Where were you?

Where were you when you saw your first computer mouse?

That’s such a bizarre question for December, 2013.  Or is it?

For me, it was at a MACUL Conference.  I can’t remember the year, but I remember the experience.  It was at the annual conference in Detroit and Apple had a huge display focusing on the Lisa computer.  It would have been in the early 1980s.

At that time, I was a DOS snob.  I had cut my teeth learning TRS-DOS on my Radio Shack TRS-80 computer.  I remember standing with a bunch of other sceptics wondering if the world was coming to an end.  After all, how could any serious computing be done on this box that looked more like a television set with pictures and you didn’t have to know any of the underlying code in order to operate it.  How could you do a simple task like change to a directory to store your stuff?  How could you ever find documents that you once created?  All of this, supposedly was controlled by a “mouse”?  I mean, good gravy.  Not only did a person not need to know how a computer worked, you had to have a bigger workspace so that this rectangular thingy could be moved around the desk.

Plus, as a Business Education teacher, I was just aghast that something would be touted that removed your fingers from the home row.

Remember:  aaa ;;; sss lll ddd kkk fff jjj  ggg hhh fff jjj ddd kkk sss lll aaa ;;;

Then along came the Macintosh computer and the compulsory jokes – “A Macintosh is a computer with training wheels that won’t come off”.  Of course, this was just a hint of what was to come.  It wasn’t long before PCs were purchased and they came with a mouse although the block cursor really seems primitive by today’s standards.  It also led to some interesting logistic challenges in the classroom.  Stolen mouse balls, fights over who would be required to clean the balls, contests to see how high you could bounce a mouse ball, mouse balls that were used as a projectile from a slingshot, stolen mouses (even the argument as to whether the plural of computer mouse should be mice or mouses), another cable for cable management, all convinced us this was the wrong direction for technology.

An upgrade in the technology replacing mouse balls with LED technology lead to a different sort of vandalism challenge.  The challenge quickly became one of determining how hard you had to press a pen before you could break things.  But time moves along and student attention shifted to other things.

Now, a mouse is a part of every computer purchase.  It’s also one of the things that people upgrade.  I know around here I have a number of various pointing devices.  I’m just looking for the best one.

not all pointing devices are necessarily functional…

But, is a mouse a thing of the past?  This report from 2008 indicates that laptops/notebooks had outsold desktop computers.  Now, we’re looking at tablets to outsell desktops by 2015.  Of course, neither laptops/notebooks nor tablets come with a mouse.  We now point with our fingers or the use of a trackpad.  Is it possible that a new generation of computer users will not have the enjoyment of learning to use a mouse?  No scroll wheel or right click technique to learn?  Perhaps voice control will be the ultimate way to control your computer?

One of my favourite moments from Star Trek shows computer control in reverse order of sophistication.

Is there a point to this rambling about the humble mouse?

Of course!  According to this story, it’s 45 years ago that the mouse was first introduced!

Anyone know where I can buy a good wooden computer mouse?

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4 Comments

  1. I remember my first mouse experience was watching my uncle with his Macintosh. I didn’t use it, though.
    Then there was the Genius three-button mouse – I loved that thing. We eventually downgraded to a two-button mouse, and then eventually a two-button mouse with a scroll-wheel (that was a game-changer, for real!).
    Now my standard mouse has 4 buttons plus a scroll wheel (which both scrolls and tilts). One side button is set to bring up a magnifier and the other toggles “precision mode” (which just slows down my cursor for when I’m working on photos or something).
    I worked with a teacher recently who is uncomfortable with using a mouse, claiming that she’s too used to the touchpad on the laptop. I can’t imagine preferring the touchpad for general use.
    I love my mouse because it’s precise. When I use a touch-enabled device like an iPad I can’t be as accurate. I have a stylus and a finger, and both aren’t pointy enough to make me really accurate on a touchscreen.
    I have a Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch also (CTH460 – is that your model?), although I would need admin privileges to install the (kinda bloated) software on my work laptop, so it lies idle and forlorn.
    Thanks for the memories, Doug. I also like your chrome mouse, because it shows you taking the picture – a kind of a selfie, I think!

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  2. Hi Brandon – yes, my pad is a CTH460 which works beautifully both Windows and Ubuntu. I love it when working with images and I tried to make it a pointing device for default but having to grab the stylus and then put it down all the time prohibited that. My Chrome Mouse is actually a paperweight that I got as a thank you gift from the CSTA. I had a choice of that one or a crystal one from Tiffany’s but thought I’d use that and see if I couldn’t capture a bit of an image on it. You were good to spot that! For daily use, I toggle between a Microsoft Mouse with a scroll wheel or a Logitech cordless, one much like what you’ve described. On my Mac, obviously I use the Magic Mouse, a Christmas gift from my son. I’ve still to find the perfect pointing device for my needs. I like all of what I have but wish that I could take the best features of each and make it into a device. I’m curious as to what type of mouse you use that tilts and scrolls?

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  3. Hey Doug,
    I use a Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 5000 that I got in a combo with a Wireless Keyboard 3000 for $40 or so at FutureShop a few years ago. The USB wireless receiver is enormous, but it’s extremely reliable at short range. The tilt comes in handy once in a while, and I like it.
    I suppose I should mention too that the scroll button is clickable as well; mine is set do free-scrolling in any direction as you move away from the “target” that clicking produces.
    I also found my Bamboo worked well under Ubuntu – one of the reasons I tried the OS!

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