Project Proposal: The Computer Mouse

February 21, 2017 | | Comments Off on Project Proposal: The Computer Mouse

The computer mouse was an important part of interactive computer technology, and is today a common household item. The 1968 debut of the computer mouse was called the “Mother of all Demos,” as it introduced a world to personal and interactive computing. Since it’s conception, companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Logitech have spent lots of funding on refining the computer mouse. The longevity of the design of the mouse itself in the 40 years of its existence outlines its importance and efficiency in the technological world. Despite changes with the number of buttons and the aesthetic design and new technology additions, the mouse in its functionality remains largely the same. There are now wireless mice, and mice such as the “Mighty Mouse” that include four buttons (also two that are not physical). There are now mice with bluetooth technology. The mouse has become part of the computer itself- a necessary input device for all desktops even in the growing age of touch screens. Our project will aim to show the continuing importance of the mouse.

Today the computer mouse has become a standard household item, but it is still a fairly new piece of technology, given that it was developed and put into use just a few decades ago. There are two major antecedents and alternatives to the computer mouse, in terms of computer-user interactivity: the lightpen and the joystick. Both lightpens and joysticks were used by computer users to control aspects of computer screen interactivity. Joysticks are still used even today, though they are used for video games and remote control of technologies such as drones and guided missiles. Lightpens, which were used in order to measure off selected areas of computer screens, have almost totally been phased out in favor of joysticks and computer mice for computer-user interactivity capability. However, the lightpen’s precursor, the lightgun is still utilized today as the device for tactical purposes such as real-time control of radar-networked airspaces.

Doug Engelbart, the man credited with the invention of the computer mouse, first came up with the idea during a conference session on computer graphics that he was attending in 1961. A year after his initial inspiration, he received a grant that allowed him to begin research regarding interactive computing. By 1965, Engelbart and his team published the final report of their study on the computer mouse versus other screen-selection technologies. The results of the study were overwhelmingly in favor of the computer mouse as the best and most efficient screen-selection technology. In 1970, the patent for the computer mouse, which was called the “x, y position indicator for a display system,” was awarded.

Our project about the mouse will separate pages based on the various aspects of its invention into categories and sub-categories, including the following: antecedents and alternatives, the making of the mouse, the mouse and American society, and the future of the mouse. These categories will be listed as a part of the main header menu at the top of our site’s webpage and be featured on the sidebar as well. Our group mates will each choose a topic and be responsible for that category’s posts. Every post will have at least a featured image and additional supplementary image to facilitate understanding. Around 1-3 sources from our Bibliography will be used for each blog post.

For our documentary, we will make a very simple yet informative exposition about the mouse. The documentary will start with examining the basics of the mouse today, and then shift back to the beginning of its invention and antecedents, proceeding along with time to fully explain its creation and influence. We will have a designated narrator(s) who will tell the story of the mouse and feature authentic video and photos to illustrate the narrative. Our main creative resources for creating the documentary will include iPhones, video cameras, Photoshop, internet sources featuring content about the mouse’s inventor, Garageband to handle the sound and recording, and finally iMovie to put everything together. We hope to discuss the advent of the computer mouse, how it changed society’s perspective of personal computing, and how society today continues to affect its development.

We decided on the mouse not as our first choice, but as an alternative. One of our main motivations behind choosing a theme was to look for a piece of technology that is commonly overlooked and underrated. After thinking about the aglet, the plastic tip at the end of the shoelace, we decided to instead go for “the aglet of the digital world”: the computer mouse. Our project aims to unveil just how revolutionary this technology was at the time of its invention and to emphasize how different our lives would be, as well as personal computing, without it. The mouse may lack recognition for now, however we will soon demonstrate its importance to the development of computers as an industry.


Anonymous. “Goodbye, Computer Mouse.” Communications of the ACM 51, no. 9 (September 2008): 16.
This source is a very brief magazine article explaining differing opinions about whether or not the mouse is doomed to become obsolete in the coming years.

Atkinson, Paul. “The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men: The Computer Mouse in the History of Computing.” Design Issues 23, no. 3 (Summer 2007): 49-61.
This is a scholarly journal article that explains the mouse’s historical development and how companies such as Xerox and Apple played a major role in both its design and manufacture.

Bardini, Thierry. Bootstrapping: Douglas Engelbart, Coevolution, and the Origins of Personal Computing. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000.
This book analyzes the influence that Douglas Engelbart had on the world of personal computing through his work with windowed user interface, hypertext, and of course his invention of the mouse.

Brown, David E. Inventing Modern America: From the Microwave to the Mouse. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002.
This book profiles thirty-five American inventors who “exemplify the rich technological creativity of the United States over the past century”. Developed by an MIT-program this book aims to tell the personal stories and technological stories of American inventors (obviously Douglas Engelbart is included in this).

Edwards, Benji. “The Computer Mouse Turns 40.” Macworld, December 9, 2008. Accessed February 20, 2017. 40.html
This article was published on the mouse’s 40th anniversary and details the invention, history and evolution of the computer mouse. In those 40 years not all that much has changed, highlighting the ingenious efficiency of an easy-to use-pointing device.

Engelbart, Douglas C. “Inventor of the Computer Mouse.” YouTube video. 2:03. Posted by Neoncon2008, February 25, 2010. Accessed February 20, 2017. com/watch?v=SQ7totFRh4g
Video of Doug Engelbart talking about how he was sitting in a class about computer graphics when he get an idea about pointing at the screen and started writing it down in the notebook he carried with him. A rough idea of a box on two wheels signaling to the computer. Someone looked at it, called it the mouse, and the name stuck.

