The invention of the computer mouse transformed how we interact with computers. A computer mouse has the purpose of detecting the X and Y, two-dimensional movement of the physical mouse and transforming it into virtual movement of the pointer on the screen.

In this article we will investigate who invented the computer mouse, when the computer mouse was invented and how it has evolved over the years.

Who invented the computer mouse and when?

The first usage of the term mouse with regards to computers was in 1965 in a publication about computer controls. A man called Douglas Engelbert at the Stanford research Institute are known to have invented the first mouse that would regard it as today in 1963. Interestingly, Engelbert never received any payments for his invention of the mouse as his patent ran out before the widespread use of computers.

Evolution of the computer mouse

Although the mouse that we would recognise today was invented in 1963, there were several earlier versions of the computer mouse. The first were trackballs, one using a bowling ball pin as part of military project in Canada.  This was obviously on a different scale to the trackballs and mice that are available today! Trackballs differ from nice as you move a ball in a fixed position rather than a mouse where you move it along the surface.

Douglas Engelbert invented the mouse as we know it in 1963, and called it a mouse because of the wire looking like a tail. The first mass produced mice used rolling ball technologies and are known as mechanical mice. These used a physical ball which moved around the table and rollers transferred movement into the X and Y directions. These mice were prone to picking up dust and particles from the surface and so regularly became blocked and inaccurate overtime.

Optical mice solved many of the problems of mechanical mice. These two used sensors to detect movement on the surface either by using LEDs or lasers. The enabled higher sensitivity and greater accuracy.

There are now some mice available which can use gyroscopes and inertia to control the mice pointer, like a Wii remote. They are very useful for teachers and set-ups where a surface may not be available to control the pointer. They often combine the gyroscopic control with a switchable conventional optical mouse.

Computer mice in the future

As we move into the future, computer mice will have to evolve. Adding additional features onto mice has been happening for the last several years. These features include additional buttons, scrolling wheels or even touch sensitive components such as on Apple mice. With the advent of the laptop many people now rely on touchpads rather than physical mice. New products from Apple and Wacom are enabling people to use this, which may one day replace optical mice as the standard way of interfacing with your computer.

As a lover of technology, the history of how our everyday technology has evolved is very interesting to me. Questions like “Who invented the computer mouse?” and “When was the computer mouse invented?” are fascinating, and I hope you find them interesting as well.

Did you know anyone who helped invent the computer mouse? Where do you think the computer mouse is going to evolve to in the future? Please leave a comment below if you want to.