With the generally accepted basis that technological capability doubles every 24 months — what is it with the computer mouse that we have been using it the same way since 1963?
The advancements with computers we have seen since that time are enormous. In 1963, the largest computer (the SAGE System) weighed in at 250 tons and used 3 Megawatts of power. Today, you can put a computer that has more memory than a SAGE computer — into your pocket.
So what about the computer mouse — why is it that the mouse has stayed basically the same since it was first invented by Douglas Engelbart?
Sure, there have been some significant improvements to its operation since that original design (that used two wheels to control the cursor position). A brief summary would include;
•1972 — the trackball inclusion
•1984 — the Apple one-button mouse
•1991 — the first wireless mouse
•1999 — the first optical mouse (that did not require a special, grid-lined mouse pad).
But on the whole, the computer mouse has remained pretty much the same for over 40 years – why?
For those that can remember the ‘green screen’, the short cut keys and consistent use of the Tab key were the most efficient way to move the cursor to the desired location. A mouse in this case was more of a hassle than a help.
And with this, we are beginning to see why the computer mouse has not yet evolved – because such evolution has been dictated by the software applications we have been using. Given that businesses and corporations were pretty much the only market for computers and software up to the 80’s and early 90’s, the applications developed were all focused on efficient data entry, data manipulation and reporting.
However, as we all know, the decrease in the price of technology has seen computers in almost every home in first world countries. Equally, the internet has changed what the majority of the world now uses computers for. Instead of primarily data input, calculation, and output, the computer is becoming more and more a tool for research, information, and entertainment.
Browser based computing is now a reality. This is where the main interface to the computer is completed with ‘point and click’ i.e. using a mouse.
The significant factor here is the dramatic change in the amount of time spent on the keyboard v the mouse as the primary interface device. Where in times gone by, the split between keyboard and mouse may have been (generally) 80% keyboard / 20% mouse, today it is more likely to be 40% keyboard and 60% mouse, or more.
And it is this move away from the keyboard as the primary interface to the mouse that presents the opportunity for the mouse to finally evolve. And evolve it must.
Now, this is not to say that the keyboard is redundant in this browser based new world. Using applications such as word processing, spreadsheets and many business applications necessitate the use of a keyboard.
But the requirement right now, and into the future is to satisfy the need to have a better interface device for the browsing manner in which computers are more commonly being used. Look at the online gamer playing a poker tournament. This could be a 3 hour stretch (if they were winning!) where the mouse could be the only device used to Pass, Bet, Raise or Fold.
Likewise, the news junky who sits down with their cup of coffee to devour the world’s happenings via their various RSS links and favourite news sites — without ever touching the keyboard.
The way we are using computers is different now. The time for computer mouse evolution is at hand! And we think that evolution has begun…