COMMENTARY: Happy Birthday, mouse!

The computer mouse is 40 years old – sort of, depending on whether you count the prototype or the first working model (there’s a picture of it at the end of this post). In our book Take Control: The Mac OS X Lexicon, Andy Baird and I mistakenly said:

 “Because the mouse and the graphical user interface were conceived and incubated at Xerox PARC…”. As Miles from MacinTek (I’d use his full name, but not without his permission, which I didn’t ask for) pointed out to our publisher, the mouse was, in fact, conceived at the Stanford Research Institute. (I think it’s still fair to say it was incubated at Xerox PARC. Hmm… I suppose its birth was at Apple.)

Here are a few places to get some interesting tidbits about the mouse development:




2 Responses to COMMENTARY: Happy Birthday, mouse!

  1. justme says:

    At least it has only one button. Or is that a bad thing?

  2. Andy Baird says:

    I’ve always wondered about those discs. To push the Engelbart mouse shown here straight ahead, you have to drag the disc that’s visible in the photo sideways, and vice versa to go right or left. You’re always scraping one of the two discs sideways, which must have resulted in a great deal of friction.

    In fact, in an Engelbart interview I just dug up (, he says this: “You could tilt or rock the mouse to draw perfectly straight horizontal or vertical lines.” I suspect that means tilting or rocking so that only one wheel was in contact with the desk at a time… a tacit admission that it didn’t work well any other way. The ball-and-roller design used in the first Xerox PARC and Apple mice was a big step forward, because it allowed free movement in any direction with no need to “lift a wheel.”

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