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back to article Steve Jobs had BETTER BALLS than Atari, says Apple mouse designer

Steve Jobs was well known for the size of his cojones, but it turns out that his former employer Atari had even better balls than him. In fact, it was these balls that inspired the first ever Apple mouse, the man who designed the first fruity iRodent has confessed. Jim Yurchenco, a retired engineer now in his dotage, was part …

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BZZZT!

and not a mention of haptic feedback. ahh, the good old days

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"... meant the mouse was cheaper to produce, which appealed to many of the (fairly well off) people Jobs."

Sorry, what?

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Anonymous Coward

Well he did say that the mouse wasn't really accurate :-)

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Indeed

I wondered whether "people Jobs" is the new Register replacement for "fanboi". Maybe if you look at it as reverse-Polish notation.

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Happy

Yeah, but he was talking balls.

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That's not the only blooper. I assume El Reg's proof reader is having a few days off...

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Anonymous Coward

Lucky that Atari hadn't patented their design then!

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Re: Lucky that Atari hadn't patented their design then

Prior art. See US patent: Position Control System Employing Pulse Producing Means Indicative of Magnitude and Direction of Movement," R. A. Koster, Feb. 14, 1967

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Anonymous Coward

How many fingers am I holding up?

But why did they keep churning out one-button mice when everyone else had a three-button.

I used to say it was because Apple users were too stupid to work one, but maybe it was because all the good games were PC based. <fondles original floppy of Wolfenstein>

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Gimp

Re: How many fingers am I holding up?

I used to play Unreal online with a one button 'hockey puck' on an original bondi imac which was a bit of a struggle admittedly. love the magic mouse though truly a work of art.

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Trollface

Re: How many fingers am I holding up?

>But why did they keep churning out one-button mice when everyone else had a three-button.

One of which did nothing whatsoever, while the other had only very limited use, you mean? Jeez, 'dunno. Maybe they designed the interface so that it only required a single button--rather than graft someone else's mouse onto the system and call the second rarely-used button, and the third never-used buttons "features". Could be. Could be.

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Anonymous Coward

Patent ?

Why no patent ?

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Re: Patent ?

SRI had a mouse patent but it expired before mice really became usable.

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Anonymous Coward

If apple had such great mouse designers...

... what was the reason behind the completely useless 'puck' mouse?

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Re: If apple had such great mouse designers...

Apple obviously hired some really bad mouse designers as well.

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Steve Jobs had BETTER BALLS than Atari, says Apple mouse designer

El Reg headline writers must have really cursed the widespread adoption of optical mice.

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Paris Hilton

Can someone please help me?

Steve Jobs had BETTER BALLS than Atari ... but it turns out that his former employer Atari had even better balls than him

It's not my brightest day, I'm almost falling asleep and I just can't relate the headline to the article.

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I had a home version Atari trackball

I took it apart, and it was a cue ball (actually a bit bigger) on two ball-bearing supported rollers, and a third smaller ball bearing. These rollers spun optical shutter wheels, so yes, it was exactly a mouse upside down.

It was built like a Sherman tank, and I think the thing lasted for 15 or 20 years. The only drawback is it was fairly large. It was about the size of 2 SATA drives stacked. It was a knockoff made by Wico.

And yes, I got it to play Missile Command on my Atari 800.

Speaking of SUPER EXPENSIVE mice, does anyone remember the original Sun optical ones that required their own specific metal pad with a pattern on it? Or the mortal combat incurred when # of mice > # of pads?

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Re: I had a home version Atari trackball

Upvote for "Speaking of SUPER EXPENSIVE mice, does anyone remember the original Sun optical ones that required their own specific metal pad with a pattern on it? Or the mortal combat incurred when # of mice > # of pads?" as yes I do!

I opted for the less accurate but easier to get from IT mechanical SUN mouse with a ball. Among my souvenirs from those times are two Sparc 10 machines (they make great foot rests as they're made of Lead or Neutron star or something) and my Sun "The Network is the Computer" mouse mat.

My current Sun "Wheel" mouse is optical but no longer needs a special mouse pad.

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Pint

Re: I had a home version Atari trackball

Yup, i have fond memories of that mouse on a 3/60c running Interleaf TPS!!!

J.

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Re: I had a home version Atari trackball

"peaking of SUPER EXPENSIVE mice, does anyone remember the original Sun optical ones that required their own specific metal pad with a pattern on it?"

Remember? Still have!

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Re: I had a home version Atari trackball

>does anyone remember the original Sun optical ones that required their own specific metal pad with a pattern on it?

I once saw something like this--an optical mouse with required grid-equipped metal mousepad--running on a Mac Plus (and no bullshittin'). Large WTF? factor at the time. The system in question, though, must have had at least six (6) complete systems (System plus Finder, pre-System 7) installed in various places on the hard drive, which tended to make it a little 'wobbly'.

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Vic
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Re: I had a home version Atari trackball

I opted for the less accurate but easier to get from IT mechanical SUN mouse with a ball.

The optical mouse is only more accurate whilst the mousepad remains undented.

And they don't...

Vic.

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Re: I had a home version Atari trackball

"Speaking of SUPER EXPENSIVE mice, does anyone remember the original Sun optical ones that required their own specific metal pad with a pattern on it?"

