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Article on Inventor of the Mouse

CmdrTaco posted more than 15 years ago | from the stuff-to-read dept.

News 44

Karim sent us a link to a sweet little article on Douglas Engelbart, best known as being the who invented that mouse thing that has completely changed the landscape of the computing world. The article is interesting- about research, and finance, and the industry as a whole. Worth a read.

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But is he really the inventor of the mouse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007364)

A swedish inventor named Håkan Lantz (I think), claims he is the one that invented the mouse. He designed the digitizer back in the 60's.

But is he really the inventor of the mouse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007365)

Yeah, right!
Håkan Lans is the inventor of the mouse!

Rollover and single click is replacing doubleclick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007366)

The javascript rollover has become so popular in web pages, that GUI's are now starting to incorporate it more. Basically, you rollover an icon to select it, and click just once to execute.

I like this, but a lot of people don't because it supposedly makes it too common to accidently launch something unintentionally. To these people I say " be more careful ".

Will 3-button mice ever be accepted by non-techs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007367)

maybe, but I doubt it. I like the quote that he had about people being so worried about user friendlieness. I think people are opposed to learning new ways to do things, which is one of the reasons we are still stuck with a keyboard that was designed specifically to slow typing down.

Hmm, Frankly he was a hackers friend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007368)

Web browser more powerful because it allowed direct data access, imagine the hacker potential.

No wonder the pushed his idea of a big working network away, with arpa being military and all. They had to invent the current state of the browser and firewalling before this internet linking was feasible for companies.

He probably did invent it also (yes at same time) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007369)

Usually ALL great inventions are invented by a funded research group (SRI in this case) and a single person at the same time. Its sort of an ironic thing but it is always so.

They both invented it I figure...had they know the other was working on it they could have colaborated (no pun intended) least now the internet helps such projects efforts merge and can tend to avoid this stange phenomemon.

So buy a damn 3-button mouse! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007370)

Honestly, I don't know why 3-button mice aren't standard. It's not price, not when you're talking about $800+ computers and $20 mice (if that).

Maybe because the extra buttons look "scary" or something.

Or, more likely, it's because it's what people are used to seeing on Windows computers. I could sob at the thought, that such ignorance is what drives the computer industry.

What else is there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007371)

You mean there are mice that do not
have 3 buttons?

But what are they good for? I mean besides

an average xwindow user

user friendliness: pianos versus stereos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007372)

"Would you rather that your children learn to play the piano, or learn to play the stereo?" This is the opener to Pianos Not Stereos: Creating Computational Construction Kits [] .

The point is, there is a fundamental tradeoff between power and ease of use, much like the tradeoff between speed and memory usage. The most powerful tools fundamentally require some extra time to learn to use.

I think this is the viewpoint Englebart has when he talks about user friendliness. I've heard user friendly evangelists talk with glazy eyes about interfaces where you just click a button and it all happens for you--well, what's the point of suc ha tool? Why make users press the button at all, if they are going to be given so little choice in what the tool does?

Mother of all demos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007373)

There was an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the invention. More info
here []

Oddly, many old timers were there, but hardly any of today's major names in the tech industry. It was kinda sad. A forgotten invention that changed the world.

Good ole Xerox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007374)

Other neet facts:

Did you know that not only the mouse was devoloped at Xerox, but so was eathernet and the first gui OS (global view which steve jobs later stole and called MacOS). Not to mention Adobe was also formed by two guys who left Xerox becuase Xerox was too stupid to listen to them, I wonder how many companies have made this mistake.

Microwriter??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007375)

Anyone remember (must have been ca. 1984 -
I saw it in the "Home Computer Course" glossy mag.) a device called (I think) the Microwriter
It was design for one-handed operation as a standalone device, had a one-line lcd character
matrix display, and was intended as a portable wordprocessor about the size of a mouse?
It had five buttons, and you entered letters of
the alphabet by chording the buttons in certain

Will 3-button mice ever be accepted by non-techs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007376)

Just out of interest- the keyboard was designed to slow human-language typing down.- but how much does it slow C/bash/Perl etc. typing down? There are some very condensed, cryptic looking programming languages out there....

Nice article... nearly right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007377)

Alan Kay invented overlapping windows, but credits the idea as an extention of the concept Englebart created.

