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The best laid plans of mice and men: the computer mouse in the history of computing

Atkinson, Paul (2007) The best laid plans of mice and men: the computer mouse in the history of computing. Design Issues, 23 (3). pp. 46-61. ISSN 0747-9360

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    Abstract

    It could be argued that the history of the computer mouse has already been written. It is true that a number of computer magazine articles and sections of books on computer history, along with online archives and Web encyclopedia entries, have described in some detail how the mouse we know today came into existence. However, these writings by and large have described the design, development, and production of the mouse without really assessing the extent to which it has affected our relationship with computing technology.
    The history of the mouse raises a number of interesting questions:
    Why did it take so long to become a mass-produced item? How did people react to the introduction of the mouse? What did the mouse represent, and what does it represent today? How and why did it become the single most accepted interface technology?...

    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: © 2007 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Subjects: T Technology > T Technology (General)
    Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
    Schools: School of Art, Design and Architecture
    References:

    1 Interview with Doug Engelbart at the
    headquarters of Logitech Inc., Fremont,
    California, April 10, 2006.
    2 Ibid. Engelbart’s experience with radar
    in WWII led him to believe that the light
    pen was the potential device to enable
    interaction with a computer network. “I
    knew implicitly, and with surety, that if a
    computer could punch cards, that it could
    also electronically display text and draw
    on a CRT. And if radar attached to a CRT
    could respond to operators, then people
    could also interact with a computer that
    had a CRT. I could see electronically that,
    if other people were connected to the
    same computer complex, we could be
    collaborating.” (Logitech Inc., Douglas
    C. Engelbart: A Profile of His Work and
    Vision: Past, Present and Future, Oct.
    2005 [unpublished report]).
    3 Ibid.4 Ibid.
    5 Logitech Inc., The Computer Mouse:
    Adapting Computers to Human Needs:
    The Evolution of Computer Pointing
    Devices, Aug. 1993 (unpublished report).
    6 Interview with Doug Engelbart, April 10,
    2006.
    7 D. Engelbart, quoted in B. Moggridge,
    Designing Interactions (Cambridge, MA:
    MIT Press, 2006), 15.
    8 Engelbart’s paper “Augmenting
    the Human Intellect: A Conceptual
    Framework” was published in 1962. In
    this, Engelbart refers to a “pointer” that
    would allow the knowledge worker to
    navigate through items on the screen.
    9 It was called “NLS” rather than “OLS,”
    because that already was used to
    indicate an “Off Line System.” When
    the NLS was taken into the commercial
    world, it was renamed “Augment.”
    10 In a way similar to a stenographer
    using a stenotype, a five-key chordset
    device can recreate any alpha-numerical
    character by different combinations of
    the five keys. According to Wikipedia,
    “Researchers at IBM investigated chord
    keyboards for both typewriters and
    computer data entry as early as 1959”
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chord_
    keyset, accessed Sept. 20, 2006).
    11 Logitech Inc., Douglas C. Engelbart: A
    Profile of His Work and Vision: Past,
    Present and Future.
    12 Ibid.13 Interview with Stuart Card at Palo Alto
    Research Center, Palo Alto, California,
    April 10, 2006.
    14 Larry Tesler, cited in M. Hiltzik, Dealers of
    Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of
    the Computer Age (Orion Business Books,
    2000), 203, recalls trying to convince
    Xerox colleagues that the Engelbart
    system was too complicated, and that it
    was not realistic to expect people to train15 M. Hiltzik, Dealers of Lightning: Xerox
    PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age
    (Orion Business Books, 2000), 166.
    16 Ibid., 210.
    17 Ibid., 209.
    18 Ibid., 366.19 A detailed description of this work can be
    seen in the form of primary documentation
    in the online archive from Stanford
    University, “Making the Macintosh,
    Technology and Culture in Silicon
    Valley” (http://library.stanford.edu/mac/,
    accessed Aug. 1, 2006).
    20 A. S. Pang, “The Making of the Mouse”
    in American Heritage of Invention and
    Technology 17:3 (Winter 2002), 49.
    21 Rickson Sun, interview with Dennis
    Boyle, Jim Yurchenco, and Rickson Sun at
    the offices of IDEO, Palo Alto, California,
    April 7, 2006.
    22 Jim Yurchenco, Ibid.23 The first Logitech mouse was based
    on the hemispherical “Depraz” mouse
    developed by Professor Jean-Daniel
    Nicoud at LAMI (LAboratoire de Micro-
    Informatique) in Switzerland, but was
    technically complicated as well as ergonomically
    flawed. A more recent example
    of a circular form in mouse design (and
    one as ergonomically bad as the Depraz
    mouse) was the original mouse for the
    Apple iMac, designed by Jonathan Ive in
    1998. ABC News commented “The twotone
    design looks nice, but Apple has
    reportedly received dozens of complaints
    about the discomfort of using it...A quick
    search of newsgroup postings turned up
    over 500 posts dealing with the mouse,
    most complaining about its poor design”
    (ABC News, “The Rodent Revolution”
    at: www.crews.org/curriculum/ex/
    compsci/7thgrade/intel/mouse-revol.htm,
    accessed Sept. 21, 2006).
    24 Interview with Paul Bradley at the offices
    of IDEO, Palo Alto, California, April 7,
    2006.
    25 Ibid.
    26 Paul Bradley, quoted in Bill Moggridge,
    Designing Interactions (Cambridge, MA:
    MIT Press, 2006), 45.
    27 Microsoft mice always had two buttons,
    while Apple went for the simplicity of
    one button. The decision to go with one
    button was a lengthy one since it meant
    designing the operating system software
    differently. Eventually, according to Jim
    Yurchenco, the decision to go with one
    button was made so that the instruction
    manual would be easier to write.28 Interview with Paul Bradley at the offices
    of IDEO, Palo Alto, California, April 7,
    2006.
    29 The story of the Apple Macintosh
    advertisement is told in many places.
    One of the best descriptions appears in
    Steven Levy’s Insanely Great: The Life
    and Times of Macintosh, the Computer
    that Changed Everything (Penguin Books,
    1994), 169–171. The advertisement
    can be viewed at: www.youtube.com/
    watch?v=OYecfV3ubP8 (accessed Sept.
    28, 2006).
    30 Apple Computer Inc., Macintosh Manual
    (1984), 13.
    31 G. McComb, Macintosh User’s Guide
    (Howard Sams & Co., 1984), 32–33.
    32 J. Martin, et al., A Breakthrough in
    Making Computers Friendly—The
    Macintosh Computer (Prentice Hall Inc.,
    1985), 10–12.33 Anon, “Mice for Mainstream
    Applications” in PC Magazine (Aug.
    1987).
    34 T. Stanton, “From Our Maus to Baumaus:
    Logitech vs. Microsoft” in PC Magazine
    (Feb. 16, 1988): 202. This, too, was in a
    section called “Alternate Input Devices,”
    indicating that the mouse was in no way
    the preferred primary input method at
    this point.
    35 Cited in Logitech Inc., The Computer
    Mouse: Adapting Computers to Human
    Needs: The Evolution of Computer
    Pointing Devices, Aug.1993 (unpublished
    report).
    for six months to become literate with it.

    Depositing User: Sara Taylor
    Date Deposited: 05 Jul 2007
    Last Modified: 28 Jul 2010 19:20
    URI: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/276

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