The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

​​P. Atkinson, 'The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men: the role of the computer mouse in the history of computing'
Design Issues 23(3): 2007: 16-46


There are well documented technical histories of the computer mouse describing its invention in the early 1960s and its 'public' release with the Apple Macintosh in 1984. These histories, though do not ask:  how did people react to the introduction of the mouse? Why did it take so long to become a mass-produced item? How did it become the single most accepted interface technology? What did the mouse represent, and what does it represent today?

Through a series of interviews with the inventor of the mouse and the designers and engineers who developed it, along with an analysis of the textual and visual promotional material of the time, this article explores the history of the mouse in the context of its original application, its subsequent improvements through work at Xerox and Apple, and its later wholesale acceptance by the personal computer industry. It is argued that this wholesale acceptance cannot be totally explained purely by the 'ease of use' provided by the computer mouse, and that there were other, less obvious but highly significant socio-political factors at play.


A text only version of this article can be downloaded from the SHURA website.
The full article can be accessed or purchased from the Design Issues website.