Why can't Apple make a good mouse?
Macworld|May 2020
The company that makes the best trackpads in the world hasn’t made a passable mouse in over 20 years.
JASON CROSS

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 first ADB mouse was an ergonomic improvement, while sticking to the blocky lines of the computers of the day.

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.

The iMac was the lynchpin of Steve Jobs’s glorious return to Apple, and it was accompanied by a mouse that is to this day held up as Exhibit A in any list of bad Apple products.

Perfectly round, the “hockey puck” (as it came to be called) is the ultimate expression of form over function. It was almost impossible to hold straight, which frustrated users who found the pointer always moving at a bit of an angle to the direction they were trying to move it. It also didn’t fit in your hand, and users prone to vigorous use would find that clicking too hard raised up the back end of the mouse.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM MACWORLDView All

TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR PASSWORDS USING iCLOUD KEYCHAIN ON YOUR iPHONE, iPAD, & MAC

IT’S MORE POWERFUL THAN YOU THINK.

5 mins read
Macworld
April 2021

WINDOWS 10 ON M1 MACS: WHAT YOU CAN DO (VIRTUALIZATION, SORTA) AND CAN'T (BOOT CAMP)

VIRTUALIZATION IS KEY, BUT THE LACK OF A CONSUMER VERSION OF MICROSOFT’S M1 -COMPATIBLE OS KEEPS THE SITUATION IN DOUBT.

9 mins read
Macworld
April 2021

Mac 911

Solutions to your most vexing Mac problems.

7 mins read
Macworld
April 2021

AirVPN: Excellent service that power users will love

An excellent service with a known history, a solid network, and very good speeds.

7 mins read
Macworld
April 2021

AIRPODS MAX: OPULENT AUDIO THAT SHOULDN'T COST SO MUCH

APPLE’S HIGH-END HEADPHONES LOOK, SOUND, AND FEEL GREAT, BUT THE PRICE ISN’T RIGHT.

10+ mins read
Macworld
April 2021

Tribit XFree Go headphone: Amazing sound, great price, and one glaring flaw

These cans sound like headphones that cost three or four times as much, but the controls on not one but two review units locked up after an hour or so of sustained use.

4 mins read
Macworld
April 2021

INPUT DEVICE: LOGITECH MX MASTER 3 MOUSE: LOGITECH STICKS WITH A WINNING FORMULA

I have two desktop Mac setups, one at home and one at the Macworld office (ah, going to the office, those were the days).

5 mins read
Macworld
April 2021

Hot Stuff

What we’re raving about this month

1 min read
Macworld
April 2021

Bluesound Powernode 2i (with HDMI): Bodacious sound from a micro-sized box

This self-amplified multiroom music streamer delivers high-res audio experiences that Sonos won’t, but Bluesound’s user experience isn’t nearly as polished.

8 mins read
Macworld
April 2021

Aukey EP-N5: Entry-level ANC that gets it (mostly) right

Good sound and decent active noise canceling for a wallet-friendly price.

5 mins read
Macworld
April 2021
RELATED STORIES

AIRTAGS: NEXT-GENERATION TRACKING TECHNOLOGY HAS ARRIVED

Two years after they were first rumored, Apple finally lifted the lid on its tracking device AirTag at its Spring Loaded event in April, designed to help consumers keep track of items that matter most.

6 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #497

The Fortnite Fallout

Apple and Epic meet in court, making the collapse of a once-close relationship complete

3 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 10, 2021

Android loses a huge innovator as LG quits making phones

LG phones pushed the bleeding edge of innovation, but it wasn’t enough.

2 mins read
PCWorld
May 2021

APPLE MUSIC LAUNCHES MORE THAN 100 CITY-FOCUSED MUSIC CHARTS

Apple Music is coming to a city near you — the streaming service has launched daily music charts focused on particular cities around the world, including New York City, Tokyo and Lagos.

1 min read
Techlife News
Techlife News #496

APPLE'S iPHONE PRIVACY CLAMPDOWN ARRIVES AFTER 7-MONTH DELAY

Apple is following through on its pledge to crack down on Facebook and other snoopy apps that secretly shadow people on their iPhones in order to target more advertising at users.

4 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #496

APPLE PROFIT SOARS IN LATEST QUARTER ON HIGHER iPHONE SALES

Demand for the iPhone and other Apple products drove profits to more than double in the January-March period as the tech giant continued to capitalize on smartphone addiction.

2 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #496

iPAD PRO 2021: SUPERCHARGED WITH XDR DISPLAY, M1 CHIP, & THUNDERBOLT

The iPad Pro has become something of a workhorse in recent years, offering professionals an alternative to a laptop with cutting-edge capabilities and software.

6 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #496

APPLE ANNOUNCES 1ST EAST COAST CAMPUS IN NORTH CAROLINA

Apple is expanding spending in the U.S. and announced plans to build its first East Coast campus, in North Carolina.

3 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #496

Logitech Ergo K860

Great keys meet great posture

2 mins read
Mac Life
May 2021

START

FEED YOUR MIND. FEAST YOUR EYES.

6 mins read
Mac Life
April 2021