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In an attempt to avoid reading about election results I did some patent searches. It appears the first patents were filed in the mid 70s in Japan and China and then there was a long history of iterative changes up to the present day. The early devices were attached to both fallboard and piano and included coil springs, scissors, oil dampers, and every other combination of mechanical gizmos imaginable. In the late 90s the Japanese Industrial Standard (which I think is like our ISO standards) specified that the fallboard had to be removable without tools and that led to another round of inventions to satisfy that requirement. Here's a US patentheld by Kawai that has pictures and language that's more user friendly than most. A lot of the patents are mixed use, the same device concept that slow closes a fallboard also helps support those computer keyboard trays that hang under desks, or digital piano stands that move up and down, etc.
Someone who has access to asian patents and can read chinese and japanese might be able to infer from those early patents where the idea came from and if it even originated for the piano or if it was primarily used for something else and a piano company saw an application on their fallboard.
When manufacturers stopped using low mass wood and went to MDF, the fallboards became much heavier and a falling board could break a finger. The slow close is an engineered solution for liability based on accounting departments quest for cost lowering in manufacturing and according to the marketing people it goes from a bug to a feature.
Almost every new shiny object that is pointed out to you is to hide a cost savings elsewhere.
The original Boston Fallboard would never cause this problem, but they cost more to make than many pianos these days.
Steve, do you realize how many of your posts are very critical of piano makers? Your statement is not at all truthful - just imagined scenario from your mind.
Manufacturers usually add features to pianos because people ask for them, mainly the piano dealers. If one company adds a widget to their piano and consumers and dealers feel it has value, then all the other piano companies have to try to find a way to offer the same widget. It's competitiveness.
Grand pianos were first to have slo-falls because in so many designs the fallboard does close very easily. I have never had my fingers get caught in an accidentally closed fallboard, and I have always felt the slo-fall was not needed. But people want it, and some people feel it makes the piano more safe for little fingers. So we offer it in more and more piano models to remove an objection from the purchase process. Even segmented fallboard can be made with a damping mechanism!
So please, ease off and stop and think that there just might be positive and valid reasons why piano makers do what they do.
While case parts like lids have gotten heavier because of the use of MDF, it does not generally apply to fallboards. Many old fallboard include a counter weight to make them less likely to fall, however when they do, that added weight does increase the energy if one does slam down. Others have used a spring that helps hold the fallboard upright. When pulled past the spring, this design does not have any added weight to slam down, just the normal weight of the wood.
I was told before many years ago that Mr. Schimmel had invented or developed the first slow-close fallboard for a grand piano, but I have no specific knowledge.