3 button mouse is over-rated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007378)

I've only found 2 uses for the middle button in X

--pasting text (which can be done just as well with the right button if you don't mind the extra step of clicking "paste" on the little popup menu)

--selecting a file in the file selection dialogue box of Xemacs (which could be done just as well with the left button)

Otherwise, /. is about the WORST place to get opinions on how to build a Linux UI for non technical users. :)

Single-click in KDE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007379)

KDE also uses single-click for launching. It took me a little
while to get used to it, but now find it hard to go back to GUI's
that require double-clicking.

Hung on every word (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007380)

Not often does an article at /. interest me more then a casual scan. But this articles was great! Even for being so long, I hung on every single word and read the entire thing....and feel I know more for it.

Lets have more articles like this one!

hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007381)

on a previous note... results from a flood ping
666 !
is it me because I stopped it, or is it the OS because it's there? AAAAAH MOMMY.....
PING ( 56 data bytes
................................................ ................................
................................................ ................................
................................................ ................................
................................................ ................................
................................................ ................................
................................................ ................................
................................................ ................................
................................................ ................................
--- ping statistics ---
666 packets transmitted, 0 packets received, 100% packet loss

Reputation >> $$ (BTW, damn good article) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007382)

One thing I keep hearing from mainstream press that interview people that contribute innovations freely to society is "don't you feel bad that you didn't get any money for your work?"

It bugs me when people don't realize that some people simply aren't motivated by money only. For example, a lot of hackers in the free software community have been offered jobs to work exclusively on their projects. Some have actually declined; it wouldn't be their fun little project any more, but "just another job".

Today, Linus is Elvis-Incarnate in the software world. He is the prime example of the reputation-wealthy (his salary and stock options at TransMeta ain't bad either).

Tragically, Engelbart was robbed of his reputation. GUIs and mice have mainly been associated with PARC than with him and SRI.
Only recently is his story finally being told.

Yeah, his personality may have played a part in it, and the underlying technology needed to catch up a bit, but at least credit should be given where it's due.

Will 3-button mice ever be accepted by non-techs? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2007383)

(this is a little off-topic, but I'm curious while attention is on this)

I use a 3 button mouse with X. No problem for me.

However, as Linux tries to embrace the non-tech crowd with user friendly desktops such as Gnome and Kde, will the Mac/MS crowd switch to a 3 button mouse?

I know that Linux gives you a config choice between 2 and 3 button mice, but I can't help but feel that the apps are being written skewed toward 3 button, which the non-techs might not use. This might make the apps less useful because they've been optimised for 3 button, instead of the 2 button these people might prefer.

What do you folks think?

Nice article - a bit of history (1)

mackga (990) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007384)

Without the usual distortions. As per this quote:

"We'd been using electronic mail since 1970 [over the government-backed ARPA network, predecessor to the Internet]. But both Apple and Microsoft Corp. ignored the network."

Nice to see proper perspective. Not to bash anyone in particular, but I sometimes get fed up with the historical revisionism that takes place in the "meida" nowadays. If you don't know what and how stuff happened, folks can tell you anything and sell it as truth.

But is he really the inventor of the mouse? (1)

Misagon (1135) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007385)

Håkan Lantz did invent the digitizer board that works with electromagnetic fields.
Doug Engelbart invented the two-wheel mechanical mouse, the kind that has two conical
wheels underneat, that you can see with old DEC terminals and workstations. Both inventions where made roughly at the same time, and both
devices look and behave crudely like the mice we use today... but

neither of them invented the mouse that has a rubber-coated steel ball that we use today.
Both people invented mouse-like devices, and called their invention "x-y position indicator".

The mouse is good? (1)

Misagon (1135) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007386)

The people behind the Star system (Star is the predecessor to all GUI systems today)
used the simple argument that it does not have to be picked up to be used.

He/she didn't suggest that we all use CLI (1)

kip3f (1210) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007387)

> Of course, there are things that absolutely must be GUI. Like, web browsers.

I just wanted to mention that I am posting this from lynx...

An interesting article (2)

Effugas (2378) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007388)

"If in your office, you as an intellectual worker were supplied with a computer display backed up by a computer that was alive for you all day and was instantly responsive, how much value could you derive from that?"

Douglas Engelbart
Dec. 9, 1968


Great article. Apparently, he pulled off what is known as "The Mother Of All Demos", basically demonstrating Internet Groupware in the late 60's. Exceedingly cool.

