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Bill English, co-creator of the computer mouse, has passed away

Bill English, co-creator of the computer mouse with his colleague Doug Engelbart, has passed away at the age of 91. The two built the first computer mouse in 1963 at the Stanford Research Institute. A block of wood with two wheels and potentiometers that would measure movement forever changed how we interacted with computers.

He built the first mouse based on an idea by Doug Engelbart, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 88. The first demonstration of it is incredible. That demo is 51 years old, and yet so little has changed in all those years that its usage is entirely recognisable. Mr English’s design changed the way we use a fundamental piece of technology, but did it so perfectly that only the shape of the device has altered. I think we’re lucky to be able to watch this.

After leaving SRI, he went on to work for Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre. It was there that he would refine his invention, creating the ball mouse.

The mouse ushered in a more precise way of engaging with the PC. We’re still swooshing cursors after all these years, and probably using it in a manner of ways that he couldn’t have predicted. The video demonstrates that they were already using the device to move things around and draw with, and we’re doing that today. But could he have envisioned just how many kids would be using his device to dig out their first base in Minecraft?

I, perhaps foolishly, never really thought of the mouse as an ‘invention’, and until today had never heard of Bill English. It was a genuine pleasure to find out about both, even if it is in such sad circumstances.

The header image was used in accordance with CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia.

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Craig Pearson


I love square sausage, cats, and climbing pretend rocks.

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