This week we’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of Microsoft Solitaire, perhaps the most-played computer game ever! Besides its addictive replayability, one of the reasons Microsoft chose to include the game with Windows 3.0 was to get people used to the computer mouse which, even in 1990, many users weren’t comfortable with yet. But the mouse was far from a new technology in 1990. In celebration of Solitaire, let’s look at 5 facts about the first computer mouse.
1. First mouse on the block
The first computer mouse was invented by Douglas Engelbart in 1964. Engelbart was a computer pioneer and inventor who founded Stanford Research Institute’s Augmentation Research Center or ARC. Douglas Engelbart spent the decade with his team researching possibilities in human-computer interaction at ARC with funding from NASA and ARPA. Engelbart envisioned a world where computers were used by everyone to help organize our lives and augment our intellects. At this point in history, computers were big, expensive, and only used at large institutions. The world Engelbart saw was not yet even imagined by most, but he played a major role in changing that with his work at ARC.
2. No royalties for Douglas!
Engelbart never received any royalties from his invention as the patent was owned by his employer, the Stanford Research Institute. By the time the mouse was available on the consumer market twenty years later, the patent had already run out.
3. A very mouse-like shape
The computer mouse got its name from its shape. The first prototype mouse was made of wood with a cord attached. Engelbart and Bill English, a researcher at SRI who helped develop the device, thought it resembled the likeness of the common mouse. The name has stuck ever since!
4. Use on a demo
The mouse was first demonstrated at the “Mother of All Demos
,” a retroactively named demonstration that changed the course of computer history forever. On December 7, 1968 Douglas Engelbart and his team from ARC demonstrated the first graphical user interface or GUI, the first computer mouse, the concept of hypertext, bitmapping, and video conferencing technology. The demonstration was groundbreaking and would create ripples through the computer world that are still felt today. You can watch the 90-minute demonstration for free here
5. Big impact from ARPANET
Stanford Research Institute and the Augmentation Research Center also had a major impact on the Internet. The ARPANET, or Advanced Research Projects Agency network, was an early attempt at networking computers. It would eventually evolve into the Internet that we know today. In 1969, Engelbart volunteered ARC to provide the first reference library service for the ARPANET. The ARC computer, an SDS 940 nicknamed Genie, was also the first computer to receive a message on the ARPANET from an SDS Sigma 7 computer at UCLA.Log in to Living Computers’ restored XDS Sigma 9, a successor to the SDS Sigma 7, via our free remote online systems!
Douglas Engelbart forever changed the computer world with his invention of the mouse and his work at ARC. By the 1990s there was a computer with a mouse on practically every desk—the mouse was ubiquitous. However, as I write this blog post and work from home, I am not using a mouse at all. Many children today have never used a mouse, but in fact have only interfaced with computers using touchscreens. As we start to see computer interfaces evolve away from the mouse as we know it, our once futuristic pointing device will one day be considered vintage and obsolete.
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