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Steve Jobs on mouse design and how the Apple Pro Mouse was conceived by happenstance

Yoni Heisler
Yoni Heisler|@edibleapple|March 10, 2014 2:00 PM

hockey puck mouseThough Apple popularized the mouse when it introduced the Mac in 1984, the company hasn't always been a bastion of popular, or even elegant, mouse design. For instance, Apple's hockey puck mouse, originally introduced with the Bondi Blue iMac, is a perfect example of utilitarian design gone astray. Indeed, the mouse is largely considered one of the worst Apple product flops of all-time.

In the wake of the forgettable hockey puck mouse, Apple had to go back to the drawing board and come up with a successor. On this note, Cult of Mac was able to chat with Abraham Farag, a former senior mechanical engineer of product design at Apple.

Farag details how he and his team ended up coming up with the successor to the hockey puck mouse simply by happenstance.

"It all started with a model we did not have time to finish," he says. "We had made six of these great form models to show Steve," he recalls. "They were fully done, with all the parting lines cut in for buttons and different plastic parts, and all the colors just right." At the last minute, the design team had decided to create a model that would echo the look of the Topolino mouse which shipped prior to the hockey puck. The only problem was, the model wasn't finished. They hadn't had time to draw buttons on to the model to indicate where they would go.

"It looked like a grey blob," Farag says. "We were going to put that model into a box so people wouldn't see it." However, when Jobs turned up things went awry.

"Steve looked at the lineup of potential forms and made straight for the unfinished one," Farag says.

"That's genius," he said. "We don't want to have any buttons."

"That's right, Steve," someone else piped up. "No buttons at all.

Of course, this entailed more work for Farag and his team as they now actually had to design the mouse that so excited Jobs. They eventually figured things out and arrived at a design that would become known as the Apple Pro Mouse. Originally released in 2000, the Apple Pro Mouse was also notable for being the first Apple mouse to discard the age-old trackball in favor of an optical tracking system.

Apple pro mouse

Providing a bit more insight into Jobs' psyche as it applied to design, Farag relays that Jobs was vehemently opposed in principle to the idea of a multi-button mouse. You see, Jobs believed that if a UI was intuitive enough and designed with great care and precision, "you should be able to do everything you needed to do with one button."

And speaking of Jobs' disdain for superfluous buttons, I'm reminded of this story detailing Jobs' hate for Apple's Extended Keyboard back when he was at NeXT.