Many of us use a computer mouse every day. However, we rarely ask ourselves what the history of the computer mouse is and how they have evolved to be what they are today. And while it may seem as if the computer mouse has always been around, there was a time when it didn’t exist, and people had to use other means to operate their computers.

While the mouse is a small device, it has kept evolving over the years to what we know it to be today. The computer mouse has and continues to play a very important role when it comes to navigating through content on a computer. While it may go unnoticed to some people, its importance cannot be denied despite its small size.

It helps in the seamless operation of a computer and is used to move the cursor displayed on the computer screen around to select whatever option is displayed. With the continuous developments, the computer mouse can be used by anyone intuitively without the need for any form of training.

Since the first computer mouse was created, it has undergone various technological advancements to date that include modifications, physical changes as well as feature enhancements. Most computers manufactured these days also come with ports that can be used for connecting the mouse and the wireless mouse is now very popular also. Today, we will take a look at the history of the computer mouse to what we know it to be today.

 

The Computer Mouse

Douglas Engelbart conceived the idea of the first computer mouse in the 1960s. He was at the time-based at the Augmentation Research Center (ARC) as the Director. This was at the Stanford Research Institute in California. Engelbart, a US inventor, didn’t just invent the mouse but other devices as well such as specialized machinery.

The computer mouse was a trivial piece of a project that was much larger that Engelbart had started working on in 1962. The project was directed at increasing human intellect. By the time of the computer mouse invention, Engelbart was researching other ways that people could use to boost their ability to solve difficult problems for several years.

Engelbart and his colleague, William (the creator of the mouse), had a vision where problem-solvers would use working stations that were computer-aided to boost their work. They needed the capacity to interrelate with the displayed information, all while using a device to control the cursor around the computer screen. At the time, there were a couple of devices that were being used or being contemplated, such as the joysticks, light pen, etc.

That, however, wasn’t satisfactory to the authors as they were looking for a device that would be efficient. In 1966, they approached NASA to test the device they had created and determined if it would work. With funding from NASA, the team created a set of tasks that were simple and gave them to some volunteers the tasks to do using various devices. The tasks were timed.

The computer, for instance, in one of the tasks was meant to create an object on any part of the screen with the cursor being elsewhere and they set a timer that would let them know how long each user took to move their cursor to a given object. During the test, it became evident that the computer mouse surpassed all other devices as other devices such as the light pen took too long.

 

First Prototype

The first computer mouse prototype was created in 1964 and was meant to be used with a graphical user interface (GUI) known as ‘Windows.’ The original computer mouse was designed with the cord at the front. However, they quickly changed it, and the cord was moved to the back. The first mouse was a very simple machine-like device that had two discs that were perpendicularly mounted at the bottom.

The mouse could be tilted or rocked so as to draw perfect vertical, horizontal, or straight lines. In 1967, Engelbart went ahead to apply for a patent. He received it in 1970 as an assignor for the Stanford Research Institute. He described in the application for the patent as an “X-Y position indicator for a display system.”

Engelbart would later reveal that the device had been nicknamed the mouse since the tail originally came from the end. And while he received the patent for the mouse, his GUI and windows models were not regarded as patentable. Still, Engelbart has more than 45+ patents under his belt. In 1967, Engelbart, together with William, published a paper that discussed the test which was referred to as the “knee-control” tool that seemed promising.

 

Creation of the First Computer Mouse

After Engelbart’s idea on how to improve the mouse, they created an illustrative device in his lab for operating the cursor. With this, he hired William to create the hardware design. At the time, William had been working at SRI but in a different lab. Jeff Rulifson would later join them and make a huge difference in the software quality included.

The first computer mouse and production workstation were made in 1967. This sample device had a casing that was made from plastic while the plate had a metal base plate.  In the 1968 public presentation that was held at the Augmentation Research Center, Engelbart introduced the mouse, video teleconferencing, his Windows version, hypertext, email, bootstrapping and other inventions.

Before the computer mouse was invented, various input devices were being used, such as the graphics tablets, light pens, and joysticks as an alternative to keyboards. The mouse was later redesigned by Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder, in 1984 for his Macintosh computers.

Engelbart would later on in 1997 receive the Lemelson-MIT award and prize money of $500,000, which stands out as the highest monetary award that has been given for any invention to date. Eventually, his name was introduced on the ‘National Inventors Hall of Fame’ in 1998. The computer mouse has turned out to be an extremely useful device that has made it easy to operate computers.

Today, most computer ‘mice’ that are being manufactured are a lot more user-friendly given the functions they come equipped with which has helped boost their usability. And while the mouse has undergone various changes since its invention, navigating the computer wouldn’t have been as easy as it is today if it wasn’t for Douglas Engelbart’s invention.