Needless to say about a computer mouse – the peripherals are too familiar to any user. But have you ever asked yourself: Why is a computer mouse called… mouse, but not another name?
Go back to the timeline in 1964, when engineers Douglas Engelbart and William English of Stanford Research Institute (SRI) have invented a peripheral that allows users to interact directly with a computer. At that time, the user interface of the desktop operating system was quite simple. To perform tasks, users need to type commands with the keyboard.
Originally, Douglas Engelbart who came up with the idea of developing a new computer control device. Then, William English implemented the above concept with a device called “X-Y positioning device on the screen”. However, this name is not really good, forcing both SRI engineers to come up with a new name.
Naturally, the “on-screen XY navigation device” was later called “mouse” by Douglas Engelbart and William English, simply because its appearance and size looked quite like … a real mouse! Specifically, the “mouse body” contains electronic devices and buttons, while the “mouse tail” is the wire that connects to the computer.
When asked who named his most famous invention, Doug Engelbart said: “Nobody could remember. It looked like a mouse with a tail, and we all called it that.”
It was first introduced to the public in 1965, when Bill English’s technology publication was released. This name became more popular later, when home computers such as Apple’s Macintosh or Atari’s Amiga were produced on a large scale.
Compared with the computer mouse in 2020, the ‘original’ computer mouse is really … simple & completely different. It is merely a pine box with two wheels underneath for movement on a flat surface. The components inside will track the movement of the two small wheels when the user moves the device.
In 1971, William English left SRI & joined the technology firm Xerox PARC. Here, he invented the ball mouse, with the wheel underneath the mouse replaced with a ball, which helps the mouse move better and more dimensional.
Although constantly being upgraded in the later period, however, it was not until the user interface came into existence in 1981 that the computer mouse could exert its superiority compared to tabletop operations familiar keys and commands. It can be said that the development of these two factors is closely linked and they have created a new face of the technology world.