The computer mouse is patented

Notebook & PC

The first computer mouse saw the light of day exactly 40 years ago - long before the first personal computers hit the market. On December 9, 1968, the computer pioneer Douglas C. Engelbart demonstrated his invention for the first time at a conference in San Francisco. Outside of the professional audience present, however, it initially met with little enthusiasm. And it would be many years before the mouse could begin its global triumph.

The first model built by Bill English, chief engineer at Engelbart's research center at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), had little resemblance to today's computer mice. The prototype consisted of a chunky wooden box with a cord, a red button to click and a wheel that implemented the movements of the device on the screen.

It was not until around 14 years later, at the beginning of 1983, that Apple presented a computer called "Lisa" which, thanks to its graphical user interface, could be operated with a mouse. Apple boss Steve Jobs was one of the first to recognize the potential of the input device, which was still outrageously expensive at the time. Jobs had got to know the mouse in the legendary Californian research center Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) of the printer manufacturer Xerox, where the "pointing device" had been further developed into the modern ball mouse. While the Xerox bosses on the east coast ignored the development of the mouse at PARC, Jobs made the mouse an elementary component of Apple computers and was the first to license the invention.

The first Apple Macintosh followed a year later, which also achieved commercial success. With the help of an adapter developed by the then still young Swiss company Logitech, a mouse could be connected to an IBM-compatible computer a little later, which paved the way for the worldwide distribution of the computer. With the Microsoft Windows 95 operating system, the mouse then also established itself in the PC market. Today it is hard to imagine using a computer without a mouse. In December 2008, Logitech said it delivered its billionth mouse.

The first public demonstration by the electrical engineer Engelbart on December 9, 1968, which can still be seen today in videos on the Internet, is now considered legendary in the computer industry. Engelbart's aim was to find solutions to solve people's increasingly complex problems with the help of computers. The passionate researcher presented his pointing device, developed on behalf of NASA, with which one could move a point on a screen in all directions. A second invention that was also presented, however, had not found any friends: a five-key keyboard with which the user could enter command lines into the computer. The mouse had proven to be one of the best solutions.

Around a year and a half before it was presented in San Francisco, Engelbart had applied for a patent for his invention, which was granted to him in November 1970. Patent No. 3,541,541 registers an "X-Y cursor control for moving by hand over any surface to move a cursor on the screen".

The inventor did not get rich with his mouse, the patent expired too early for that. But that was never a goal for him, said the now 82-year-old once the "San Jose Mercury News". "If that had been a side effect, it would of course have been nice." Tomorrow, Tuesday, Silicon Valley will honor the computer pioneer Douglas C. Engelbart with a reception. (dpa / tc)