Who Invented the Mouse?

The origin and history of the mouse began in 1964. That was the year Douglas Engelbart invented the first mouse prototype. He actually started working on the device the year before. He got the patent in 1970.


The First Mouse

In 1964, Engelbart showed the mouse to his colleagues at STI (Stanford Research Institute) and how the device was used. He utilized it on a computer with a graphical user interface (GUI). His prototype mouse had a wooden shell. It also came with a couple of wheels which helped it move around.

When Engelbart applied for the patent, he called it the “X Y position indicator for a display system”. But the history of the mouse shows that the name was used early on. According to Engelbart he called it the mouse because the shape and tail made it look like one.

Note: the GUI and windows that Engelbart used were also his inventions. But he couldn’t patent them because computer program patents weren’t available yet.

Innovations in Mouse Design

In 1972 Bill English (who helped Engelbart make the mouse) created the ball mouse. English was working at Xerox at the time and his invention became part of the Xerox Alto computer. The ball mouse was easier to use than the wheeled mouse.

Unlike the latter, the device could be moved in any direction with ease. In the history of the mouse, this innovation is considered as one of the major ones.


Over time, the ball mouse became the most popular version of the device. By the 1980s and the 1990s, the ball had become a standard feature in almost all mice sold. Based on English’s design, other types of ball mice emerged.

Among the innovators and inventors were Jack Hawley and Honeywell. For a time, wheels that rotated off axes were made and sold. However it never really caught on.

The Modern Mouse

It was at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne that the most important innovations were made. These would change the history of the mouse. Led by professor Jean Nicoud and Andre Guignard, the mouse ball was turned into rubber. The research team also included three buttons on the device. This setup would become the standard used by manufacturers.

Mouse Functions

There are now many types of mice available. But most of their functions are the same. The most common is clicking and double clicking. Right clicking the right mouse button usually brings up a menu or properties of a program.

Holding the mouse button down and dragging is used for moving files. The mouse is also used in pointing and clicking in games.

The scroll feature has also replaced the third button. Using the scroll button, a user will be able to navigate a page more quickly. Most mouse models sold nowadays don’t require a pad either.

The evolution and history of the mouse is one of the most important in computing history. It has gone a long way towards helping users learn how to use the computer more effectively.