The Challenge

Create a new kind of computer navigation device that is less expensive and more reliable than any other on the market.

Impact

The basic mechanism design of this first mouse is used in virtually all mechanical mouses produced to date.

The Outcome

The first usable computer mouse, with a “ribcage” to hold pieces together and a tactile click.

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In 1980, Apple asked IDEO to develop a mouse for their radical new computer, the Lisa. Previous attempts at mouse design, by Douglas Englebart and Xerox PARC, yielded results that were too expensive and hard to make. The Apple mouse needed to be more reliable and less than 10 percent of the cost of the earlier versions.

To start, the design team created a cheaper, much-improved mechanism that would operate the mouse, and found that a complex, plastic "ribcage" would hold the pieces together. The team similarly tested and refined the mouse’s other key components, from the audible and tactile click of the button to the rubberized coating on the ball. A record turntable spun for days, logging “mouse miles” to check the reliability of the electromechanical assembly.

The resulting mouse proved mechanically and economically sound and was changed only slightly when adapted for use with the first Macintosh computer. The basic mechanism design is used in virtually all mechanical mouses produced to date.

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