English, William K., Douglas C, Englebart, and Melvyn L. Berman. “Display-Selection Techniques for Text Manipulation.” IEEE Transaction on Human Factors in Electronics 8, no. 1 (March 1967): 5-15.
This is a link to a scholarly journal article written by Engelbart and his associates discussing the alternatives to the mouse at its time of invention. It later proceeds to explain the reasoning behind the success of the mouse, how come it was the chosen invention for computer-aided text manipulation. A paper on the merits of display detection techniques for computers written by William K, English, Douglas C. Engelbart, and Melvyn L. Bernman. In the experiment, the mouse performed well with good speed and acurracy compared to the other devices.

Frenkel, Karen A. “A Difficult, Unforgettable Idea.” Communications of the ACM 53, no. 3 (March 2009): 21.
Karen Frenkel writes of the 40th anniversary of Engelbart’s original demonstration of the computer mouse, detailing the recollections of that demonstration of individuals she calls industry luminaries.

Ghent, Janet Silver. “The Mouse that Roared.” Palo Alto Weekly, March 26, 2015. Accessed February 20, 2017. that-roared
Janet Silver Ghent discusses the debut of the computer mouse, a production that came to be known as the “mother of all demos.” She then details an electronic opera, produced by Ben Neill and Mikel Rouse that drew inspiration from Engelbert’s original demonstration of the computer mouse.

Greenemeier, Larry. “The Origin of the Computer Mouse: Now an Endangered Species, it was Crucial to the Development of Personal Computing and Internet. Scientific American, August 18, 2009. Accessed February 20, 2017. cle/origins-computer-mouse/
In this article, Larry Greenmeier explains the history of the invention of the computer mouse. He discusses the various individuals that contributed to the technological advancement of the mouse, and ends with a prediction for the future of computer mouse production.

Kabbash, Paul, William Buxton, and Abigail Sellen. “Two-Handed Input in a Compound Task.” Human Factors in Computing Systems, April 24, 1994. Accessed February 20, 2017.
This scholarly paper details how the future of GUIs lies in a device that will engage both hands. Benefits of a two hand technique would be performing a simultaneous subtask, but a difficulty that may arise may be the over-loading on cognitive tasks.

Living History: The Doug Engelbart Archive. Doug Engelbart Institute. Accessed February 20, 2017.
This is the link to the homepage of Doug Engelbart’s archive. It gives an overview of what the archive offers, as well as provides a brief history of both Engelbart and his invention.

Pang, Alex Soojung-Kim. “Mighty Mouse.Stanford Magazine, March/April 2002. Accessed February 20, 2017. 94
This source is a magazine article that discusses how Apple computers used Engelbart’s design to improve the mouse by making it cheaper, easier to mass produce, and much more reliable.

Peters, Michael and Jason Ivanoff. “Performance Asymmetries in Computer Mouse Control of Right-Handers, and Left-Handers with Left- and Right-Handed Mouse Experience.” Journal of Motor Behavior 32, no. 1 (March 1999): 86-94.
This scholarly article compares precision and general computer mouse aiming performances in right-handers and left-handers. The findings showed that right-handers generally performed better and that people performed better when they used their prefer hand on the mouse rather than their inexperienced hand.

Roch, Axel. “Fire-Control and Human-Computer Interaction: Towards a History of the Computer Mouse (1940-1965).” Lab. Jahrbuch der Kunsthochschule für Medien in Köln, August 28, 1998. Accessed February 20, 2017.
This is an article published by a student at Stanford explaining the antecedents to the mouse and how radar devices from World War II inspired its design.

The Mouse Site: The Archive. Stanford University. Accessed February 20, 2017.
This site is Stanford University’s archive library dedicated to primary resources focused on Engelbart’s research and interviews about his invention: the computer mouse.

US Archives, “Computer-Aided Display Control.” National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Accessed February 20, 2017.
This is an 109 page report by W.K. English, D.C. Engelbart and Bonnie Huddart that shows the research on the “computer-aided human control of computer displays”. The report contains analysis and evaluation of these techniques.

US Patent and Trademark Office, “Computer Mouse Input Device with Multi-Axis Palm Control.” USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database. Accessed February 20, 2017.
This is the 2004 patent for the computer mouse input device with multi-axis palm control.

US Patent and Trademark Office, “Computer Mouse or Keyboard Input Device Utilizing Capacitive Sensors.” USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database. Accessed February 20, 2017. HITOFF&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/search-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&d=PALL&RefSrch=yes&Query=PN/5463388
This is the 1995 patent of the computer mouse, which is called the keyboard input device utilizing capacitive sensors in the title.

US Patent and Trademark Office, “Z-Y Position Controller Having Axially-Inclined Transducer Members.” USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database. Accessed February 20, 2017. PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=4628755.PN.&OS=PN/4628755&RS=PN/4628755
This is the patent for the hardware within the mouse that transfers motion from the “drive wheel” on the mouse onto the X and Y axis positioning components of the cursor onto the computer display. This is patent belonged to Jack S. Hawley and comes after Engelbart’s patent in the year 1986.

US Patent and Trademark Office, “X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System.” USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database. Accessed February 20, 2017.
Here is the patent issued in 1970 for Englebart’s proposed “X-Y position indicator” transferring motion of the drive wheel on the mouse to the computer’s display.

van Dam, Andries. “Post – WIMP User Interfaces.Communications of the ACM 40, no. 2 (February 1997): 63-67.
This scholarly essay argues that new technology (post-WIMP GUIs graphical user interfaces) must rely on gesture and speech recognition rather than menus, forms and toolbars. This draws on the “easy to use” devices made to improve desktop productivity in the 1970s (the mouse is included in this).