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Input Devices Hardware

The Mouse Turns 40 169

Smivs writes with an excerpt from the BBC marking the anniversary of what may be the most famous tech demo outside Trinity site: "The humble computer mouse celebrates its 40th anniversary today. On 9 December 1968 hi-tech visionary Douglas Engelbart first used one to demonstrate novel ways of working with computers. The first mouse that Dr Engelbart used in the demo at the Fall Joint Computer Conference (FJCC) was made of wood and had one button. Much of the technology shown off in the demo inspired the creation of the hardware and software now widely used. ... The mouse, which was built by Bill English, helped Dr Engelbart demonstrate how text files could be clipped, copied and pasted as well as showing ways of using computer networks to collaborate on projects or co-edit documents." According to the article, "A day of celebration is planned in California to mark the 40th anniversary; with many of the researchers behind the original demo reunited to mark the event."
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The Mouse Turns 40

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  • by clam666 ( 1178429 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @12:25PM (#26047647)

    We're rejoicing over an input device?

    No keyboard monument? Or was it overshadowed by the typewriter?

    • This is a dupe. We had a story about this a year ago!

      Come to think about it..
    • We're rejoicing that it's obviously going to die soon. Unless they've been touched by John Coffey, if a mouse lives till 40, they're gonna die. Soon. Like, now.

    • by jhol13 ( 1087781 )

      I am disappointed - no one mentioned Krazy Kat!

  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @12:26PM (#26047669)

    The mouse was seen at the local Maserati dealership evaluating cars with his 20-something year old girlfriend.

  • by Mononoke ( 88668 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @12:31PM (#26047753) Homepage Journal
    One button. You have to take your hand off the keyboard. Lame.
    • I don't get it. I've used one-button with the Macintosh for years and never needed to remove my hand from the keyboard.

    • by theaveng ( 1243528 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @01:15PM (#26048339)

      P.S. I remember when I first used a PC, I kept wondering why I needed a second button. Back then (Win 3.1) the right mouse button was rarely used. The left button would be well-worn while the right button still looked new. It took a couple years for Microsoft to invent the idea of right-button context menus. (Or maybe that should be stole? The Commodore Amiga had been using right button menus since 1986.)

    • Hell, I don't even like Emacs-- you have to take your fingers of the home position to hit the function keys. Lame.
    • Actually, Engelbart designed the mouse as a counterpart to the five-key chorded keyboard he worked with his left hand. His plan was for the alphanumeric keyboard to only be used for entering text, and the chorded keyboard for all the other commands. So, you wouldn't have to take your hand off the keyboard.
  • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @12:31PM (#26047759)
    What was amazing wasn't just that he unveiled the mouse, but pretty much launched the concept of personal computing as we know it today, including many of the metaphors we take for granted in the modern graphical OS, as well as video communications, email, hypertext... amazing scenes.
    • The original presentation was called "A research center for augmenting human intellect" but the end result of his research is

      It appears that he is still alive today [] - perhaps somebody should ask him what he feels about causing this much pain, suffering, and scourge to be released on mankind?

    • Though one big thing that stood out to me based upon brief segments of the video I've seen in the past is that the mouse was originally used to augment the keyboard... not a "mouse or keyboard" paradigm that people seem to use today.

  • Congrats (Score:5, Funny)

    by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @12:32PM (#26047763) Homepage Journal

    Aw, and it doesn't look a day over 30.

    Except it lost its ball. Pretty sad to lose a ball while you're in your prime.

    • Re:Congrats (Score:4, Funny)

      by Justin Hopewell ( 1260242 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @12:34PM (#26047799)
      The child in me finds this funny. The adult in me finds it hilarious.
    • Re:Congrats (Score:5, Funny)

      by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @12:35PM (#26047811)
      Except it lost its ball. Pretty sad to lose a ball while you're in your prime.

      It may have lost its ball, but look at what it gained...a frickin LASER!
    • Re:Congrats (Score:5, Funny)

      by eln ( 21727 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @12:35PM (#26047817)

      Except it lost its ball. Pretty sad to lose a ball while you're in your prime.

      Oh, I don't know...I hear losing a ball makes it easier to win the Tour de France, so it might not be all bad.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Mouse Balls Available as FRU (Field Replacement Unit) []
    • Considering that they alls tarted life with no more than ONE ball, losing that one was always a threat, and of course having only one to start with...

      No wonder they got jumpy...

    • by Haoie ( 1277294 )

      Those old mouse balls are great fun to play with.

      You can even make a collection out of them. In fact I'm sure someone, somewhere, has.

  • by omuls are tasty ( 1321759 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @12:32PM (#26047771)

    Dude, this is Slashdot. We don't use freakin mice around here. Keyboards are always faster


  • Mouses (Score:5, Funny)

    by IainMH ( 176964 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @12:35PM (#26047803)

    And lets be clear. The plural of computer mouse is most definitely not 'computer mouses'.

