UK man did NOT invent the iPod.

From Slashdot, I came across this article, stating:

Apple has admitted that a British man played a part in developing the iconic and extremely profitable iPod, although he has so far received no money for his invention.

Let’s be quite clear: this is an absurd claim.  Why? Well, from the same article:

In 1979 Kane Kramer from Hertfordshire filed a patent for a digital music player that stored just three and a half minutes of music to a solid state chip – limiting media options to just one short song.

And what is the iPod?  Well, until recently, the iPod was a hard-drive based product.  And it could contain a little more than three and half minutes of music.  And this guys patent expired. 20 years ago. Furthermore, the iPod was successful, not because it was some unique new technology, but because it had a working – useful – interface.

Nonetheless, a company was set up by Kramer to bring the IXI to a commercial release, but it slipped into the public domain in 1988 when the firm failed to raise the £60,000 needed to renew international patents.

Okay, so the patent failed to be renewed (not unsurprisingly; who’s going to pay good money to carry around one song in an age when portable cassette players were inexpensive), but the article carries on to state:
Because of this patent lapse, Kramer has received no money from the sale of any of the 163 million iPods Apple has so far sold.
And neither did he receive money from any other MP3 player manufacturer.  Shouldn’t that minor fact have clued this clueless journalist into something: Apple are not the only company manufacturing digital audio products – either hard-drive or solid-state based.  But the fact that this claim is patently (ahem) absurd, nothing stopped it from making it into Wikipedia (correct as of 09/09/08):
In order to defeat a lawsuit from patent holding company, Apple finally admitted in September 2008 that the true inventor of the device was not in fact employed by the company; it was Kane Kramer who patented the idea of a “plastic music box” in 1979, which he called the IX.
The reference for the above quote, incidentally, is CNet, which makes this extraordinary claim:
The iPod was, apparently, invented not by some genius at Apple (not even a British one) but by a British furniture salesman who left high school at 15 and still has not been paid a dime for his brilliance.

And who does CNet reference in order to justify this claim?  The Daily Mail. Chosing the “big bad American company screws over hard working Brit” angle:

A staggering 163million iPods have been sold since the device was launched by Apple in 2001.

But Mr Kramer, in contrast, last year had to close his struggling furniture design business and move with his wife Lorraine and children, Jodi, nine, Luis, 14, and Lauren, 16, into rented accommodation.

And the proof they provide that Apple should pay this guy for expired patents that don’t bear any resemblence to the iPod?  Well, have a look at the sketch yourself.  This really is Flat Earth News: aka. Making stuff up.

Kramer did not invent the iPod.  Kramer is not entitled to a penny of the sales of the iPod, the Zune, the Walkman MP3, or any other digital audio device.  And the news people – once again – are making stuff up.


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