Thursday, April 27, 2006

April 27: Mouse Day

On this date in 1981, Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) introduced its computer mouse. It’s hard to imagine a time when we operated a computer without a mouse, a time when we didn’t point and click, or a time when we needed a good mouser more than we needed an operational mouse. Today they are ubiquitous (from Latin for everywhere).

The invention of the mouse is credited to Douglas Engelbart, who created what he called an "X-Y position indicator for a display system" in 1964. His invention, a wooden shell with two metal wheels, was patented in 1970. In 1970, however, there were no personal computers; it would be ten more years before someone stepped up to take the mouse to the big time.

The decade of the personal computer had arrived in 1980, and Steven Jobs , co-founder of Apple Computer, challenged Zerox’s (PARC) to create a mouse that was durable, useful, and inexpensive. They succeeded. Where Engelbart had used metal wheels, they used a plastic ball. Their mouse was ready for demonstration in 1981, and in January 1983 the Apple Lisa was introduced, the first commercial personal computer with a mouse. At a price of almost $10,000, the Lisa was not a commercial success, but Apple rebounded one year later with the Macintosh 128K. Like the Lisa, the Macintosh had a single-button mouse. The Macintosh revolutionized personal computing with its Graphic User Interface (GUI), the predominate method we use today of interacting with a computer using windows and icons. Imagine trying to do this without a mouse!

With the popularity of Microsoft Windows in the 1990s, the mouse became what it is today: ubiquitous (1).

Today’s Challenge: Building a Better Mouse Trap

The age of the personal computer (PC) has been furtile ground for a number of new words, according to Twentieth Century Words by John Ayto. See if you can guess, based on years, which of the two words in each pair below appeared first in print (2).

1. hardware or software?

2. Internet or information superhighway?

3. home page or HTML?

4. drag or mouse?

5. download or spell checker?

6. Windows or word processor?

7. mouse potato or coach potato?

Quote of the Day: Be a fountain, not a drain --Rex Hudler

1. hardware (1945); software (1960) 2. information superhighway (1985); Internet (1986) 3. HTML (1992); home page (1993) 4. mouse (1965); drag (1993) 5. download (1980); spell checker (1983) 6. word processor (1970);Windows (1983) 7. coach potato (1979); mouse potato (1994)

1 -Soojung, Alex and Kim Pang. Mighty Mouse. Standford Magazine March/April 2002.
2- Ayto, John. Twentieth Century Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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