Here’s a bit of trivia for your next cocktail party: The instruction manual for the first Microsoft Mouse (introduced May 2, 1983, as Microsoft’s first foray into peripherals) was a hefty 120-plus pages long. Yes, more than 120 pages.
That is crazy for a device so ubiquitous today. It also retailed for $195, which is astounding when you consider the perfectly serviceable $20 models available at any discount store in 2019.
The tech world was a different place in 1983, and the mouse had yet to catch on even though Douglas Engelbart had invented it nearly 20 years prior in 1964. The use of the mouse took some explanation: “Grip the mouse tightly enough to be able to lift it off the surface. Your index and middle fingers should be relaxed but ready to press the buttons.”
Microsoft Mouse’s innovations
To help users get their sea legs, a floppy disk accompanying the Microsoft Mouse contained two demo programs — a “piano,” or video keyboard, and the “Game of Life,” which was a 20-by-39 grid allowing the user to “simulate the growth and death of cultures of living cells.”
Known as the “green-eyed mouse” for its two green buttons, the first iteration of the Microsoft Mouse was also packaged with Microsoft Word, which was still in its infancy. The mouse connected to your computer via a bus interface card. Later versions came with a serial connector.
The mouse itself was heavy thanks to the steel ball set inside, which tracked cursor position using rollers for X and Y coordinates. The steel balls were removable for cleaning. The device was curved, unlike Engelbart’s square prototype.
Sales weren’t as strong, as Microsoft sold only about 5,000 of the 1983 model. It took a quieter 1985 model for the mouse to gain traction in the market.