    • Re:Mouses (Score:5, Funny)

      by Timberwolf0122 ( 872207 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @12:37PM (#26047841) Journal
      It is Meases and I hate them to pieces!
    • And lets be clear. The plural of computer mouse is most definitely not 'computer mouses'.

      Computer meices?
    • Re:Mouses (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ZERO1ZERO ( 948669 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @12:46PM (#26047965)
      We'll begin with box, and the plural is boxes.
      But the plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.
      Then one fowl is goose, but two are called geese.
      Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.

      You may find a lone mouse or a whole lot of mice,
      But the plural of house is houses, not hice.
      If the plural of man is always called men,
      When couldn't the plural of pan be called pen?

      The cow in the plural may be cows or kine,
      But the plural of vow is vows, not vine.
      And I speak of a foot, and you show me your feet,
      But I give a boot - would a pair be called beet?

      If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
      Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?
      If the singular is this and plural is these,
      Why shouldn't the plural of kiss be nicknamed kese?

      Then one may be that, and three may be those,
      Yet the plural of hat would never be hose.
      We speak of a brother, and also of brethren,
      But though we say mother, we never say methren.

      The masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
      But imagine the feminine she, shis, and shim!
      So our English, I think you will all agree,
      Is the trickiest language you ever did see. I take it you already know
      Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
      Others may stumble, but not you
      On hiccough, thorough, slough, and through?

      Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
      To learn of less familiar traps?
      Beware of heard, a dreadful word
      That looks like beard and sounds like bird.

      And dead; it's said like bed, not bead;
      For goodness sake, don't call it deed!
      Watch out for meat and great and threat,
      (they rhyme with suite and straight and debt).

      A moth is not a moth in mother.
      Nor both in bother, broth in brother.
      And here is not a match for there.
      And dear and fear for bear and pear.

      And then there's dose and rose and lose --
      Just look them up -- and goose and choose.
      And cork and work and card and ward,
      And font and front and word and sword.

      And do and go, then thwart and cart.
      Come, come, I've hardly made a start.
      A dreadful language? Why, man alive,
      I'd learned to talk it when I was five.

      And yet to write it, the more I tried,
      I hadn't learned it at fifty-five!

      Original Source Unknown..
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by theaveng ( 1243528 )

        The English language made a lot of sense when it was still Germanic. It had a logical flow.

        Then the damn French took-over the island and English became a multilingual language with contradictory grammar rules. Around the year 1500, the damn pronunciation change. For example: "knicht" was originally pronounced the way it was spelt, and therefore easy to read, but suddenly it became pronounced as "nite". Why? Who the hell knows??? And finally, as if the language wasn't already fraked up, the linguists

        • And finally, as if the language wasn't already fraked up ...

          I have no words.

          • I'm not allowed to say "fucked up". The UK Internet Watch Foundation might block this p

            &%&a^!2^@$ ...

            CARRIER LOST

        • Re:Mouses (Score:5, Insightful)

          by D-Cypell ( 446534 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @02:04PM (#26048891)

          "You'd think someone would come along and say, "Enough is enough" and start spelling English the way it sounds: "Enuf is Enuf"."

          Already happening! The generation of SMS messengers and facebook status updaters are already setting off down this path.

          • The problem is, the way it sound to who .... ...You say tomato I say Tomaytoh....

            SMS messaging is simply extending early talker systems and IM system short forms ....and they copies many of those from More Code operators ....

          • Already happening! The generation of SMS messengers and facebook status updaters are already setting off down this path.

            orly? i dunno wai u think that! imho, its definately ok

            Seriously, I think it is far worse than going down that path... Switching to acronyms for words and phrases which hardly spell anything that could be reasonably sounded out would be even more tricky to someone who doesn't already speak the language. That's not to mention all the asinine typos and misspellings which spell out something that would never sound like the word one intended to actually spell.

          • SMS is hardly encouraging spelling the way things are said, its encouraging a shorthand form of speech with its own conventions and fashions that will differ from area to area, if not person to person. Its encouraging people to create their own spellings in a sea of pure anarchy.

            English spelling may be completely inconsistent, and I am sure its really a bitch to learn English as a second language in the written form (although I bet spoken English isn't as bad overall as some languages with much more rigid r

            • I don't know why everyone thinks that the language ought to be altered just because it's difficult. English is beautiful with all of its nuances and stupidity. It would be a travesty to try to remove them!
              • It's not the language we want to change. Just the spelling.

                It's not the langwich we want to change. Just the speling. Make it rashonal. For example why add a "u" in the word color? The u is silent and not needed.

