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Friday, December 12, 2008

From 1960s Invention To 1980s Glory - Happy Birthday To The Computer Mouse!

I've been reading up on the history of the computer mouse. And, like the vast majority of us who first encountered such a thing in the 1980s, I am amazed that its evolution stretches back to 1963! The following clipping from provides fascinating information about the mouse's invention in the 1960s and development in the 70s and 80s:

1963: Bill English constructs first mouse prototype based on Douglas Engelbart’s sketches. This mouse uses two perpendicular wheels attached to analog potentiometers to track movement. The first mouse has only one button, but more are to come.

1968: Douglas Engelbart gives a 90-minute demonstration on December 9 at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco. Among other things, it showcases a refined SRI mouse with three buttons.

1972: Jack Hawley and Bill English, inspired by Engelbart’s work, design a digital mouse for Xerox PARC. This new mouse does not require an analog-to-digital converter but instead sends digital positional information directly to the computer. It also contains the first mouse ball, a metal ball bearing pressed against two rollers to track movement. A similar tracking design (albeit with a few drastic modifications), would be used in most mice for the next 27 years.

1981: Xerox produces a commercial mouse for its expensive 8010 Information System (aka the “Star”). It features two buttons and ball tracking. However, the entire Star system sells for over $20,000, dooming it and its mouse to relative obscurity.

Under contract, design firm Hovey-Kelley creates the first inexpensive, mass-producible, reliable mouse for Apple. Its key components include optical encoder wheels, a free-moving tracking ball, and a precision injection-molded inner frame. This design breakthrough sets the stage for cheap, reliable consumer mice that everyone can afford.

Richard Lyon invents the first optical mouse at Xerox PARC. This mouse requires a special dot-covered pad for tracking.

Click on red text to read the the full story - it's fascinating! Happy Birthday, Mr Mouse!

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