop computer via an external slot or compartment that is easily accessed by the user. This provides additional memory to the palmtop computer. To facilitate use of expansion devices such as sled or cradle based devices, a connector is provided on the palmtop computer that not only includes conventional power, ground and serial communication terminals, but also provides direct access to the memory module for use by the expansion device. This provides the advantage that the sled or cradle based device can directly access the palmtop computer's memory without using the palmtop computer's processing resources.
A method of expanding capabilities of a palmtop computer with a memory expansion module in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention includes: coupling the memory expansion module to a processor within the palmtop computer; coupling the memory module to an expansion port of the palmtop computer; and coupling a sled device to the palmtop computer, so that the sled device is coupled directly to the memory expansion module and to a communication port of the palmtop computer.
A palmtop computer having enhanced expansion consistent with embodiments of the present invention includes a central processor connected to a bus. An expansion memory is operatively coupled to the bus to provide the central processor with access to the expansion memory. A communication interface is operatively coupled to the bus to provide the central processor with communication with devices outside the palmtop computer. A connector, operatively coupled to communication interface and to the expansion memory, permits an external device to communicate with the central processor via the communication interface and to permit the external device to directly access the expansion memory module.
An expansion device for a palmtop computer consistent with the present invention, wherein the palmtop computer has a central processor, an expansion memory, a communication interface and a palmtop-side connector, the palmtop-side connector being operatively coupled to the communication interface and to the expansion memory, includes an expansion device-side connector suitable for mating with the palmtop-side connector. An expansion device-side communication interface is connected to the expansion device-side connector for communicating with the communication interface of the palmtop computer. A memory interface is connected to the expansion device-side connector for directly accessing the expansion memory of the palmtop computer.
The above summaries are intended to illustrate exemplary embodiments of the invention, which will be best understood in conjunction with the detailed description to follow, and are not intended to limit the scope of the appended claims.
In the following detailed description of the present invention, of a palmtop computer expansion using shared memory access, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. However, it will be recognized by one skilled in the art that the present invention may be practiced without these specific details or with equivalents thereof. In other instances, well known methods, procedures, components, and circuits have not been described in detail as not to unnecessarily obscure aspects of the present invention.
Some portions of the detailed descriptions which follow are presented in terms of procedures, steps, logic blocks, processing, and other symbolic representations of operations on data bits that can be performed on computer memory. These descriptions and representations are the means used by those skilled in the data processing arts to most effectively convey the substance of their work to others skilled in the art. A procedure, computer executed step, logic block, process, etc., is here, and generally, conceived to be a self-consistent sequence of steps of instructions leading to a desired result. The steps are those requiring physical manipulations of physical quantities.
Usually, though not necessarily, these quantities take the form of electrical or magnetic signals capable of being stored, transferred, combined, compared, and otherwise manipulated in a computer system. It has proven convenient at times, principally for reasons of common usage, to refer to these signals as bits, values, elements, symbols, characters, terms, numbers, or the like.
It should be borne in mind, however, that all of these and similar terms are to be associated with the appropriate physical quantities and are merely convenient labels applied to these quantities. Unless specifically stated otherwise as apparent from the following discussions, it is appreciated that throughout the present invention, discussions utilizing terms such as “processing” or “computing” or “translating” or “calculating” or “determining” or “scrolling” or “displaying” or “recognizing” or the like, refer to the action and processes of a computer system, or similar electronic computing device, that manipulates and transforms data represented as physical (electronic) quantities within the computer system's registers and memories into other data similarly represented as physical quantities within the palmtop system memories or registers or other such information storage, transmission or display devices.
While this invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms, there is shown in the drawings and will herein be described in detail specific embodiments, with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as an example of the principles of the invention and not intended to limit the invention to the specific embodiments shown and described. In the description below, like reference numerals are used to describe the same, similar or corresponding parts in the several views of the drawings.
Bus 54 is also coupled to a cradle 60 for receiving and initiating communication with a palmtop (“palm-sized”) portablemobile computer system 100 of the present invention. Cradle 60 provides an electrical and mechanical communication interface between bus 54 (and anything coupled to bus 54) and the computer system 100 for two way communications. Computer system 100 also contains a wireless infrared communication mechanism 64 for sending and receiving information from other devices.
A radio receiver/transmitter device 240 is also shown between the midframe and the rear cover 245 of FIG. 3. The receiver/transmitter device 240 is coupled to the antenna 85 and also coupled to communicate with the PC board 225. In one implementation the Mobitex wireless communication system is used to provide two way communication between system 100 and other networked computers and/or the Internet via a proxy server.
