How the mouse made its way into our homes

Mint ST - - LEFT BRAIN - [email protected]

The com­puter mouse has un­der­gone mul­ti­ple it­er­a­tions since its first demo 50 years ago

The com­puter mouse you use to­day had hum­ble be­gin­nings back in the 1960s. Amer­i­can com­puter en­gi­neers Dou­glas En­gel­bart and Wil­liam “Bill” English were work­ing on some­thing big­ger when the idea of a “com­puter-aided dis­play control” was real­ized.

In 1962, En­gel­bart, work­ing with the Stan­ford Re­search In­sti­tute (SRI), pub­lished a re­port ti­tled “Aug­ment­ing Hu­man In­tel­lect: A Con­cep­tual Frame­work”. This frame­work doc­u­ment led to the cre­ation of the Aug­men­ta­tion Re­search Cen­ter which worked on a rev­o­lu­tion­ary com­puter col­lab­o­ra­tion sys­tem called NLS or the “on-line Sys­tem”.

Two years later, in 1964, English, who was the chief engi­neer at SRI, cre­ated the first pro­to­type of the mouse. It was a carved wooden cas­ing that housed a sin­gle wheel or a pair of wheels that was used to “trans­late” the mo­tion of the mouse into cur­sor move­ment on the screen. There was space for only one but­ton. Ac­cord­ing to the SRI web­site, “En­gel­bart was the in­ven­tor on the ba­sic patent for what was then called the X-Y Po­si­tion In­di­ca­tor for a Dis­play Sys­tem.”

On 9 De­cem­ber 1968, En­gel­bart pre­sented a 90-minute pub­lic demon­stra­tion—dubbed the Mother of All Demos— at the Fall Joint Com­puter Con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco where he in­tro­duced a


In­vented by Bri­tish engi­neer and in­ven­tor Kenyon Taylor, us­ing a fivepin bowl­ing ball, the trackball was a pre­cur­sor to the com­puter mouse.

string of com­puter hard­ware and soft­ware el­e­ments, in­clud­ing the mouse. The other el­e­ments in­cluded hy­per­text link­ing, text edit­ing in real time and shared screen tele­con­fer­enc­ing, among other things. These in­no­va­tions were key in shap­ing per­sonal com­put­ing as we know it to­day.


The com­puter mouse was demon­strated, among other in­no­va­tions, for the first time at a land­mark com­puter demon­stra­tion of the on­line sys­tem, known as NLS, in San Fran­cisco

“His phi­los­o­phy was based on the idea that com­put­ers could be more than big num­ber-crunch­ing ma­chines for do­ing more and more com­pli­cated cal­cu­la­tions; they could be in­ter­ac­tive and net­worked to raise our col­lec­tive hu­man in­tel­li­gence, help­ing peo­ple col­lab­o­rate and solve the world’s big­gest problems,” says

Ana­toliy Polyanker, se­nior di­rec­tor, C&P port­fo­lio/brand C&P-MX mar­ket­ing, Log­itech, over email. “Some of his vi­sion has al­ready come true, but a large part of his rev­o­lu­tion is still to be real­ized,” he adds. En­gel­bart had filed a patent in 1967 and it was is­sued to him in 1970.

Since then, the mouse has evolved tremen­dously.

Track­ing balls and op­ti­cal tech­nol­ogy have given way to laser­guided pre­ci­sion. The cord is al­most nonex­is­tent now, with wire­less or Blue­tooth mice tak­ing their place.

To­day, work­ing pro­fes­sion­als, stu­dents and gamers around the world spend hours on their com­put­ers and the


Log­itech un­veiled the world’s first laser mouse, the MX 1000. It used laser il­lu­mi­na­tion and track­ing to im­prove re­spon­sive­ness and ac­cu­racy

mouse plays an im­por­tant role in this. The fo­cus now is on de­sign­ing a mouse that elim­i­nates fore­arm strain and wrist pres­sure. “We have come a long way from the ini­tial pro­to­type of the mouse but the core idea re­mains un­changed... Lately the main fo­cus is on er­gonomics,” adds Polyanker.

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