Will the Mouse Celebrate its 50th Birthday?

Although it didn’t get much attention, the modest mouse celebrated its 40th birthday this week.

For some such as Logitech, the world’s leading mouse maker, it was an occasion worth celebrating. Some people, however, may be wondering how many more birthdays the mouse is going to celebrate given the growing popularity of touch screen technology – a phenomena being propelled by the iPhone.

Logitech, which makes more than $600-million a year selling “retail pointing devices” (aka mice), said earlier this week it had shipped its one billionth mouse. The Swiss company, which has been making mice since 1985, makes 376,000 mice a day and 7.8 million a month.

“Since the first click of the Logitech P4 mouse in 1982, Logitech mice have played an indispensable role in the evolution of the personal computer,” Gerald P. Quindlen, Logitech’s president and CEO said in a statement. “During the last few decades, the way people use computers has changed dramatically – what was once strictly a business tool has become highly integrated into our personal lives.”

While Logitech may be the Google of the mouse market, the question is whether the market is going to disappear. With touch-screen displays and advances in touch pads, the question is whether the mouse is doomed to go extinct. Sure, it’s a useful tool that currently makes computing easier and more productive than using a touch pad but will advances in “touch” technology make the mouse less relevant and viable?

As part of the mouse’s 40th birthday and to celebrate its inventor, Doug Engelbart, a discussion will take place on Dec. 9 led by futurist Paul Saffo at Stanford University on Dec. 9. VentureBeat sat down with Saffo to talk about the importance of the mouse and the role it plays today.

When asked why the mouse has lasted so long, here’s what Saffo said:

“There is an intrinsic conservatism behind our media devices. They last a lot longer than we think they ever will once they are accepted. The mouse has had a long life. It makes sense on the desk, but you need alternatives on laptops and portable devices. Doug had a mouse with one button, and then quickly came to a mouse with three buttons. That’s still standard today. It’s like the QWERTY keyboard. Look how long that has lasted.”

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  • Claude Rallins

    The flipside of the mouse legacy, hand-delivering the information age, is its ‘role’ in RSS (Repetitive Strain Injuries) becoming the number one occupational health hazard in the U.S., costing billions in lost productivity.

    Perhaps, at 50, when touch-screens have reduced RSS claims, a look back will expose the basic mouse design flaw, or oversight which is…

    If a plastic mouse needs a pad to ease movements and to protect it and desktop from wear & tear… whats easing movement and protecting the soft flesh that operates the plastic mouse on the hard desktop?

    I had to solve this problem to cure my RSS with the Handy (mouse) Massager:

  • Claude Rallins

    Please edit: ‘RSS’ to RSI

    (funny, I read the RSS statement above the comments window before commenting. Proof of auto-suggestion in action) -cr-