The Mouse that Changed It All

We all love mice, don’t we? Oh those furry little…timeout, I’m not referring to the rodent! What I’m here to inform you about is an invention that each and every single one of use and take for granted. That’s right — the computer mouse! You used it to click this blog didn’t you?

That’s not a mouse! Source: GIPHY

In 1964, Douglas Engelbart was working at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) when he created the first computer mouse. The first prototype was referred to as the “ X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System” — a lengthy, cumbersome name to say the least. What you see in the picture below is a small, hollowed wooden box with a module underneath connected to two wheels, and a red button on top to click. The shape has evolved over the last 50 years, but it remains recognizable today from Version 1.0.

The First Mouse. Source: Today I Found Out

Engelbart later changed the name to “Computer Mouse”, as his invention does resemble the rodent with a tail hanging behind it. As brilliant as the mouse was, it took another 9 years to make it commercially available for the consumers to use. Xerox was the first to sell the computer mouse with their Xerox Alto computer system, but the company never truly marketed the product to its full potential. At first, they stuck to the two-wheel design, but later moved on to what some of you may have used, the rolling ball mouse.

Xerox Three-button Mouse with Rolling Ball. Source: ComputerHistory.org

The mouse only changed the landscape of computing once Apple and Steve Jobs came into the picture. In 1979, Xerox allowed Steve Jobs, the notorious CEO of Apple tour their facilities. When Jobs fumbled upon the mouse during his tour, he immediately saw the potential in the product that Xerox executives had yet to realize, and dispatched his own team to create a more cheaper, more reliable, and easier to use version for their Apple Macintosh line. In 1984, the mouse was sold with every Apple personal computer, and it became an absolute hit overnight, as on-screen navigation was greatly improved.

Apple One-button mouse with rolling ball. Source: LowEndMac

Challenge:

  • Open up a new tab without using a mouse (or touchpad, touchscreen)
  • Access the search-bar and type in YouTube without using a mouse (or touchpad, touchscreen)
  • Search for a video of your choice without using a mouse (or touchpad, touchscreen)
  • Can you select the video you want to watch without using either three aids? → I got stuck on this step. Wherever you get stuck, you will realize how revolutionary the computer mouse has been in aiding the worldwide adoption of personal computers.

Remember Douglas Engelbart? In 1997, he won the most lucrative award for American inventors, the Lemelson-MIT Prize with a cash reward of $500,000. In 2000, President Bill Clinton presented Engelbart with the National Medal of Technology “for creating the foundations of personal computing.”

Today, you can buy a computer mouse for a buck or two at your nearest dollar store, or spend hundreds of dollars on a crazy mouse optimized for the most hardcore of gamers, just like this one:

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