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45 years ago today, the computer mouse was unveiled to the world


45 years ago today, an engineer named Douglas Engelbart unveiled to the world, for the first time, the very first computer mouse.

The unveiling came in the form of a 90 minute demo at the Fall Joint Computer Conference. Engelbart's presentation is regarded as being so epic and influential that it's now referred to as the "Mother of All Demos." It even has its own dedicated Wikipedia page.

Engelbart's first mouse prototype was a bulky wooden contraption with two wheels located on its underside. Engelbart spent about 4-5 years working on his mouse idea before showing it off to the world on December 9, 1968.

Engelbart applied for a patent for the device in 1967, though back then it referred to it as an "x-y position indicator."

The patent reads in part:

An X-Y position indicator control for movement by the hand over any surface to move a cursor over the display on a cathode ray tube, the indicator control generating signals indicating its position to cause a cursor to be displayed on the tube at the corresponding position.

The computer mouse, like many other technologies and innovations, may not have been invented by Apple but was nonetheless thrust into the mainstream via an Apple product. Though the first computer to ship with a mouse was a Xerox workstation from 1981, it wasn't until Apple rolled out the Mac in 1984 that the mouse became a mainstream input device for computing. The Lisa, released in early 1983, also had a mouse but was so expensive that it never became a popular computer.

While Apple helped the mouse became a household product, the company's mouse offerings haven't always been top notch. For instance, Apple has long clung to the notion of a one-button mouse, thought it eventually introduced right-click functionality when it released the Mighty Mouse in 2005.

Speaking of the Mighty Mouse, it featured a scroll wheel that would all too often "stick" on account of dust and/or dirt buildup. Still, it was eons better than the ill-fated and poorly received Hockey Puck mouse Apple introduced alongside the first iMac.

Remember this bad boy?

Today, iMacs ship with a wireless Magic Mouse that is as sleek as it is functional. I only wish Apple would add the ability to activate Exposé from the mouse itself, a feature that was once possible via the side buttons on the Mighty Mouse.

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