First, there was a feather pen and an inkwell. Then came the typewriter. Now wordsmiths use a keyboard and mouse. But where did the mouse come from, and what will it look like in the future?
Join us as we scroll the history of the humble computer mouse.
1952 – First Trackball
The first device that relied upon hand motions to move a cursor was invented by the Royal Canadian Navy in 1952. Its main component was a five-pin bowling ball mounted in some hardware. It tracked which way the ball turned and then translated that information into on-screen motions. Because the project was a military secret (shhh!), the design was never patented.
1963 – First Mouse
The device that we consider the ancestor of the modern mouse was developed in 1963 by Douglas Engelbart. It used two wheels to provide movement data in two axes and just like a modern mouse, it was handheld.
1968 – First Trackball Mouse
In 1968, the company Telefunken released the Rollkugel (German for “rolling ball”). It had a trackball underneath, along with a single button, and it was used for drawing vector graphics.
Around 1980 – First Optical Mouse
Mice with mechanical moving parts were found to be somewhat unreliable, and by the late 1970s, Xerox had come up with an improvement to the now common trackball with a mouse. Xerox called its product the “Alto,” and it used LEDs and optical sensors. It required a special mouse pad with a grid printed on it.
1981 – First Commercial Mouse
In 1981, Xerox adapted the Alto mouse into a controller for its graphical user interface called “Star.” This was the first commercially marketed mouse.
1983 – First Consumer Mouse
Apple decided to go with trackball technology in a mouse for its $10,000 Apple Lisa, released in 1983. This mouse had just a single button, along with a huge, heavy metal trackball.
1984 – First Wireless Mouse
While Logitech had a wireless mouse that operated on infrared signals back in 1984, its 1991 Cordless MouseMan was the first to communicate with radio signals. This allowed the mouse to function outside the receiver’s line of sight.
2004 – First Laser Mouse
Logitech introduced the first consumer-marketed laser mouse, the MX1000, in 2004. Until then, optical mice relied on LEDs for surface illumination and tracking. Using a laser allowed mice to be much more responsive and resilient on various surfaces.
2007 – First Gyroscopic Mouse
Air mice do not need two-dimensional surfaces to operate. Thanks to some accelerometers, you can just wave the mice around in midair. Pictured is the Logitech MX Air.
2010 – First 3-D Mouse
A 3-D world needs a 3-D mouse. This particular example comes from Axsotic and incorporates six degrees of freedom. In addition to moving the ball laterally in three axes, you can spin it around in three axes, too.
2010 – First Hands-Free Mouse
The mouse is all about converting physical gestures into movements on a computer screen, but we’re getting away from needing a mouse to do that. Microsoft’s Kinect system is just the first to take a stab at this, and pretty soon we’ll have gesture capture systems built into our laptops and even our cell phones.
Next – First Commercial Brain-Controlled Interface
Brain control is the future of the mouse. While the current generation of mind-reading headsets isn’t quite capable of mouse control, at the rate that technology is advancing, can it be far off?