I read this guy with great interest. He comes up with all this incredibly useful and usable stuff, and turns around and holds disdain for user friendlyness--he says people are unwilling to learn stuff and it's causing them to use less efficient tools. Where I think the true problems lie in the fact that user friendliness intersects with maximum efficiency only at great research expense to the designers of the hardware or software--in other words, it's easy to be efficient and hard, and it's easy to be inefficient and easy, but it's hard to be efficient and easy.

Working so hard on UI stuff(I'm leading a BOF at LinuxWorldExpo! :-), it's interesting to hear the perspective of an undisputable master of my field. Read this article, you'll probably find it as fascinating as I did.

Yours Truly,

Dan Kaminsky
DoxPara Research

Once you pull the pin, Mr. Grenade is no longer your friend.

An interesting article (1)

caolan (2716) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007389)

I actually saw the video of doug giving that demo.
Great fun to watch, doug gets a big gasp from the audience when he shows them that his keyboard is actually "not built into the computer", he can "pick it up and put it on his lap, and move around", and the audience was gobsmacked :-)

Doug showed them his mouse, and then showed them his other invention, which was the chord keyboard, supposedly he was always a bit upset that it wasn't as much of a success as the mouse

He does this video link up as well, which wowed the audience, and showed them two users, himself and his research assistent who teleoperates a mouse pointer of his own at the same time on the shared screen, one of the first proper Computer Supported Cooperative Work demos as well. All very heavy stuff, the mouse cursor looks very funny, its basically an ink blob moving about the place, Doug also demoed a form of hypertexted document as well, just while he was at everything else :-), the bitmapped display he was using (dont know how new bitmapped displays would have been to his audience) is a bit wierd as well, the font he was using looks really like something he threw together for an afternoon. I dont know the cost of the demo, but it was reportedly incredibly high, what im still interested in knowing, is how much of the demo was semi-faked :-), and how careful was doug to avoid functionality that would have crashed the whole thing, he must have been sweating heavily with so many new and cutting edge pieces of software and hardware functioning at the same time.

Anyhow if you get a chance to see the video, do so, i found the audience reactions hilarious.


Will 3-button mice ever be accepted by non-techs? (1)

Jamuraa (3055) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007390)

Sure they will be - I use my intellipoint mouse which shipped with my dell in X very nicely. Works like a charm.

Will 3-button mice ever be accepted by non-techs? (1)

Chakotay (3529) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007391)

I agree. I have a semi-3-button mouse. you know, a 2-button mouse with a 3rd button on the side that acts as half a left click (a "grab"). that little thing is very useful in 3d modelling and other graphics utilities. and in x usually the 3 button emulation works nicely enough.

the instant I find a 3 button mouse with a "grab" button on its side I'll buy it tho :-)

the Gods have a sense of humor,

Kinda cool (1)

Damien Ivan (3809) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007392)

Kinda interesting... I wish I made the mouse.

But I dunno if it's as truly interesting as Jujunem [] Whaddya think?

The mouse is The beginning of the end (1)

xQx (5744) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007393)

The is responsable for all the SHIT we have to put up with now.

The mouse is directly responsible for the following SHIT:


The mouse gave Fucking Stupid People the ability to use the computer, therefore the mouse is responisible for the following SHIT:

AOL (Where would they be without their stupid users)
Microsoft (As Above)

The ONLY benifit I see from the use of the mouse would be the great improvement it gave for the control of QUAKE, however, DOOM, DOOM2, Duke3D, and the origional (BEST) WOLFINSTIEN 3D survived without it, besides a new kind of device like the old nintendo glove probably would've been designed for computer games if the mouse hadn't already taken it's stranglehold (monopoly? *grin*) of the market.




8 bits it a BYTE (1)

xQx (5744) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007394)

0 is a bit
1 is a bit
01010101 is a BYTE

If your modem is capable of 33600bps you can recieve 33600 1s or 0s in a second.

Each characture is 8 bits.

The mouse is good!! (1)

Cid Highwind (9258) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007395)

If there were no mouse, how would we aim a railgun?
Most games benefit from using a mouse. I admit I use the keyboard a lot in windowing interfaces, but anyone who thinks grep and cat are more intuitive than a scrollbar and a double-click is a lunatic.

Missing word in post (1)

Silk (13032) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007396)

Hey Rob. The posting reads:

> to a sweet little article on Douglas Engelbart, best knows as being the who invented that mouse ...

