The first computer mouse was designed in 1961. Yes, about six decades ago and it was made of wood! The mice we see today are nothing like this mouse and thanks to technology, the design has undergone major changes and developments to make mice faster and more efficient.
But the question arises, how exactly does a mouse work? In this article, we will take a look inside the design and workings of a mouse but before that, let us understand what a mouse is and what its functions are.
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What’s a computer mouse?
A computer mouse is nothing like a real-life mouse which is an animal and a carrier of diseases. A computer mouse, in fact, is an electronic device that helps the user move the cursor on the screen and point at various things that the computer’s monitor displays.
A mouse can be wired or wireless and moves over a flat surface only so it can calculate how much and in which direction you have moved your hand and move the cursor accordingly.
It inputs this information into the system of the computer and shows you the output on the screen in the form of the cursor moving or choosing things. This allows a user to interact with the computer and hence carry out functions.
History of the computer mouse
Although the computer mouse has existed since quite a while, Apple is the company that actually made it popular among the masses. The advent of this device started with the British military project to improve their interaction with their computers and other computing devices.
This old version of the mouse came with a flat base with a ball on top of it and eventually evolved from being a secret device from the public to something we all cannot do without in today’s day and age.
The first mouse for commercial usage was in fact made by Stanford University and was later absorbed by tech companies who made several deviations and changes into making mice suitable for different types of people.
There are a number of different mice in the market today for a wide range of specific purposes like gaming mouse, 3D mouse, vertical mouse, ergonomic mouse, and much more.
Let us discuss the workings of the two most popular types of mice among these which are mechanical and optical mice. So let’s get started.
What is a mechanical mouse?
A mechanical mouse comes with a heavy rubber ball for navigation which is also why this type of mouse is called a rolling rubber ball mouse as well. This mouse also has mechanical parts on the inside with a few wheels and is very heavy.
How does a mechanical mouse work?
When you move a mechanical mouse around, the ball beneath it also rolls around. In doing so, it pushes the two plastic wheels to it and since the wheels detect perpendicular distances, they detect the precise side-to-side as well as up-and-down movement.
Both the wheels contain spokes that emit a thin beam of light in the mouse. Every time the light ‘breaks’, the mouse calculates the distance of the movement of the mechanical mouse. Thus both wheels are used to calculate the distance accurately.
Mechanical mice were very popular once but as their designs are bulkier and the newer types of mice are more ergonomic, durable, and specialty driven, they were replaced quickly. This led to the growing popularity of optical mice. Let us now learn about optical mice.
What is an optical mouse?
An optical mouse is better than a mechanical mouse on technological levels as it is more advanced. It does not consist of mechanical parts and is fully electronic without any moving parts. For tracking movement, it uses an LED light and a light detection chip as well as some other simple parts.
How does an optical mouse work?
The mouse comes with an LED light installed at the bottom of it that emits a bright light on the surface the mouse is kept in. the light bounces from the surfaces and enters a photocell. Located at the bottom of the mouse, this photocell magnifies this light using the frontal lens.
Since the pattern of the light reflected changes with the movement of the mouse, the change is recorded by the light-detector chip to figure the distance and direction of the movement of the mouse.
Optical mice are faster, lighter, simpler, more durable, and ergonomic than mechanical mice which have made them more popular than the former.
How is motion tracked in a mouse?
Step 1: LED – LED illuminates the surface below the sensor of the mouse. The LED emits either a red or blue light. Some mice replace LEDs with infrared led lights which are not visible to the human eye but are seen by the sensor of the mouse. Some mice use lasers as well instead of LED and infrared and thus can work on any surface including glass.
Step 2: Prism – Prism is used to prevent the light source (like an LED) and other electronics from being exposed outside when it strikes the prism. The light then reflects the beam towards the surface below the sensor and this is how the mouse inputs movement.
Step 3: CMOS Sensor – after the light reaches the bottom of the sensor, the CMOS sensor inputs this as movement and tries to measure this movement to accuracy which is then displayed on the monitor.
What if you are unable to use a mouse?
Using a computer mouse requires good eye-hand coordination as well as dexterity. People with certain impairments like hand injuries, or some other disability or condition like arthritis might restrain their mobility and the ability to use a mouse well.
So what does one do in such a situation? Ergonomically shaped mice with hand rests and joysticks can easily serve as an alternative to regular mice. Using some types of mice, you can even move your other body parts like the foot mouse and use your head control!
Many programs have built-in keyboard shortcuts that can replace the mouse and its activity which are worth investing in, as they are equally convenient to use. Voice diction is another way to replace a mouse.