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The Mouse | History Of The Mouse

Back in the 1960s, an animator / Bussiness tycoon bought a bunch of lands in Central Florida turning it into a sprawling resort that specializes in the wholesome family fun at an unreasonable price ($5000 for 7 Days).  Well, that's Not what we are talking about.

 We are talking about the mouse used in pc. The concept of using something other than those clunky arrow keys to move a cursor around predates the modern mouse by several decades. I am talking about 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 adopted by the Canadian Navy for there own tracking system, which uses a small 5pin bowling ball of all things for the ball because presumably, they couldn't get funding for a real one.

Anyhow these early implementations were rather crude with the ball placed on top of spinning metal discs that came into contact with wires. But, Because of the United Kingdom considered it a military secret, the idea of using a spinning or rolling object as a computer input device would not end up being realized in the civilian world. 

A few years later the first true Mouse was invented in 1964 at Standford University. Unlike modern mice which have total freedom of movement in one plane this early mouse only had two pizza cutter looking wheels 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 rodent's tail. They used it in conjunction with the NLS 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 this used an actual Graphical user interface complete with mouse support. Xerox was actually also developing ball mice while they worked on the Alto which would allow users to 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 is moving.

This mouse design revolutionized 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 popularised the device with the original Macintosh in 1984. While Microsoft selling the ball mice for use with the word processor. 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 then that original plastic brick form. The basic way they worked did not really change between the mid-80s and the mid-90s. We did get laptops with those little nub style pointing sticks and the first trackpads in the interim so users of external mice had to wait until 1966 for the first widespread mouse with a scroll wheel.  Even though the concept had actually been realized back in 1985 with the mighty mouse featuring a wheel on the side instead of the top that you control with your thumb.

In the late 90s  brought an even bigger sea change optical mice like the scroll wheel mouse the optical mouse was first developed long before it hits the market, in fact, the early versions that used specific tracking surfaces were actually invented back in 1980 when even ball mice were relatively unknown. But the Development of optical mice that could work with generic surfaces like mouse pads table tops did not happen until much later and it also took awhile for the component cost to come down to the point where they were cheap enough to mass production. When they finally did appear on the consumer market in 1999 optical mice were still expensive with some of Microsoft's early offering 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 other 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 photos of the surface that the mouse sat on every second and then sending them to a chip that would process those images to detect movement. 

Later in 2004, Logitech released a fricken laser mouse which would not only incinerate your enemies but also 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 battles. Other significant advances in Mouse technology began to be driven by gamers over the coming years Such as more powerful processor inside the mice themselves so that they could scan surfaces and process movement more frequently and allowing the user to adjust the sensitivity of the mouse on the fly. 


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