Home / The View from Here / I Want a Mouse With Two Balls!

I Want a Mouse With
      Two Balls!

Why two balls? because it adds a vector. Today's mice (In fact, all the mice I've ever seen) have a single ball or optical sensor, and can only represent a single point on the computer screen. Adding a second ball gives you a second point, and that makes a line, a line you can twist and turn with your hand, just like in the real world.

     The real world is what this is all about about. The mouse we use today is pretty much the same as the first mouse I used, which was tied to a custom graphic board that came with a schematic package I used on a 4.77 MHz PC. Okay, well, my new mouse has a roller in the middle button, and that's new, but my first mouse, back in the 80's still had three buttons and an x-y roller ball on the bottom.

     About that PC. It had no hard drive. Just a pair of 360K floppy drives. Now the drive makers are putting 10GB on a single platter and selling it for less than one of those original 5 1/4 Floppy drives. That PC had less than 640K of memory, the one I'm using here has 64MB. And that 4.77 MHz 8088 processor on an 8 Bit bus? It's now a 400 MHz processor with more L2 cache then I had main memory, and running on a 64 bit wide bus, and it runs hundreds of times faster that that first PC.

     It's infuriating that with all that power, a PC is still like eating rice with a toothpick. Make that a rubber toothpick.

     I'm a frustrated artist, you see. I'd like to draw on my computer, but even with all that processing power, I still have more control using a #2 pencil on paper. Why is that?

     Try an experiment. Open a paint program with a blank document, then select the pencil tool and put the cursor in the middle. Put a piece of paper next to the mouse (A 3M Post-it note is ideal) Next hold a pencil against the side of your mouse, and click and hold the button to draw. Looking at the paper and pencil, draw a circle about half the size of a dime. Go around and around, darkening that circle. Now look up at the computer screen. Does what you see there look anything at all like what you have on the paper? (It doesn't at all for me, using Windows 95, a Logitech mouse and Microsoft Paint.)

     Now, use the circle tool in the paint program to draw a perfect circle, and repeat the process, this time trace that circle on the screen, ignoring the pencil on the paper. I get a sort of egg shapped oval on the paper. I also notice that I can't trace that circle very fast, I have to make numerous direction corrections just to trace that circle.

     Finnally, just look at the paper and trace that egg shaped track, then look at the screen. Yech.

     No wonder it's hard to draw on a computer, the position of the mouse is updated far too infrequently to respond to my moving it, and it drifts randomly off the 'ideal' path.

     We've learned to use a mouse by correcting the position on the screen, using our eyes to override the muscle knowledge of our hands.

     You want to know what the Next Big Thing really is? It's whatever it takes to fix this. It's new input devices, or operating system changes, anything it takes to make our computers respond precisely, and in real time to our physical inputs. It's a computer, it should do what we tell it, the way we want to do it, just the way a #2 pencil does.




Copyright © 1999 Joseph Palmer. All Rights reserved

Comments or Ideas? Mail me at jpalmer@josephpalmer.com.

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