The original Macintosh wasn’t the first consumer computer to use a mouse, but it was likely the first popular computer to include a mouse in every box, as it was designed to be operated primarily with one. The Apple Mouse that came with the 1984 Macintosh was the first to truly popularize the concept of mouse-driven computers.
The interfaces of the mainstream computers we use today are still dominated by the pointer-and-clicking paradigms that began back then. Why then, has Apple—a company famous for its attention to usability design—made nothing but awful mice for over 20 years?
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
The original Macintosh came with the original Apple Mouse. It was boxy with chamfered edges that sort of looked like the Macintosh, and had a single huge button—the days of multi-button mice were still years away. It wasn’t a great mouse by today’s standards, but all mice back then were bad. They used ball mechanisms that got caught full of desk gunk and didn’t fit your hand well. The O.G. Macintosh mouse wasn’t great, but it was at least as great as any other mouse.
For 1984, the O.G. Apple Mouse wasn’t half bad.
THE ADB MOUSE
The first ADB mouse was an ergonomic improvement, while sticking to the blocky lines of the computers of the day.
With the switch to the Apple Desktop Bus, Apple refined its mouse. It was still boxy, but the “fat end” moved to the back, and the whole thing was slimmer with a flatter button. This was, for the time, a legitimately good mouse, with superior ergonomics. It came first with the Apple IIGS, then later to the Mac.
This is where Apple should have introduced a second mouse button. For some reason, Apple’s reluctance to have more than one mouse button would plague its design ethos for ages. Apple commonly mistakes additional buttons as additional complexity, but holding down the control key and clicking, or long-clicking, is not simpler and more intuitive than clicking a right mouse button. If we had one finger on our hands rather than four, our hands might be simpler, but our interactions with the world would likely be more complicated.
THE TEARDROP ADB MOUSE II
A few years later, Apple updated the ADB mouse with a new plastic shell that gave it a teardrop shape, with a bulbous back side. While it still should have had a right mouse button, this was the clear apex of Apple mouse design. It was the most ergonomic and well-designed mouse (for its time) that Apple has ever produced.
And you could even get it in an awesome matte black color!
Unfortunately, this mouse, first released in 1993, would be the last one Apple makes to which I would give a grade over C–.
This may be the most ergonomic mouse Apple’s ever made.
THE HOCKEY PUCK
One can only assume that Apple shipped this mouse without Steve Jobs being forced to use it for five minutes.
Apple’s first USB Mouse was the beginning of a string of bad mouse designs that remains unbroken to this day. And while the mice that followed were bad, none have been as bad as this was.
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