Monday 13 June 2011

The History of the Mouse Double Click… from the Future

The double click on the computer mouse is used today to do things like highlight one word in a Word document, or open up a file. But some day in the future this operation will be replaced by something like a voice-activated command. ‘Highlight that word’ or ‘No, not that one, I said highlight that other word’ we will say. Or, ‘Open up that file’. It’s quite possible we won’t be very polite to our computers. Some people, for instance, might treat them like shit. Unless we bother giving computers feelings. Then we might not want to prevail upon them so much. ‘Do you mind highlighting…?’ we might begin. Whatever the case, double clicking our computer mouse will be something future generations will look back as barbaric.

‘Granddad, tell us how you had to double click your mouse’, a grandchild will plead when we take them upon our knee for a bit of nostalgia.
‘You couldn’t just double click. Oh, no. The second click had to follow the first in quick succession.  And if you didn’t do it fast enough…’
‘Yes, granddad, yes. What happened then? Tell us. Tell us…’
‘Are you sure you want to know?’
 ‘You would end up doing two single clicks.’
‘Many years ago – more than I can bear to think of now’, you will say, delving deeper: ‘We had to learn how to move the mouse around to move the cursor’.
‘Grandad, granddad, what’s a cursor?’ a grandchild will clammer. (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

‘The first time I ever used a mouse’, you will say, ‘I would move it and the cursor would disappear off the edge of the screen.’
And then you will say: ‘Back in those days, you would feel like you couldn’t move your cursor any further running your mouse along a mousepad as far as it would go, little realising that you could just pick up your mouse, put it back down again without the cursor going all the way back to where it had started because you had let go’.
Another grandchild, having never heard the story before may well ask in all innocence: ‘Granddad, why have you got one finger that is slightly bigger than the rest of your fingers?’
‘From double clicking’, you will say betraying a pained expression, trying to push your slightly bigger double-clicking finger under the others to conceal it. This, in the future, will be considered a massive disfigurement. Everyone else will be genetically nice. The grandchildren, for their part, will hold a steadfast look into your face, unable to face peering at your fingers.


  1. A conundrum of possible questions/queries come to mind, not to mention the myriad of answers: "which finger (or fingers) was (or were) preferable?", "Did you ever (gosh, takes a deep breath) use you thumb?" "Was there any advantage using 3-button mouse over the 'Mac' one-buttoner?", "Did you ever master the wacom tablet (or similar) with it's 'pen-mouse'?"...

  2. Editor's Reply:

    Of course the questions you raise in turn raise other questions. This could well tip the question-answer balance, but here goes anyway: what is the plural of the computer mouse? Is it computer mice? I have not seen anything mentioned in various computer manuals or indeed in works of literary fiction (certainly not in Don Quixote, for instance). Are we also correct in referring to a collection of computer mouses/mice as computer vermin?

  3. don't forget that there is also some confusion regarding the correct term for a group of mouses/mice: Is it herd, hoard, nest, colony, harvest or mischief?

  4. side note:

    This was a real memo sent out by a computer company (IBM) to its employees in all seriousness. It went to all field engineers regarding a computer peripheral problem. The author of this memo was quite genuine. The engineers rolled on the floor! Especially note the last couple of sentences...

    To: Whom this may concern

    Re: Replacement of mouse balls

    If a mouse fails to operate or should it perform erratically, it may need a ball replacement.

    Mouse balls are now available as FRU (Field Replacement Units). Because of the delicate nature of this procedure, replacement of mouse balls should only be attempted by properly trained personnel.

    Before proceeding, determine the type of mouse balls by examining the underside of the mouse. Domestic balls will be larger and harder than foreign balls. Ball removal procedures differ depending upon the manufacturer of the mouse. Foreign balls can be replaced using the pop off method.

    Domestic balls are replaced by using the twist off method.. Mouse balls are not usually static sensitive. However, excessive handling can result in sudden discharge.

    Upon completion of ball replacement, the mouse may be used immediately. It is recommended that each person have a pair of spare balls for maintaining optimum customer satisfaction.

    Any customer missing his balls should contact the local personnel in charge of removing and replacing these necessary items.

    Please keep in mind that a customer without properly working balls is an unhappy customer.

  5. Editor's Comment:

    Good call on the collective noun for computer mouses/mice. A 'mischief' of mice I like for the animated variety. Perhaps then this should influence our choice of collective noun for the computer mouse plural. Hacking is a piece of mischief associated with computing, so perhaps a hack of computer mouses/mice?

    As for the replacement of the mouse balls. I didn't realise until I read the IBM memo, that I had a very real transferrable skill in mouse ball replacement therapy. I used to tackle that task myself. Though only if dislodging accumulated black gunge on the rollers sat around the ball failed to correct mouse dysfunction. That was achieved with a cotton bud and alcohol, although I did have a go at the task on some occasions sober.

    And while we're about it, those mouse balls must have been one of the heaviest looking-heavier-than-they-look objects known to mankind. They were like mini medicine balls. Thought: could they be salvaged from the old type of mouse and used in a Subbuteo version of boxing (I believe boxers have medicine balls chucked at their midriffs, for training purposes)?

    The rigmarole in mouse cleaning is a hardship I shall relate to my grandchildren.