        • For example: "knicht" was originally pronounced the way it was spelt, and therefore easy to read, but suddenly it became pronounced as "nite".

          Hmmm... "We are the knichts who say 'nik'!" ... not quite the same.

        • by Lars T. ( 470328 )
          Most Americans spell words the way they think they should be spelled if they were pronounced the way they think they should be pronounced.
      • Re:Mouses (Score:4, Interesting)

        by OglinTatas ( 710589 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @02:27PM (#26049199)

        The poem (and one line in particular) reminds me of a book of essays by Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) called "The Tough Coughs as He Ploughs the Dough."
        It's been a long time since I read the book, but the style of your poem could easily pass for a Seuss work (though there are uncharacteristic awkward parts in the above example, for example the kiss line).

        I'm not saying it is from that book, nor that Geisel wrote it. I believe the book contained his work from his twenties and early thirties. But it might be fun to read that book if you haven't done so.

      • by digitac ( 24581 )

        Wow, that looks like a great test for any text-to-speech program.

      • O-U-G-H
        Charles Battell Loomis

        I'm taught p-l-o-u-g-h
        S'all be pronounce "plow."
        "Zat's easy w'en you know," I say,
        "Mon Anglais, I'll get through!"

        My teacher say zat in zat case,
        O-u-g-h is "oo."
        And zen I laugh and say to him,
        "Zees Anglais make me cough."

        He say "Not 'coo,' but in zat word,
        O-u-g-h is 'off,'"
        Oh, Sacre bleu! such varied sounds
        Of words makes me hiccough!

        He say, "Again mon frien' ees wrong;
        O-u-g-h is 'up'
        In hiccough." Zen I cry, "No more,
        You make my t'roat feel rough."

        "Non, non!" he cry,

  • Copycats (Score:3, Funny)

    by Fri13 ( 963421 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @12:36PM (#26047831)

    What? They have copied the "one button mouse" idea from Apple!! Damn Copycats!! Thats why Apple needed to invent the Mighty Mouse so there would not be so many copies!

  • December 9 is a big day. The computer mouse. John Milton. Redd Foxx.

    As a tool, computers with the mouse, particularly the WIMP interface, really revolutionized the game. For some things, like repetitive data entry into vertical business apps, I believe the mouse has not contributed to simplicity. It has allowed a user to perform more tasks in such apps, but that complications has been a mixed blessing. And the over complicated mouse, with 20 buttons, and 3D motions, make me craze the old days of the

  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @12:48PM (#26047993)
    I can't do with these new fangled inventions. They don't help. They just slow you down. In my day with a few "vi" keystrokes I could out edit any wysywyg app.



    (what's happening. How do I get out of this)

    • Personally I'm happy the mouse was invented. I remember my first word processor was RUNscript on a C=64, and although it worked just fine, it was a royal pain in the butt to constantly look-up commands. "How do I make bold? Ahhh, .bb - okay now how do I end bold? Hmmm." (pulls down the manual again).

      Having the commands immediately available electronically is far superior to having to constantly look things up in a book.

      • by Fri13 ( 963421 )

        I am not so happy... because it is possible that without mouse, we could have developed faster a working speech controlling, a multitouch controlling and of course, a mind controlling devices. Now we are "stuck" to mouse and the UI what is harder to use.

        We have 12 Function keys... what we dont use so much anymore than the command line time on office application, what menus were controlled via those buttons and what they did in different situations.

        Many office applications can be used very well with function

        • A speech interface works poorly in an office setting. Imagine 500 people all talking at once in the same giant room.

          Mind control is something that was promised in 1980, but still hasn't happened. Like flying cars.

          Function keys go back to what I said previously. You have to keep looking in the manual to discover what "F7" does, or else tape a piece of paper underneath the key (common on old MS-DOS machines). And of course F7 has a different function in every damn program! IMHO the better solution was to

      • How is the mouse necessary for any of that?

        Even if it's not necessarily WYSIWYG (e.g. on a 'hardware' text screen rather than a bitmap display), you could just have menus, or even something similar to command mode in vi. (That is, it doesn't necessarily have to be a text-based version of a menubar with menus, like links does.)

