Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Happy birthday rodent !!

It's 40 years since the first computer mouse was demonstrated in public.  Of course now we take this device for granted, and it has become the most accepted way to control a computer, as the pointer on the screen follows the movement of the mouse.  The modern mouse now has multiple controls, multiple buttons and often scrolling controls too.  And many have now lost the cable which reminded people of a mouse's tail 40 years ago, relying on radio technology to make the connection.  They also tend to use optics for tracking now rather than wheels underneath. 

Of course we have all probably heard stories about computer help desks fielding a call from a confused new user about not being able to cope with the supplied footswitch (meaning the mouse!)  For most people, this rodent provides a relatively simple way to point and click on screen icons and menus to cause the computer to do things instead of typing in commands.  And it will probably be around for a considerable time to come.  But we are already seeing touch screens that use your own fingers to point on to items without requiring a stylus or mouse device.  We will get better at using gestures to control machines as a bigger and bigger de-facto standard library of them is developed which people come to understand intuitively as they have done with the mouse.  And beyond that we will be able to simply think and control what we want machines to do.  There will be many small steps towards making computers easier to use over the next decade or so.  But we have to strive towards thought-controlled computing because we need devices to ultimately be that simple to use.  in this way, we may reduce the chance of the help desk coming up against more mouse-footswitch confusion!

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