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Timeline: 40 years of the computer mouse

The computer mouse celebrates its 40th birthday

The computer mouse celebrates its 40th birthday this month. So we've charted the history of this most indispensible of PC tools, from its humble beginnings at the Stanford Research Institute to its present day ubiquity.

1981
Xerox produces a commercial mouse for its expensive 8010 Information System (aka the 'Star'. It features two buttons and ball tracking. However, the entire Star system sells for over $20,000, dooming it and its mouse to relative obscurity.

Under contract, design firm Hovey-Kelley creates the first inexpensive, mass-producible, reliable mouse for Apple. Its key components include optical encoder wheels, a free-moving tracking ball, and a precision injection-molded inner frame. This design breakthrough sets the stage for cheap, reliable consumer mouses that everyone can afford.

Richard Lyon invents the first optical mouse at Xerox PARC. This mouse requires a special dot-covered pad for tracking.

1982
Steve Kirsch invents an optical mouse that requires a mousepad with a grid printed on it for tracking. He founds Mouse Systems in 1982 to sell the first commercial optical mouse and later provides precision mice for Sun workstations, among others.

Logitech sells its first mouse, the P4, designed by Jean-Daniel Nicoud. This dome-shaped device, among the first commercial rodents available, sells for $299.

1983
With permission from Xerox, Jack Hawley founds Mouse House to refine and sell his original Xerox mouse design. The boxlike, three-button Hawley X063X uses brush contact encoder wheels and costs about $400.

Apple's first commercial mouse goes public as part of the Apple Lisa system. The mouse uses a squeeze-release DE-9 connector and notably features only one button - a controversial design decision that would remain the hallmark of Apple mouses for 22 years.

Microsoft ships its first IBM PC mouse, retailing for $195. The two-button mouse initially requires a special peripheral card for use but later supports connection through a PC's serial port.

1984
Apple ships a one-button mouse with the original Macintosh featuring a new exterior redesign. It features a nine pin DE-9 connector with thumb screws to secure the connector in place. Functionally, the mouse operates nearly identically to its Lisa predecessor.

Logitech designs the world's first cordless mouse as part of the obscure Metaphor computer system. The battery-powered mouse uses infrared light (like a TV remote control) to communicate with a base receiver unit. Various companies try a similar IR technique over the years, but it never takes off.

NEXT PAGE: What happened to the mouse in the late eighties

  1. The computer mouse celebrates its 40th birthday
  2. The early eighties
  3. What happened to the mouse in the late eighties
  4. The 21st century and beyond

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