        I think there are definitely examples of text-based programs that are just as easy to use as GUI-based programs. My biggest example is the email program I use -- alpine (essentially

    • by ciderVisor ( 1318765 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @01:55PM (#26048797)
      vi - The WYSIWTF editor.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @01:04PM (#26048203)
    This story: How to clean your mouse This memo is from an unnamed computer company. It went to all field engineers about a computer peripheral problem. The author of this memo was quite serious. The engineers rolled on the floor. "Mouse balls are now available as FRU (Field Replacement Unit). Therefore, if a mouse fails to operate or should it perform erratically, it may need a ball replacement. Because of the delicate nature of this procedure, properly trained personnel should only attempt replacement of mouse balls. Before proceeding, determine the type of mouse balls by examining the underside of the mouse. Domestic balls will be larger and harder than foreign balls. Ball removal procedures differ depending upon the manufacturer of the mouse. Foreign balls can be replaced using the pop-off method. Domestic balls are replaced by using the twist-off method. Mouse balls are not usually static sensitive. However, excessive handling can result in sudden discharge. Upon completion of ball replacement, the mouse may be used immediately. It is recommended that each replacer have a pair of spare balls for maintaining optimum customer satisfaction. Any customer missing his balls should suspect local personnel of removing these necessary items."
    • Mod parent up!!

      Any customer missing his balls should suspect local personnel of removing these necessary items."

      That's the best part :D

    • by hurfy ( 735314 )

      my balls are old and dried out after only 40 years i should look into this....

    • >>>The author of this memo was quite serious.

      No he wasn't. That's an old joke that dates back to the 1980s. It was written for the purpose of making BBC and Usenet readers smile.

  • But how old is Donald Duck and Goofy? ;)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @01:16PM (#26048351)

    ... cleaning mouse balls jokes turn 39.

  • Fun with captions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @01:18PM (#26048371)

    I had a good laugh at the photo caption: "The basic workings of a mouse have changed little in 40 years".

    The way I remember it, the mouse progressed from two perpendicular wheels on the bottom, to a ball that drove two internal wheels with an optical encoder. to optical mice using a reflective pad. to optical mice using surface image capture. And that's not to mention the mouse-like devices in between (trackpoint, touch pads, trackballs...) and permutations of mouse features (wireless, multiple buttons, scroll wheels). Saying that the mouse has changed little is like saying that TVs have changed little in 40 years.

    • by Thaelon ( 250687 )

      From a user's standpoint they haven't.

      Speaking strictly about a mouse - not a touchpad or a trackball (the headline does say "mouse") - it hasn't changed much to from a user's standpoint.

      It's still a thing with buttons where your fingers go that you move around with your hand to control a pointing device on a computer.

      This isn't terribly shocking considering interface it's designed to work with (a human) has changed even less in 40 years.

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @01:40PM (#26048619)
    Computer screens as we know them, did not start becoming generally available until the mid 1970s. The breakthrough was an inexpensive memory chip large enough to hold 5 by 7 patterns of ascii characters 5 x 7 x 40 (1400 bits) and 80 x 48 screenfull of characters (19K at 6 bits per character). A bit of memory cost about $1 until Intel introduced the first kilobyte chips in 1970 (two years after Englebert's demo) dropping the bit price to pennies in mid 1970s. Then it became practical to sell character computer terminals. Before then computer users used punchcards, punchtapes, teletypes, and line printers.

    These were character screens however. Graphics screens took another 10-15 to become personal. The first generation were programmable oscilloscopes, i.e. vector drawing machines. They had their special graphics languages, e.g. GKS, that emulated pen plotters. Limited bit map grapics came in the meantime. Steve Wozniak is famous for one baroque scheme of graphics in the Apple II. It wasnt pure bitmap as we know today. Xerox PARC sold the first B&W bitmaps at $30K a pop ($120K in 2008$). Then about 1980s the first general purpose color raster screen computers came out. At $30K a terminal these were shared in a lab. That was because a megabyte still cost $10K. Finally as memory prices dropped "workstation"-class computers came out around 1985 giving each scientist their personal graphics screen. This was SUN Microsystems original product.

    In 2008 I bought a $7 cellphone with 64K pixel color graphics screen.
    • by hurfy ( 735314 )

      lol, our oldest terminal was several years old at the time in early 80's. It had 2 8x10" boards and more inside to display simple monochrome text. It didn't even do bold, underline, or squares!

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Computer screens as we know them, did not start becoming generally available until the mid 1970s. The breakthrough was an inexpensive memory chip large enough to hold 5 by 7 patterns of ascii characters 5 x 7 x 40 (1400 bits)...

      I once saw an interesting technology for pre-RAM monitors. It was kind of an electronic Etch-A-Sketch in concept: an electron beam, roughly the same kind used in TV's, would somehow "etch" the image into the screen by displacing particles. Primitive scrolling was done by erasing the

  • He's getting rather old but he's a good mouse.
  • Does anyone else dislike when the pressure spots on the side of the mouse are buttons? Maybe I'm just old, but thats how I move the mouse around (pinch between thumb and ring finger - use index and middle for left and right) ... and I always end up getting extraneous clicks when the sides are buttons. I'd turn this off on my own PC, but its when I use a customer's PC on site. erg.
  • On a side note: THE Mouse turns 80 (Mickey Mouse, that is). The title of the article doesn't specify which mouse... :-p

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