The Computer Mouse

When was the ball point pen invented? What about paper clips, or fax machines? Vic Hollefruend, our Retail Furniture Manager, is on the case, researching and compiling everything you would want to know about who, where, why, when, and how of office supplies. We are pleased to present Vic’s History of Office Stuff.

Command Line

May Comp Mouse picture PC_DOS_1.10_screenshotWho said laziness was bad? After all, isn’t laziness the “mother of invention”? Well, there was one fellow who got tired of typing all those DOS commands into his keyboard just to do a few things on his computer, so he had an idea, why not get a mouse to do it for him! The difference between entering DOS commands and using a mouse is like the difference between longhand and shorthand.

Today, the mouse is essential for inputting information into all modern computers, but not so long ago, computers didn’t use a mouse. They didn’t exist. Data was entered in “long hand”.

The Long Road to What We Know Today

The first mouse was invented in 1964 by Douglas Engelbart and consisted of nothing but a wooden shell, a circuit board and two metal wheels that came into contact with the surface it was being used on. According to Engelbart, “It was nicknamed the mouse because the tail came out the end.”

Eight years later, in 1972, a fellow named Bill English improved the design by coming up with the “Ball Mouse” more in keeping with what we have today. A ball replaced the wheels and was capable of movement in any direction. The ball contacted two rollers that would spin wheels that had graduations on them. This information could be turned into electrical pulses thus representing direction and speed.

It was another 8 years, in 1980, before the mouse would make another giant step for mankind. An optical mouse was developed, eliminating the ball which often became dirty from rolling round the desktop, thus negatively affecting its operation. The problem with these new-fangled optical gadgets, however, was that they were way too expensive. In 1998, things got better because there was a reduction in component costs and the optical mouse became a commercially viable alternative to the ball mouse. Soon it had infiltrated the computer gadget world and techies everywhere could hardly wait to show off their latest acquisition.

Today, the optical mouse has completely replaced the ball mouse being supplied as standard with all new computers.

Innovation, Mass Acceptance, and the Future

Douglas Engelbart changed the way computers worked from specialized machinery that only a trained scientist could use to a user-friendly tool that almost anyone can use. He invented or contributed to several interactive, user-friendly devices such as: the computer mouse, windows, computer video teleconferencing, hypermedia, groupware, email, the Internet and much more.

Logitech claims to have manufactured one billion mice, which “speaks volumes for the success of this pointing device and the dominance of the graphical user interface of which it is an integral part.”

However, it may not be too long before it is eclipsed by touch screens and voice activation programs. We may well live to see the mouse relegated to the museum of computer peripheral technology along with such things as punch cards, magnetic tape, CRT monitors and ancient versions of games like Pac Man.

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