Apple should thank Jef Raskin for Mighty Mouse

mighty mouseApple finally gave in and decided that it was time to do a multi-button mouse. And called it the Mighty Mouse. But they could not do just any mouse, and had to make it cool, and different. After all its not easy to charge people $50 for a wired mouse when bluetooth mice are going for less than that. They come-up with Mighty Mouse. Apple’s idea – lets get rid of the scroll wheel, put a scroll ball instead. Instead of putting actual buttons, lets put touch-sensitive technology. So it looks like a single button mouse (Steve Jobs happy!) and works like a four button mouse.

Russell, normally a level headed fellow, was bobbing his acceptance harder than a Barry Bonds bobble-head doll given away at San Francisco Giants game. And then my sysadmin, sent me an IM reminding me of The Humane Interface by Jef Raskin, who worked with Jobs eons ago. In one of the chapter of his book, he writes about how an Apple multiple button mouse would work. Here is an excerpt which describes the “multi button mouse”

> What I did not see at the time is that multiple buttons on a mouse can work well if the buttons are labeled. If the Macintosh mouse had had multiple buttons, if the buttons had been permanently labeled, and if they had been used only for their designated functions, a multiple-button mouse might have been a better choice. A better mouse might have two buttons on top, marked “Select” and “Activate,” and a “Grab” button on the side that is activated by squeezing the mouse. This last button would be marked Grab. Some mice at present have a wheel on top that is used primarily for scrolling. Better still would be a small trackball in that location. The mouse would control the position of the cursor; the trackball could be used, for example, to manipulate objects or to make selections from menus that float with the cursor.

The Apple page for Mighty Mouse kinda illustrates that concept outlined by Raskin clearly. Apple in its press release has been quick to do a bit of chest thumping and saying we are so cool and innovative (and they are) but never mention Jef Raskin. How about some acknowledgment? For those of you who don’t know Raskin, check out this site, which lists him as a “creator of Apple’s Macintosh, the Canon Cat, click-and-drag selection and other inventions.” The site says he also came up with the idea/name of and the concept of “information appliances.” Just because he passed away, and not here doesn’t mean that his contribution should be belittled. (By the way, Walt Mossberg doesn’t very much care for the mouse. I wonder how it slipped the Raskin idea, since he is normally batting 1.000 on computer stuff.)


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