This Day in History (27-Apr-1981) – Xerox PARC Introduces the Mouse

Douglas Engelbart, filed the patent in 1967 of his technology, which provided the tool needed to navigate graphics-filled computer screens with a simple motion of the hand. It consisted of a wooden shell, circuit board and two metal wheels that came into contact with the surface it was being used on.Because his patent for the mouse expired before it became widely used with personal computers in the mid-1980s, Engelbart garnered neither widespread recognition nor royalties for his invention. It was a few years later in 1972 that Bill English developed the design further by inventing what is known as the “Ball Mouse” that we know today. The ball replaced the wheels and was capable of monitoring movement in any diection. The ball came into contact with two rollers that in turn spun wheels with graduations on them that could be turned into electrical pulses representing direction and speed. On April 27, 1981, the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) changed the way people interacted with machines forever by introducing the mouse as part of the 8010 Star Information System workstation.

An optical mouse was developed in around 1980, eliminating the ball which often became dirty from rolling round the desktop, negatively affecting its operation. The term “mouse” wouldn’t become a part of the modern lexicon when Apple made it standard equipment with its original Macintosh, which debuted in 1984. The emergence of the Microsoft Windows operating system and Web browsers hastened the mouse’s pervasiveness throughout the 1990s and into the first decade of the 21st century.

Logitech claims to have manufactured one billion mice, which “speaks volumes for the success of this pointing device and the dominance of the graphical user interface of which it is an integral part,” Gartner Blog Network analyst Steve Prentice blogged in December 2008. His prediction: the mouse is an endangered species with less than five years before it joins the ranks of the green screen, punch cards and other computer technologies now honorably retired to technology museums after years of faithful service on desktops everywhere.