History of Mouse. - GoTechTalk

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Thursday, June 7, 2018

History of Mouse.


History of Mouse.

Today's blog is about the computer mouse and at first you might not think there's much history to discuss because they didn't start becoming widespread on personal computers until the mid to late 80s but it turns out that the concept of using something other than those clunky arrow keys to move a cursor around predates the modern mouse by several decades, I'm talking about the trackball which sprang into existence all the way back in 1946 as part of a British Navy project to help track aircraft on radar this concept was later adapted by the Canadian Navy for their own tracking system which used a small 5 pin bowling ball of all things for the ball because presumably they couldn't get funding for a real one, any who these early implementations were rather crude with the ball placed on top of spinning metal discs that came into contact with wires but because the UK considered it a  military secret the idea of using a spinning or rolling object as a computer input device wouldn't end up being realized in the civilian world until years later when the first true Mouse was invented in 1964 at Stanford University.

Now unlike modern mice which have total freedom of movement in one plane this early Mouse only had two, that allowed movement up and down or side to side but not at the same time the inventors decided to call their creation a mouse because the wire sticking out of the end looked like a rodents tail and they used it in conjunction with the NL s a DARPA funded computer system that included clickable hyperlinks, remember this was nearly 30 years before the internet started becoming widespread soon after that the mouse was picked up by Xerox who developed a personal computer called the alto in 1973 which used an actual graphical user interface complete with mouse support and Xerox was actually also developing ball mice while they worked on the alto which would allow users to move the mouse in any direction they pleased these worked by keeping the ball in contact with axles attached to wheels with holes in them as the mouse moved the axles would turn the wheels causing beams of light to repeatedly break into pulses which hit sensors that registered which way the mouse was moving, this design revolutionised the way we interact with our computers, but Xerox was and still is a company that's focused on producing products for business rather than home use meaning that the mouse wasn't very well known until Apple came along made a deal with Xerox to give them partial ownership of Apple in return for the use of Xeroxes technology and then popularized the device with the original Macintosh in 1984, even though Xerox had already switched to ball mice and Microsoft was already selling them for use with word processors, no doubt Apple's clever marketing played a role in pushing a pre-existing technology into the mainstream consciousness.

Aside from changes in economic switch gave mice a shape more suited to the hand than that original plastic brick form the basic way that they worked didn't really change between the mid 80s and the mid 90s though we did get laptops with those little nub style pointing sticks and the first track pads in the interim so users of external mice had to wait until 1966 for the first widespread mouse with a scroll wheel, even though that concept had actually been realized back in 1985 with the Mighty Mouse featuring a wheel on the side instead of the top that you controlled with your thumb.

Then the late 90s also brought an even bigger sea change optical mice like the scroll wheel Mouse, the optical mouse was first developed long before it hit the market in fact early versions that used specific tracking surfaces were actually invented back in 1980 when even ball mice were relatively unknown but development of optical mice that could work with generic surfaces like mouse pads, table tops or your pants didn't happen until much later and it also took awhile for component costs to come down to the point where they were cheap enough to mass-produce, when they finally did appear on the consumer market in 1999 optical mice were still expensive with some of Microsoft's early offerings retailing for around 70 US dollars in fact the first ever gaming mouse The Razer Boomslang also launched in 1999 but that one still used a mechanical ball.

The upsides to optical mice included not only more accurate tracking  than with a ball mouse but also better reliability, the optical sensors which worked by taking many photos of the surface that the mouse sat on very second and then sending them to a chip that would process those images to detect movement were much more resistant to the dirt and gunk that all too often fouled up mouse balls and degraded performance.

Later in 2004 Logitech released a laser mouse which would sport even more accurate tracking thanks to the use of a laser beam which could see surfaces under the mouse with more precision than standard LEDs, this was a boon for more serious PC gamers that wanted the more granular tracking during the heat of battle and other significant advances in Mouse technology began to be driven by gamers over the coming years such as more powerful processors inside the mice themselves so they could scan surfaces and process movement more frequently and allowing users to adjust the sensitivity of the mouse on the fly for situations that require precise aiming like we've seen with the ever-popular sniper button.


Now there have been other improvements too mice in recent years, but they mostly come in the form of adding more general technologies to mice to make them more versatile like replacing ps2 with USB, implementing scroll wheels that can switch between smooth or clicky operation adding wireless data and even charging support peppering them with programmable macro buttons adding the ability to track on glass by scanning for small scratches and dust particles and of course covering them with the so important RGB lighting that you know that you crave.

So today then it's been a long time since Doug Engelbart and Bill English gave us their original wooden box on wheels but the simplicity and intuitiveness of the mouse has ensured its continuation as an extremely important input device even in the age of touch screens and voice control, maybe it'll finally be usurped by the development of something like a neural interface but by that time we'll probably be dealing with a whole new set of problems.

Alright, guys, that's the end of the blog, thanks for reading the whole way through if you enjoyed this blog please share it with someone who would be interested and leave a comment, Thanks for reading guys.

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