Computer History: From The Antikythera Mechanism To The Modern Era

Keyboards And Mice

The first typewriter was introduced in 1860, and the term was also used to describe the person who operated the machine. Naturally, the layout of keyboards originates from the early typewriters, since there was no need to reinvent the wheel.

The Sholes & Glidden company established the QWERTY layout in 1874 and since then it has been the standard layout for all English-language keyboards. There is an urban legend that the QWERTY layout actually makes typing slower and it does so because in the early days typewriters broke down frequently when someone typed very fast. This layout probably isn't the most optimal for the English language because you have to move your fingers between rows to type the most common letters, but it was actually invented to increase typing speed, not to slow users down.

The second common keyboard layout is the Dvorak, however it hasn't managed to replace QWERTY yet, although many popular operating systems support it.

The keyboard has been the basic input device for computers for many decades now, and this will probably remain unchanged for years to come.

Mice (AKA Computer Mouse)

The pointing device that reflects a hand's 2D movement through the form of a pointer on a computer screen is called a mouse. The same device also features buttons and a rolling wheel, in order to enhance its functionality and allow for more controls.

The late Douglas Carl Engelbart is recognized as the inventor of the computer mouse. The same inventor took part in the development of hypertext, computer networking and the GUI interface, which clearly shows his great role in the human-computer interaction field. Engelbart, along with another engineer named Bill English, created the first computer mouse in the 1960s. In the corresponding patent the device was described as the "X-Y position indicator for a display system." It was called a mouse later on because the cable resembled a mouse's tail. Obviously, there were no wireless mice in those days.

The German company Telefunken also invented a mouse in 1968, however the company believed that this device was too small to apply for a patent. Surely a regrettable decision.

One of the first computers that used a mouse was the Xerox Alto in 1973. And the first widely available mice were offered by Microsoft in 1983, when Microsoft Word offered mouse compatibility. Nonetheless, the mouse started to become popular thanks to the Apple Macintosh 128K (1984) and the Atari ST computers (1985).

Long before the invention of mice, trackballs were used mostly in military applications. The first trackball device was invented in 1941 by Ralph Benjamin for a radar plotting system.

MORE: All Keyboard Content

MORE: All Mouse Content

Contributing Editor

Aris Mpitziopoulos is a Contributing Editor at Tom's Hardware US, covering PSUs.