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British Man Says He Invented iPod in 1979

Hey, Steve Jobs, you didn't invent the iPod — I did.

So says Kane Kramer, a luckless Briton who claims he developed a portable digital music player way back in 1979.

Sketches posted on Kramer's Web site show a rectangular device, dubbed the PIXYS, with a large screen on the upper part of the face, a four-way directional pad below that and a headphone jack on the very top.

It looks more like Microsoft's Zune than an iPod, but the resemblance to either machine is striking.

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Accompanying the sketches is a PDF of an undated 9-page typewritten document proposing a data delivery system called IXI, whereby music stored on a centralized server would be transmitted over telephone lines to record shops.

At the shops, PIXYS owners would pay to have their devices refilled with new songs. Unfortunately, the PIXYS could hold only one four-minute song at a time, so customers would have to keep coming back an awful lot.

London's Daily Mail, always ready to wave the Union Jack in the face of boorish Americans, claims that Apple "admitted" Kane had "invented the iPod" when it had him testify about the PIXYS and IXI regarding an iTunes patent-infringement lawsuit from a third party.

The Daily Mail also said Kramer and his family had recently had to sell their home, and that he'd seen "not a penny" from the iPod's success.

But in fact Apple admitted nothing by having him testify on its behalf and paying him a consulting fee.

Demonstrating "prior art," or that an invention had been thought up before either the plaintiff or defendant got around to it, is the first line of defense in a patent-infringement case.

Apple, in fact, never claimed to have invented the portable MP3 player. There were plenty of other models, mostly made by small Asian companies, that had been on the market for years when the first iPod went on sale in late 2001.

And any chance Kramer would have of suing anyone is long gone — his British patent for the PIXYS and IXI expired in 1988.

• Click here for the Daily Mail's tale of woe.

• Click here for Kane Kramer's Web site.