Doug Engelbart, Inventor of Mouse, Dies at Age of 88

Inventor of Mouse Passes Away at 88

by Anton Shilov
07/03/2013 | 10:59 PM

Doug Engelbart, the man who invented the computer mouse, this week deceased. Virtually all personal computers today utilize a mouse. It is hard to imagine the world without the PC with a graphical interface and therefore the mouse is an integral part of every modern home, office or class.


One of the concepts was developed by Douglas Engelbart at the Stanford Research Institute back in the early sixties. The Engelbart's mouse utilized two wheels located perpendicular to each other. The device could naturally move either horizontally or vertically and probably was not a thing that was comfortable to use. After applying for a patent to cover the pointing device in 1967, Doug Engelbart first demoed an early prototype of what we now consider the standard PC mouse peripheral at a computer conference in San Francisco in 1968. U.S. Patent No. 3541541 was later granted in 1970.

Back in the seventies very early mice did not become mass products simply because there were not a lot of personal computers with graphics user interfaces (GUI).

Computer mice as we know them started to emerge with PCs made by Apple and Xerox, which had GUI. Those pointing devices used a ball coupled with two wheels and two sensors. As the ball rolled, the wheels also did and sensors could detect the direction and speed of rolling using infrared beams, then a special chip converted that information into X and Y vectors. The mechanical mice were inexpensive and easy to manufacture and given that display resolutions were not high, those products survived the eighties and the nineties.

Mechanical mice did not behave well in case of high resolutions, they also continuously collected dirt from the surface and had a number of other drawbacks. As a result, the optical mice were born. While optical mice were generally much better than mechanical mice, they did not work well on all types of surfaces. Laser mice generally fixed the issue and the latest generation laser mice can even work on glass surface. Apple installed a onto its Magic mouse and companies like Gyration and Logitech installed gyroscopes into their models to enable motion sensing.

Throughout its evolution, mice not only obtained scrolling wheels, but they also got programmable buttons, abilities to regulate weighs, multi-touch surface and even gyroscopes and accelerometers. But no matter how advanced the mouse gets, it uses concepts developed by Doug Engelbart, who will forever be remembered.