It's 30 years to the day since the first computer with a mouse came on the market, when Xerox launched the Star 8010 workstation on 27 April 1981.
Mouse technology had been around for some time, and its predecessor, the trackball, was created in the early 1950s, thanks to Canadian military research. But the mouse in its modern form was developed at Xerox's legendary PARC research centre.
The mouse was part of a prototype system called the Xerox Aero, which had most of the hardware today's PCs are designed around, including a graphical user interface, Ethernet and parallel ports (now supplanted by USB) and a printer connection - as well as the mouse.
The first devices rolled on two wheels, but Bill English developed the omni-directional ball mouse that became standard. The first model had three buttons, arranged vertically down the centre, and used light to register the movement of the wheel.
The Xerox Star 8010 workstation was not a success - priced at around $75,000 and sold by a company that thought of itself as a photocopier manufacturer it soon sank without a trace. But the mouse became incredibly popular, thanks to its adoption by Apple.
Steve Jobs gave Xerox some Apple stock in return for a two-day tour of the PARC facilities, despite strong objections from some of its staff. Apple's subsequent development of the GUI seen on the Alto is well known, but Jobs was also impressed with the concept of a mouse, particularly in light of moving from text-based to graphical computing.
In his recent autobiography, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen recounts a passionate lecture from Jobs on mouse design, after he questioned Apple's adherence to the single button format. Allen pointed out that two buttons would be more useful, but Jobs argued that simplicity was more important.
"You know, Paul, this is all about simplicity verses complexity. And nobody needs more than one button on a mouse," Allen recalls Jobs saying. Apple adopted multi-buttoned mouse devices in 2005.
The traditional ball mouse has now been replaced with laser models capable of working with greater accuracy on a wide range of surfaces. In the 1990s the addition of movement sensors allowed for 3D control, although this hasn't caught on outside the gaming market.
The mouse looks likely to be part of computing's history in the near term, but is unlikely to see another 30 years in common use. The increasing spread of touch screens in the laptop and tablet markets, and motion sensors like Microsoft's Kinect, will probably doom the device in the long term.
Nevertheless, the mouse will leave a lasting mark on its generation. Physiotherapists have long warned that twisting the forearm to use a mouse is a leading cause of muscle and nerve damage, and many of today's coumputer users will feel the effects of the mouse for some time to come.
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