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The mouse should be simple and one-button

Apple has always been a company that has moved outside the established canons of industry. When the world goes down a path, Apple has already set out on the opposite course, and usually the others end up following, although there are times when it is Cupertino’s that must backtrack and rectify, as happened with the use of computer mice. Although everyone wanted several buttons, Apple said only one, but after 20 years he had to rectify and include more buttons on his mouse.

The computer mouse is one of the most used and least known components of all that makes up a computer. We all have one and we usually use it constantly when using our computer. However, very few are aware of the birth of this peripheral . So that this does not continue, we are going to give you a little history lesson.

The mouse should be simple and one-button
The mouse should be simple and one-button

Image credit: Apple Inc.

The mouse was invented by Douglas Engelbart and Bill English during the 1960s in a laboratory at Stanford University , but it was the Xerox company that fully used it in a computer. This component was quite complicated to use. It had two ball bearings in its base, to control the horizontal and vertical movements, it didn’t roll smoothly, it used three buttons and it cost $300.

When Steve Jobs visited Xerox’s offices and saw the potential of the invention, he decided to use it in his new computer, the Lisa, modifying it completely . After the visit he went to an industrial design company and told Dean Hovey, one of the founders of that company: “I want a simple mouse, with a single button, that costs 15 dollars and I want to be able to use it on a formica table and on my blue jeans”. As we can see, Jobs was open-minded and forward-looking.

And it was in 1983, with the release of the Lisa, that Apple introduced user-level mice to personal computers. It was somewhat crude, and had only one button , but it was fully functional with the Lisa’s graphical operating system.

Why did Steve Jobs want a single button on the mice? For two reasons:

  • Because Apple always tried to address the general public while other companies, like Xerox, tried to address the business world, which didn’t mind paying $300 for a mouse that it had to spend more time learning to use.
  • And because, as always, they were trying to make life easier for users, and I thought they would be more comfortable with just one button. That philosophy drove a number of arguments about the desirability of this decision, which many users were against.

Precisely because users demanded a mouse with more buttons, in 2005 (more than 20 years after the first mouse) they released the Mighty Mouse , a mouse that offered up to four independently programmable buttons . The main and secondary click buttons were hidden under the case that appeared to be monobutton. It also included a scrolling ball that allowed users to scroll through documents in any direction.

Years later Magic Mouse appeared, again with a single button apparently, but with a multi-touch surface that allows you to simulate the two buttons depending on whether you click with one or two fingers, or where you click the mouse. A little later, Apple wanted to eliminate almost completely the mice by removing the Magic Trackpad , a trackpad like the one in laptops to control our desktop computer with gestures.

As you can see, the Bitten Apple people have always wanted to “make life easier” for the users , even doing or avoiding things that the users themselves demanded. Next week we will see another example of this with the applications inside the iPhone , something that for Apple was not necessary… until they saw the business in it. We are waiting for you .

Image credit: Apple Inc.

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