On November 17, 1970, the first patent was granted for the device that is perhaps the most used daily: the computer mouse. Exactly fifty years ago. And it looks like the mouse will stay with us for many more decades, in one form or another.
end of 1968, Douglas Engelbart presented for the first time a working copy: a device with three buttons and two wheels. The patent was waiting for another two years, the breakthrough much longer. The invention ended up with computer manufacturer Xerox, who delivered the mouse to the very expensive Star computer that never reached the general public.
Steve Jobs, one of Apples founders, saw the potential of the mouse and delivered it to the first Macintosh computer in 1984; a compact one-button version. From then on, the mouse was no longer to think away from the PC.
For the 70s of the last century, computers mainly delivered their calculations on paper. The mouse came up with the introduction of the monitor in the seventies, to be able to point out something about that. “Most of the computer applications are about text and images, and it will remain so for a while,” says lecturer in computer science at the University of Amsterdam Taco Walstra, who is also curator of the UvA Computer Museum.
He doesnt see the mouse disappear for now. “There will be all kinds of mouse-like devices, which you have seen in the graphics industry for a long time. Depending on the needs and applications. They will continue to exist side by side.”
However, the influence of the mouse has been reduced somewhat with the emergence of tablets and laptops. “The touchpad on a laptop is a great replacement for the mouse,” says Walstra. “You always want to be able to touch something.” For the near future, the computer museum curator sees three-dimensional pointing possibilities. “Cameras that record hand movements and translate them into clues for the computer. Or cameras looking at the eye.”
Designating and controlling a computer directly from the brain is already possible. Blind and severely disabled people benefit from this. “The question is how far we want to go,” says Walstra. “But, of course, its nice to brainstorm about it.”
By the way, the inventor of the mouse never got rich from it. His patent expired before the mouse became popular.