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History of the computer mouse: Origin and evolution

History of the computer mouse: Origin and evolution

That peripheral that you use every day, along with the QWERTY keyboard, was born in the 1940s although not as we know it and with little or nothing in common. It was an idea that sought to fulfill the same objective: a cursor controlled by a ball that was moving the information displayed on the screen. Little or nothing had to do with the little mouse that you now hold in your hands. But the system was advanced to what we know today and it was in the 60s when the mouse began to be known as it is today.

Douglas Engelbart and Bill English

The current mouse, as we know it today, came thanks to Douglas Engelbart, a World War II veteran who studied Electrical Engineering at Oregon State University and years later would earn a PhD at Berkeley. Douglas Engelbart and Bill English They worked together in the 1960s in a laboratory at Standford University. The first model was very similar to what we know today but it was a design made of wood called the X-Y position indicator for a display system.

The mouse was as we know it today but with a different design. Of course, the operation was very similar: two metal wheels that moved two axes: the vertical and the horizontal. And a button at the top with which we could go by clicking on the area of ​​the screen where we needed.

Engelbart Mouse

In the late sixties this model was presented to the public, in 1968 in San Francisco. Two years later, in 1970, Douglas Engelbart obtained the Computer Mouse patent as he had designed years before, although it would still take more than ten years to be used globally or incorporated into one.

Two years after Engelbart’s patent, his partner English created another mouse that did not prosper: a model with three buttons and that did not need an analog converter circuit. Created for Xerox Parc Labs and incorporated with the Xerox Star 8010 with a graphical interface that depended on the mouse to function although it was far from resembling an operating system or interface as we know it today and as we knew it thanks to the Apple Lisa of the apple company.

Apple Lisa

Eleven years after Engelbart’s patent, it hit the market the first computer with mouse focused on home use. Apple released Apple Lisa, a device that changed computing and made it look like what we have today. He walked away from the three Xerox Parc buttons and opted for a single button. Steve Jobs took the idea of ​​the Xerox Parc but improved it, making it more attractive, more useful, more practical. In addition, to make the most of it, they also developed a system with window manager, with drop-down menus, etc. Apple made the mouse popular thanks to a design based on that of Xerox and that Steve Jobs decided to market cheaply, for less than $ 30 or $ 40.

apple lisa mouse

Design changes and technology improvements

Although something similar to what we use today was born in the seventies, much has changed in technology, in design … At the beginning they incorporated a rubber ball that was responsible for moving both wheels but soon opted for optical mice that abandoned the ball . The ball rotated the wheels with electrical contacts and these closed the circuit when moving. These wheels were soon replaced. The problem with optical mice is that they needed a special reticle. So Microsoft released the first multi-surface optical mouse using LEDs. A mouse that arrived in the late 90’s and was already practically identical to what we use today to work.

Another of the most common changes and without which we no longer know how to live is the scroll wheel that mice incorporate. You don’t have to be overly old to remember that mice originally had only two buttons. Right click and left click. But at the end of the nineties a wheel began to be used that would make it easier for us to scroll through the sheets, through the documents, etc. The first mouse to launch with scroll was the ProAgio It came for about $ 50 but was a sales failure. Still, probably the first one you remember is the Microsoft IntelliMouse It was launched in 1996 and did achieve the expected sales success. So much so that for more than twenty years, Microsoft continued to improve the model.

Currently not only do they have two buttons and a scroll wheel but mice can have all kinds of side buttons or even be multi-touch like the Apple Magic Mouse: there are no buttons and there is an area in which the entire mouse works as a single button.

Intellimouse mouse


As it may be obvious, its name is due to the similarity with the animal: a small oval device with a tail that would be the cable. But not all have a cable and it is becoming more common to use them wireless, which allow us more independence. We could not always enjoy without cables: the first wireless time was born in the early nineties and Logitech was the company in charge of launching it. I used radiofrequency and his name was Mouseman Cordless. It was not like today, it works with radio frequency and could be controlled from anywhere, but it was quite expensive compared to cable.

Also change the connector: the first mice, you will remember, did not go with Usb connector instead, there was a specific port for said peripheral. USB came later, in the mid-1990s, and it was Apple, again, that incorporated a round mouse with a USB port into its iMac G3 (a computer that marked a revolution in design). Thanks to the practicality of this connector, its use was standardized.

imac mouse

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