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Mighty mouse

The computer mouse is taking on new `avataars'


THE COMPUTER mouse was invented 40 years ago by Doug Englebart and his colleagues at the Stanford Research Institute, U.S. But consumers got to use it only after Apple Computers introduced it as the key pointing device for personal computer in the early 1980s. Users of the IBM-type PC had to wait for a few more years till Microsoft introduced the Windows operating system in 1985.

Last week, Logitech, the Switzerland-based company, which is the market leader in the mouse business, celebrated a milestone — its 500 millionth mouse.

The original design of the mechanical mouse, which relies on a rolling ball to transfer movements from mouse-pad to screen, is still the technology that drives the cheapest mice in the market. In India these can be had for as little as Rs. 200.

Today however, technology has moved forward and the good old mechanical `chuha' is already giving way to the optical mouse and the wireless one.

While still remaining tethered to the PC by a cable, the optical mouse uses a light-sensitive device to perform its tracking action. By putting a tiny radio transmitter into the mouse, the wireless optical mouse unshackles the device from the PC. You can use it much as you would, a TV remote.

Logitech introduced the cordless optical mouse last year, and the latest model provides an additional forward and reverse web-browser button as well as the ability to configure the mouse for left-handed users. These features are now almost standard in all makes of optical mice. But there is a price to pay: the Logitech `Cordless Click Plus' optical costs $50 internationally. Here you can pick up a cordless wireless mouse and keyboard combo for around Rs. 3,000.

Apple was the first to introduce the Bluetooth wireless mouse, which could be operated even 10 metres away from a PC or laptop. The mouse that came with the latest Apple iMac G5 PC in September, does not have separate left and right buttons. The entire top half of the mouse is one big button.

What next in the evolutionary chain in the computer mouse? Laptops have already ditched the mouse for a touch-pad. The PC may soon do the same. Analysts predict that five years from now, we may be speaking our commands to the computers, and no longer require a peripheral like the mouse. Till then, all of us will continue to be `mooshika vahanans' riding the mouse, tethered or wireless, as we hit the cyber trail.

A. VISHNU

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