Also included in computer system 100 of
Signal communication device 108, also coupled to bus 110, can be a serial communication port, USB (Universal Serial Bus), SCSI (Small Computer System Interface), Ethernet or any other suitable communication interface for communicating with the cradle 60 and other external devices. Device 108 can also include an infrared communication port.
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Memory module 600 can be utilized to provide raw data storage as well as to modify the personality or functionality of palmtop computer 100 by storing computer programs and the like. Thus, SD memory module 600 can be used as data storage device 104 (
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By interconnecting the sled device 800 with the palmtop computer 100 electrically, the sled device 800 can utilize the processor, memory, display and input capabilities of the palmtop computer 100. However, depending upon the application and type of device embodied in the sled, the functionality may be restricted by the speed of the communication mechanism used for communication between the sled 800 and the palmtop computer 100 or by the processing speed of the palmtop computer's processor 101 or battery capacity of the palmtop computer 100. Since it is desirable to maintain long battery life in the palmtop computer 100, memory access by serial communication through connector 812 imposes severe limitations upon the capabilities of the sled 800 in combination with the palmtop computer 100.
Consider, for example, if sled 800 implements an MP3 player for playing digitally stored music. In order for the MP3 player within sled 800 to access music stored in the expansion memory module 600, processor 101 must retrieve the data representing the music from the data storage device 104 (in the preferred embodiment SD memory module 600), convert the data to serial data for communication via the connector 108 and pass the data on to the sled device 800. In order to accomplish this in real time so that the user does not have to wait for a download from the memory module 600 to listen to a selection of music, processor 101 operates at an extremely high capacity robbing power from other applications and exhausting battery life. Alternatives to this problem might include providing a memory module connector on sled 800. However, this solution increases the cost of the sled device 800 by requiring a memory module connector when one is already readily available within palmtop computer 100. In accordance with the present invention, the sled 800 is provided with direct access to memory module 600 (data storage device 104), bypassing the need for intervention by processor 101.
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In some embodiments, terminals may be provided at expansion device connector 108 to provide for charging and power circuitry 924 to either power the palmtop computer device or the expansion device or charge batteries at one or the other devices. The expansion device connector 108 may be termed the palmtop computer side connector since it is connected physically to the palmtop computer an a whether or not the palmtop computer 100 resides in a cradle, sled or neither of the above. A mating connector 812 (an expansion device-side connector) mates with the expansion device connector 108 to electrically provide access to the communication interface 902 and data storage device 104 by the expansion device 800. Appropriate electrical connections are provided to an expansion device-side communication interface 950, memory interface 960 and possibly power interface 970. In this manner, expansion device 800 can communicate with processor 101 or other circuitry of the palmtop computer 100 via the communication interface 902 and can directly access data stored in data storage device 104 via the expansion device connector 108. The expansion device-side communication interface includes at least one of a Universal Serial Bus (USB) interface, an Ethernet interface, a Serial interface and a Small Computer System Interface (SCSI).
The connectors used in the sled 800 and the palmtop computer 100 are depicted as printed circuit board edge connector type structures. This should not be considered limiting of the present invention, however. In other embodiments, any suitable electrical connector mechanism can be used.
Minimal arbitration is required between the sled 800 and the palmtop computer 100 to use the same memory (e.g., SD memory module 600). The only arbitration required is that only one device can access the memory at any given time. Thus, the palmtop computer 100 is essentially off or quiescent with respect to the memory module 600 whenever the sled 800 is accessing the memory module 600. By way of example and not limitation, a simple handshake or semaphore exchange via serial communication channel between the sled 800 and the host palmtop computer 100 meets these requirements.
In the case of the MP3 player as described earlier, with the arrangement shown in
Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the embodiments described above can be implemented using other forms of storage than SD. Disc storage as well as other forms of storage including Read Only Memory (ROM) devices, Random Access Memory (RAM) devices, optical storage elements, magnetic storage elements, magneto-optical storage elements, flash memory, core memory and/or other memory modules such as SmartMedia cards, Memory Sticks and other equivalent storage technologies without departing from the present invention. Such alternative storage devices should be considered equivalents.
While the invention has been described in conjunction with specific embodiments, it is evident that many alternatives, modifications, permutations and variations will become apparent to those skilled in the art in light of the foregoing description. Accordingly, it is intended that the present invention embrace all such alternatives, modifications and variations as fall within the scope of the appended claims.