PICTURE: Vangelis Thomaidis (www.sxc.hu)

It was never envisaged it would be around this long. Forty years ago Douglas Engelbart and Bill English at Stanford Research Institute in California were looking for a simple way to control a computer.

They came up with a square shaped wooden block mounted on two wheels with a cable running out the back which one researcher dubbed a ‘mouse’ based on the similarity of the cable to a mouse’s tail - a name which has been used ever since.

The prototype was demonstrated at a December 1968 presentation to illustrate a working computer network (prior to this people apparently used light pens, similar to those used World War II radar operators, to navigate around computers).

The first commercial products appeared in the early 1980s - the first commercial version was developed by Xerox.

But it wasn’t until Apple acquired the licence and incorporated the technology into the 1984 release, the Apple Macintosh, that the mouse was launched on its way to become the default computer navigation tool. And my, how the market has grown - one of the world’s biggest suppliers, Logitech, recently announced that it had made its billionth device.

Sure there’s been changes - the trackball has largely given way to infrared sensors, wireless tech has done away with the cable “tail” and there’s been some innovative shaping - but the concept for the ubiquitous object has by and large remained the same since its invention.

There are now companies working on replacement computer navigation tools - in particular touch screen and gesture recognition technology (remember Tom Cruise in Minority Report?) - and many believe the mouse is in its last days. Watch this space.

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