23
Oct 09

The mouse completes its journey

mouse_history3

Okay, it may not be the most spectacular part of the computing experience — but Apple has always had a special place in its heart for the l’il critter that helped launch Revolution #1.

Here’s a quick stroll down memory lane, starting with the very first Macintosh mouse (which clearly shared some DNA with the common chimney brick).

Savor for a moment one of Apple’s most wretched mistakes: the hockey-puck mouse that shipped with the original iMac. Having no obvious “up” or “down” by feel, it sent cursors flying in all the wrong directions. A classic case of over-design. For consumers it was a major annoyance, for pros (it also shipped with the Power Mac) it was an outright insult.

Fortunately, chief designer Jony Ive recovered from that one. Form and function then lived happily ever after as we got the multi-button mouse with no buttons, the innovative scroll wheel (on the questionably named Mighty Mouse), and now, fresh out of the oven, the Magic Mouse. Clearly, this is the mother of all mice — now standard with the new iMacs and also available separately.

I tried one the other day and, creepy as it may sound, it actually made me smile. The entire mouse is a button, the entire surface is touch sensitive. You scroll or flip through pages simply by sliding a finger or two. It really is one of those “what will they think of next” moments. And it gives you the feeling that Apple puts more thinking into their mouse than most computer makers put into their PCs.

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  • I trust you realize that Apple didn’t actually invent the mouse, Ken,, or the whole WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus, & Pointers) user interface? It was originally invented by Rank Xerox, at their then-legendary Palo Alto Research Center (Xerox PARC):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphical_user_interface

    Apple’s genius was to take someone else’s good idea and run with it.

  • ken segall

    Absolutely. I purposefully didn’t use the i-word. This has been Apple’s genius since day one — the ability to integrate a number of new technologies to make it easier for human beings to do interesting and/or amazing things. A fundamental leap in technology is only step one. It takes vision, imagination, brilliance — and, dare I say, marketing — to turn it into a product that changes the world.

  • Andrew Tonkin

    Does the mouse actually click? Or do you just tap it?

    I got a “horrid” mouse with my old G4 tower, a rare misstep on Apple’s part. I quickly bought an aftermarket enclosure that snapped onto it and made it a “real” mouse shape.

  • ken segall

    @Andrew

    It clicks. And then you do the slide-y stuff with one or two fingers. And yes, Apple spawned quite an industry of people making little enclosures that turned the hockey puck into a real mouse again. A real low point. Actually, this would make a good blog topic one day: major Apple blunders. They’ve made quite a few. However, you could also take this as a positive. We love ’em because they swing for the fences most of the time — the failures are the price of the successes.

  • Sold. Just ordered mine. Never really liked the Mighty much.

  • @ken: it appears that Apple’s failures are not only their price for the many successes and innovations they’ve had but they also serve as benchmarks for other tech firms…

    years ago, i was at a small shop downtown that serviced AT&T… seems the Newton had come out and everyone was aghast at the a) ingenuity and b) the sticker price…

    a few of us were ushered into a meeting with the client geek squad and a marketing guy and they told us about a new product that they were developing: inspired by the Newton (their words) but designed to surpass it… they filled us up on all the specs and potential and it was actually a very smart idea, except for one gaping flaw (as i saw it)…

    i raised my hand and asked “what software does this come bundled with and what 3rd party software is in the pipe to coincide with release that we can call attention to?”

    i was told that wasn’t too important so we left and set about the day-to-day of trying to figure out the ads and messages and such… some time later we were told that, although they had been working on this for a year or so, they were dropping the project. it seems two small details had been overlooked by the engineers at AT&T. you guessed it a) they had no software and b) their sticker price was going to be better than 2x the Newton.

    even Apple, while setting up the Newton knew that you had to have something, straight from the box, that the consumer could get their hands on and utilize: software.

    it seemed like a very Orson Welles ‘War of the Worlds’ moment ‘: “…they were destroyed by the smallest of things…” which Apple has always had going for them: attention to detail and foresight to get partners on board…

  • twobyte

    If you turn MM 180 degrees around (so that Apple logo facing down — oh oh those designers), you can scroll iphone way.

  • shea daniels

    I agree that the Magic Mouse is innovative, but I think it’s a case of Apple focusing on being clever without paying attention to basic usability. From what I’ve read, it has the same problem as the Mighty Mouse: you can’t right click without lifting your fingers off of the left side of the mouse.

    I found this annoying enough that I had to ditch my brand new Mighty Mouse for a knockoff brand that actually had two physical buttons. Fix that problem and I’m sold.

  • ken segall

    @shea:
    Absolutely true that the mouse is a matter of personal taste. I am well known for my collection of mouses, as I have been in search of perfection for as long as I can remember. But I have to say — I don’t quite understand how you can right-click any mouse without lifting your finger off of the left…

  • Maybe it’s time to update this post with info about the Magic Trackpad: http://www.apple.com/magictrackpad/

    Or does it not count because it’s stationary and certainly doesn’t squeak?

  • ken segall

    @Justin:
    Yikes, you’ve dipped deep into the archives with this one. I think we should just let this article stand, and enjoy how antiquated it gets over time…