Shouldn't that be 'the _person_ who invented that invented'?

The mouse is good? (1)

jerodd (13818) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007397)

Why does everyone worship the mouse? I have found that most new users do not like it. Double clicking is difficult for many people, and people with any kind of degenerative joint disease, like arthritis, or a disease like Parkinson's, cannot use a mouse. Most mice tend to have dirty rollers which makes them difficult to point with any kind of precision.

The mouse is an invention in the same sense that Windows is an invention. Sure, it does have some nice things, but I'll take an IBM 3101 over your Windows 95 PC with a mouse anyday! (OK, so I'd probably want something better than a 3101...)

Joshua. (Who does like his Microsoft scrollpoint mouse.)

Nice article... nearly right (1)

Weasel Boy (13855) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007398)

While I enjoyed the article, I believe the author oversells Englebart's contributions. AFAIK, Vannevar Bush invented hyperlinking and Alan Kay invented windowing. Of course, who exactly invented what when the inventors all know each other is subject to debate. For further details, please refer to the article I wrote last weekend [] on this subject. Hint: Read the second (HTML) version. There was a posting error.

Also, regarding Apple ignoring the network: I find that claim to be absurd, since even the first 1984 Mac had 57kbps serial networking built in. It merely lacked a TCP/IP stack, but then even in the late '80s there was a raging debate over which competing transport protocol would win out. Remember X.25, Bitnet and UUCP? DECnet? Anyone want to recall another?

Clever of you not to specify which is better (1)

Weasel Boy (13855) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007399)

But examples of a little learning curve leading to greater productivity are numerous. For instance, CLI vs GUI, TeX vs Word.

Since I am intimately familiar with these four items, I can't help but jump in with $0.02. I find GUI to be 10x more productive than CLI 99% of the time. Similarly for Word and TeX (or even LaTeX). For that remaining 1% of the time, I prefer to have a "mini environment" that lets me revert to the old-fashioned way.

Of course, even the old way gets better and better. I now use PERL almost exclusively instead of any shell language - even (especially!) in a Windows environment. But in the end, the new paradigm improves productivity so much, it stands on its own merit even without a path to the past.

But is he really the inventor of the mouse? (1)

erikl (14097) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007400)

I believe the claim is that Håkan Lans was the first that created a device that is similar to the mouse of today, with a ball underneath.
Engelbart's device had two perpendicular wheels.

Cheap chord-writer (1)

Hanzie (16075) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007401)

Why not just reprogram another keyboard? You could pick your five favorite keys, and use them.

Keyboards are damn cheap, and this guy has some good ideas. His chord-writer should be worth a try.

Anybody know where to find the info on what the different chords indicated?

I'm not going to wait around until M$ invents the Intelli-key. I want it now.

mouse+thingy (1)

SissyLaLa (17392) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007402)

That keypad thing looks like something a blind pal 'o mine used.

Anyway, why not combine it _with_ the mouse

a 5 button programable mouse

(one in each hand gives yall two railguns @ a time)

Don't any of you sons'a'bitches go and make any money off this. It's MY idea. MINE!
(c) and stuff.

The mouse is good? (1)

Luxury P. Yacht (18865) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007404)

What? And get fingerprints all over my shiny new monitor? I don't think so!

Chord keyboard available? (1)

Neurowiz (18899) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007405)

This piece of hardware sounded interesting. Anyone have any info about it? Perhaps this could be my contribution to Linux.... code the driver for the thing.. Hrm...


I agree more with Doug (1)

jasonh (85249) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007406)

I believe that you misunderstand Engelbart's point. In a talk he gave, he speaks about the correct interface for the task. For example, you don't want to drive your car by giving it speech commands.

"Okay, turn right...NOW! A little more! Speed up to 45...stop!"

What he's talking about is putting on a false layer of abstraction that doesn't really help the user become effective at the task. However, he's not advocating that we all use command line interfaces and TeX. If you're only going to do something a few times, it's not worth learning it. Engelbart is really advocating that you use the right tool and have the right training for your task. If that is a CLI, then that's fine. But it's not for everybody.

The mouse is good? (1)

jasonh (85249) | more than 15 years ago | (#2007407)

Your arm would get sore if you had to move it the distances on your screen, as well as holding it up in the air.

Remember: Use the right tool for the task! There is no one single "perfect" interface. Engelbart's team investigated dozens of devices for input. The mouse was simply the one that made it out.
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