Mouse celebrates 40th anniversary in 2008

April 03 [Thu], 2014, 9:38
This year, the computer mouse turns 40. Some say that it will not be around for much longer, but it has seen some drastic changes since its early days. There have also been challengers to its throne, but the mouse has survived all of these so far.

The winter of 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of the invention of one of today's most unassuming items. Modest yet fundamentally vital to today's modern lifestyle, the mouse has changed only in looks and designs. Functionally, it performs the exact same thing as it did at its inception.

The man credited with the invention of the mouse is Doug Engelbart. He and his team based at the Stanford Research Institute in California worked on the first designs. It was originally in a wooden block that had wheels on the bottom and the chord came out of the back rather than the front. A casual throwaway comment about how it looked like a mouse signalled the naming of the device, much to the dismay of Engelbart. Nevertheless, it was first publicly demonstrated in December of 1968.

Unfortunately, development of the mouse was hindered somewhat as computers were not as widespread then as they are now. There was no need to develop and improve the device as a result. Throughout the 1970s, Xerox appeared as the pioneers behind the mouse and it launched alongside its Xerox Star computer in 1981. However, the mouse did not gain world wide recognition until Apple picked up the rights to it after Engelbart's patent expired. In 1984, the mouse began to appear next to Apple's Macs. Soon after, more mainstream PCs adopted the mouse and set the precedent for what we see today.

There are some experts who claim that the mouse will only have 5 more years of use before a new method of controlling the cursor will take over. Manufacturers such as Logitech have been working on developing these new technologies and include ideas such as touch screen navigation as well as mind control. In the past, there have been challengers to the mouse. Trackballs had moderate success as substitutes to the mouse and are particularly popular with younger children. Laptops adopt either a touchpad or trackpoint, but neither really provides the ease of use that the mouse does.

The humble beginnings of the mouse can easily traced back through the years, however, it's much harder to predict whether or not it will be around in future or indeed replaced. Over time, the mouse has evolved from wheels to balls and now optical and laser technology. Scroll wheels have been included and some now even have customisable buttons to navigate forwards and backwards through web browser pages. In any case, the mouse has served us well over the years, and if it is displaced, it's fair to say that its simplicity will probably be unmatched.
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