Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Computer Mouse Turns 40: Is There a Better Way?

In 1968, Douglas Engelbart gave an eye-opening computer demonstration. It included the use of the first computer mouse (pictured). See a slideshow of Engelbart's presentation at CNET.

The mouse, however, did not really take off for home users until the arrival of the Macintosh in 1984. Today it is the primary means of navigating a personal computer. But is it the best way? I don't think so.

What about multi-touch screen technology such as that used in the iPhone? Hewlett Packard, for instance, has already developed a home computer that is navigated by a multi-touch screen. Frankly, I don't want to be using my hands all day to reach out to a screen and manipulate information. It sounds impractical, tiring, and it would seem that the screen would get quite dirty from such an endeavor.

Here's what I'd like to see. One or two multi-touch tablets that are flat on a desk, located about where a mouse would be. These tablets could contain multi-touch technology and possibly even be able to display data like a regular screen. If I had one of these about the size of a mousepad, I could use multi-touch technology to navigate around my screen without touching the screen.

My fingers would then become the tools used to navigate a computer screen, but the tablet would mimic movements that would be translated on screen. All sorts of options could be built into the device via software such as clicking, double-clicking, dragging, etc.

For now, though, I'll stick with my aging Kensington trackball.


Adel Thalos said...

How might this be different than the touchpads of the notebook computer that I am using right now?

Robert Velarde said...

They would be much larger (about the size of a mousepad (9"x7" or so) and would also be multi-touch. Some current laptops use multi-touch pads such as newer Apple models. Older touchpads only sense one point of touch to move the mouse cursor around. I'd also like to see them as true displays rather than current graphic arts tablets for drawing.

Basically, you'd have one or two such multi-touch tablets on your desk - probably one to start with. That way the transition to this kind of usage is similar in orientation to using a mouse.