The computer mouse : undeniably the cutest of the gadget world. The small, clickable tool is the reason we can browse social networks, search Google, play games and send email. And more importantly, where would we all be without the right-click and the cursor?
But this powerful computer piece comes from humble beginnings and had a long road to the sleek, sometimes quirky, often high-tech and efficient tool we now use on a daily basis.
The mouse’s key feature is its trackball. The first known trackball can be traced to the Canadian Navy in 1952. This “mouse” was actually a bowling ball attached to a complicated hardware system that could sense the motion of the ball and imitate the movement on a screen. But the world would never have access to the heavy-duty mouse — since it was a secret military creation the tech was never patented or produced.
Eleven years after the military design, Douglas Engelbart became the father of the modern mouse. He developed a gadget made with a wooden base using two wheels to roll back and forth. It was the first mouse that could fit into a user’s hand.
The mouse — now a circular shape — next surfaced in Germany, complete with a trackball that helped draw vector graphs.
Xerox was next to take a swing at honing the clicker, resulting in the “Alto.” The mouse used LEDs and optical sensors, plus a special grid-printed mousepad for it to function. Then, in 1981, Xerox refined its gadgetry. The mouse worked with Xerox’s Star interface, and was the first mouse that the public could purchase for use — but it would run you $75,000 for the full system.
In 1983, Apple entered the game. Its mouse brought back the trackball technology and used a single, horizontal button. The mouse accompanied Apple’s Lisa computer, costing $10,000 at the time, and the rectangular shape was not the most comfortable, ergonomically speaking.
The popular curved and contoured mouse didn’t arrive on the scene until 1991, when Logitech launched the first wireless mouse. Called the “Cordless MouseMan,” it was the first to use radio signals and could move free of the receiver’s line of sight.
Logitech stepped up its game again in 2004, manufacturing a laser mouse, ditching the popular infrared LED version. This also meant the end to the beloved mousepad, since the MX1000 worked effortlessly on all surfaces.
The scroll wheel made it possible for users to race through documents or down webpages and was a Microsoft creation in 1996, arriving with the IntelliMouse Explorer. And in 1998, Apple popularized the USB, making mice even more universal, since most computers had at least one USB port.
An ever-evolving computer accessory, it’s the future of the mouse that shows real innovation. For example, the Logitech MX Air will work in midair, there are 3D mice that let you feel objects on the screen and mice that use brain waves to let you control on screen activities.
But really, who could ask for something better than this:
(Image courtesy of Fugly.com )
Though it has a colorful history, the mouse may soon be obsolete, if devices like Leap Motion go mainstream.