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Updated: December 3, 2013 15:48 IST
Praxis

The evolution of the mouse

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Lakshmi Iyer
Lakshmi Iyer

The first ball-based computer mouse was launched by Telefuken, a German company in 1968.

Ever wondered how the computer mouse got its name? Back in 1963, Douglas Engelbart of Stanford Research Institute gave this nomenclature to a computer pointing device that had a cord attached to its rear part, resembling the rodent of the same name. This invention was part of his work on augmenting human intellect. In its initial days, the mouse was a bulky device with two wheels perpendicular to each other with each wheel enabling motion along a single axis.

The first ball-based computer mouse was launched by Telefuken, a German company in 1968. The idea was adopted from a trackball-like device used in the military. In 1973, Xerox Alto became the first computer made for individuals to use the mouse-driven graphical user interface. The first PC compatible mouse was developed by none other than Microsoft in 1982. This concept was later adapted by Macintosh in 1984.

Jean-Daniel Nicoud, a Swiss scientist, came out with a computer mouse with an optical encoder. The presence of a single, hard rubber mouse ball with three buttons in this design was later modified as scroll-wheel mouse in 1990s. By this time, the humble mouse had become intelligent due to the incorporation of microprocessors.

Unlike a mechanical mouse which detected movement through the internal parts, the optical mouse made use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). However, laser light was used in a laser mouse. This evolved into battery-powered wireless optical mouse devices. These mice transmit data through infrared radiation or Bluetooth technology.

To provide comfort and avoid issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive stress injuries in the wrist and fingers, the mouse was ergonomically designed to fit the natural hand position. There are also mice for gaming purposes such as claw grip mouse, palm grip mouse and fingertip grip mouse.

A mouse is typically used to control the motion of a pointer in two dimensions in a graphical user interface. Selection of files, programs or actions happens by clicking or hovering around the icons which are represented by pictures or shapes. A mouse performs operations such as clicking, dragging, moving and releasing. Most of us are comfortable using a two button mouse, which is visible. There are invisible computer mice that operate without the need for real hardware.

The basic design of a mouse remained the same with buttons on the top and sensor at the bottom. With the rise of laptops, smartphones and tablets, the fortune of the mouse started falling. Users became comfortable with multi-touch track pads on their laptops and touchscreens in smartphones.

Of late gesture-based technologies are also being used to perform the task of interacting with a system. The Bluetooth-enabled Mycestro clips onto the index finger, in other words a 3D mouse lets one control the pointer with simple gestures. This device is portable and lightweight.

In future, computers will be able to interpret voice and motion commands. With telepathic devices that can identify brain signals by wearing a helmet, future generations will interact with computers using their brains, that is, by just thinking! This will help patients suffering from paralysis to communicate through computers.

The fact is that it is only a matter of time that the humble mouse becomes extinct owing to the fast-changing technology scenario.

(The writer is Faculty, Lean Operations & Systems, Christ University Institute of Management.)

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