A visual history of the computer mouse

mouse

As we all go about our day to day activities, it’s easy to get lost in technology and take for granted things that have slowly evolved over long periods of time. Take for instance the mouse on your desk. Whether it’s a standard 2-button mouse with a scroll wheel or a magic mouse with no buttons at all, we’re all a bit spoiled when you think about it.

Dvice recently published a visual history of the computer mouse, which is quite interesting. The first pointing device that relied on hand motions to move a cursor was created by the Royal Canadian Navy in 1952. This trackball device, which is predates all other mechanical pointing devices, was crafted using a 5-pin bowling ball and an array of mechanical encoders that tracked the ball’s movement.

As time went on, other mouse-type devices came and went, but it was 30 years ago yesterday that Xerox unveiled the world’s first optical mouse at its PARC facility. The mouse used LEDs and optical sensors along with specialized mouse pads to track the user’s movements. The tech is primitive compared to today’s offerings, but it’s a nice reminder of the humble beginnings something you use every single day.

Be sure to swing by the Dvice site and take a look at how the mouse has evolved over the years – it’s a great way to kill a few minutes.

Comments

  1. Stryker says:

    I can’t believe you didn’t mention gyro mice. :(

  2. YT2095 says:

    as tweeted, behind that PCB at the front, that looks Sooooo… like a Valve (vacuum tube) Shield, surely that wasn`t the case?
    Please tell me it`s an old condensor, and that nobody ever got killed using one after spilling coffee! :D

  3. PocketBrain says:

    I think that would be called a trackball. The mouse was just an upside-down trackball. Nothing like defending your cities with the original size and weight.

  4. Hitek146 says:

    Interesting article. Somewhere I have a prototype miniature trackball that I got when I worked at TI that was machined out of a solid piece of aluminum. You could actually use it as a weapon! :)

  5. Sariel says:

    @hitek146
    proof enough that they don’t make ‘em like they used to. throw a wireless mouse across the room in your cs:s fury, see how long it lasts. lol

  6. Hirudinea says:

    You want to talk about a weapon, try whipping a 5 pin ball at someone!

  7. The thing with Xerox is, well, if they had invented sushi they would try to market it as “RAW DEAD FISH!” to the masses.

    Go Xerox, and you may be given permission to save the product of your labor on the most expensive, obscure, backwater, obfuscated format and media possible.

  8. >behind that PCB at the front, that looks Sooooo… like a Valve (vacuum tube) Shield, surely that wasn`t the case?

    Sorry, looks nothing vacuum tube related to me.

    I’m grooving on what looks like a compressed air inlet out front. It looks like the bowling ball rides on an air bearing. The whole assembly looks like it mounts to the underside of a desk, and you need to drill a hole in the desk to let you manipulate the trackball.

    Oh, and there are 4 encoder wheels, even though you really only need 2. Redundancy!

  9. wulfman says:

    Yes that is indeed a vacuum tube. That is a shield that went over the tube to curtail X-Rays.

    Gotta love that 50’s tech

  10. Jake H says:

    Re: four encoders. I have a feeling they can only measure in one direction, and the ball shifts slightly so it is only in contact with non-opposing wheels. With 50s tech I imagine it would be easier to do it mechanically this way than electronically with quadrature…

  11. Jake H says:

    And there’s no way that’s *not* a vacuum tube/valve! I like the idea of the air cushion a lot. I bet it’s true!

  12. Daid says:

    I’m not the only one thinking “a bowling ball mounted in a table to function as a huge trackball would be a great hack!”

  13. error404 says:

    Had no idea this was a Canadian invention. Neat. That setup reminds me a lot of those bowling/golf video consoles at bars/pool halls/bowling alleys. Large, heavy trackball mounted in the console just poking out for manipulation.

    Also this history is ridiculous. No mention of the first modern optical mouse (but its successor, the laser mouse gets a call-out)? No mention of the first scroll mouse?

  14. 1981 says:

    Telefunken had developed a Mouse predecessor in early 1960’s, called “Rollkugel”

    German Article with Pictures:

    http://www.heise.de/ct/meldung/Auf-den-Spuren-der-deutschen-Computermaus-216255.html

  15. jeff-o says:

    Now that’s what I call a trackball! 50 points to the first person who makes a modern version of this!

  16. mikelist says:

    never understood why trackballs haven’t been more popular, they make so much more sense. less space taken up on the desk, ergonomically easier.

  17. D_ says:

    @YT2095; circa 1953, I have no doubt it was a vacuum tube. Why not? A tube must had had been many times more time robust than any transistor available at the time. I Do want a bowling ball sized track ball that use tubular devices. failing that a billet aluminum case for my optical mouse.

  18. Per Jensen says:

    The four optical sensors are actually there for a reason, but not redundancy. As the trackball in the Apple Mightly Mouse and i some BlackBerry’s – the sensing mechanism is done with small rotating magnets and hall-sensors, thus no way to differ from rolling one way or the other, so the mechanism only rolls the one you are pushing against a small fraction. http://www.catsystems.in/productimages/98.jpg

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 94,628 other followers