Not only remember, I had one. Well. A clone (looked the same, different brand). Cost me about a tenner at a computer auction. Worked great until I was doing something to the PC, and my ex sat on the pad. They don't like curved surfaces.

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Coat

still don't like mice.

Sadly -- trackballs are becoming harder and harder to find.....

(at least without diving into the more interesting or expensive parts of the interwebz)

But - as kooky as the apple one button mouse was it was a *much* nicer thing than the blocky ugly critter that was the alternative at that time.

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We had those SUN workstations at my uni in the early 90's! Never got on with the trackballs - my 800XL went though a succession of quickshot II's :P

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WTF?

Seriously?

“Suddenly we realized, you don’t care if it’s accurate!” Yurchenco added. It’s like driving a car. You don’t look at where you’re turning the steering wheel, you turn the steering wheel until the car goes where you want.”

So he just turns the steering when when the mood strikes him...not really caring where he ends up?

Please let me know where this clown lives. Because I never want to be on the same roads as him.

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Re: Seriously?

I was going to say something similar. Perhaps if I cut nice big holes in the bushes of his control arms, he'd like to come back to us about how important accurate steering is.

As he does involuntary lane changes at 70mph....

I agree with his general point that you don't need 1600dpi to use a desktop WIMP environment, but that has to be one of the more poorly thought out car analogies I've seen lately!

Steven R

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Re: Seriously?

>I never want to be on the same roads as him.

All roads lead to Rome.

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Re: Seriously?

"So he just turns the steering when when the mood strikes him...not really caring where he ends up?"

No, that's not what he said at all. He said he turns the steering wheel until the car is going where he wants to AS OPPOSED TO turning the steering wheel 45deg right to make the car turn 45deg right or whatever. In other words, it doesn't matter how accurate the steering wheel turn is in relation to the amount the car turns, you just turn it and use your own visual feedback system to make sure you turn it the amount required. Obviously he didn't mean that the amount required to turn the wheel might be variable.

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Accuracy, or rather coupling "noise"

A similar comment was made by Jerry Lichac, the designer of the Atari TrakBall (tm). His point was in regard to the three-point suspension (later used in virtually every mechanical mouse). Critics of the concept said that the control would be unusable because the idler at 45 degrees to the measured axes would couple some X into Y and vice-versa. His contention (later proven correct) was that the user will be observing the cursor, not the ball, so will naturally correct for any (slight) coupling.

BTW: He also prototyped a haptic trackball for Marble Madness (lit, even), but it was judged too expensive for production.

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Apple are terrific at many aspects of industrial design. The mouse is not one of those aspects. I am sorry but how long did it take before there was a right click option; and even then it was the right click when you are not having a right click, like someone philosophically opposed to such buttons saying well if you make me put one on then fine but there is no way my mighty mouse will have any visual cue to show where that button is.

And finally, the puck mouse! Not only the worst design of anything in the history of the world but it had a cord; meaning that the poor soul who had just been driven mad trying to use it was at high risk of using it to strangle someone.

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Unhappy

Ouch

Those puck mice were horrible! Everytime I had to use one for more than a few mins my hand would cramp up. Thankfully didn't have to use one very often.

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I don't like the one-button mouse, but I will say that it does make using the mouse simpler to explain. I have taught several seniors how to use computers, and the whole `left-click/right-click' thing is actually quite difficult to get across. I don't think the one-button mouse is a good idea, but it is true that Apple actually had a case in favor of it. (I really like my Lenovo laptop with its TrackPoint and three mouse buttons, and a touchpad I disable.)

As for inaccuracy, mice have always been inaccurate. I was told in a graduate-level HCI course I took circa 1975 that the original SRI mice were built from miscellaneous electronic scrap, and that getting perfectly linear potentiometers was essentially impossible. As a result, to move the cursor in a straight line, the user had to move the mouse in a curve. Apparently, users adapted very quickly, and were genuinely unaware of this phenomenon.

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Mouse accuracy

"People don’t pay attention to what their hand is doing when they use a mouse; they just care about where the cursor goes. "

Uh, yeah. Tell that to those DOTA fanbois who invest hundreds of dollars in high-DPI mice.

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As a left-handed mouse user (no left-handed surfing jokes...it's due to RSI in my preferred right arm years ago) all this talk of left-clicking and right-clicking is highly confusing. When swapping from right to left hands you generally reverse the buttons so you can still use your forefinger for a primary click - which is now a right click, not a left click.

I'm not sure what "real" left-handed people do, since they were all burnt as witches when i was younger.

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Vic
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When swapping from right to left hands you generally reverse the buttons so you can still use your forefinger for a primary click - which is now a right click, not a left click.

When I damaged my right hand some years ago, I had to learn to use a rat left-handed.

It was actually easier than I thought it was going to be.

The hardest bit was moving to a rather smaller office some months later, when I would frequently grab my neighbour's mouse bu accident...

Vic.

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Nooooh, their balls were terrible

They used to use some very lightweight balls - so there was little grip on the surface and the ball would easily skid once a bit of crud built up on the rollers. Fortunately, one of our bits and pieces suppliers sold replacement balls with a steel centre which was a direct replacement - made the whole thing work so much better. In fact, with a heavyweight ball installed (and hence extra grip), the mouse would often still work when the movement shared a lot in common with riding a bicycle on a cobbled street due to the crud buildup on the rollers. Installed loads for customers - always kept heavy balls in hand stock.

I do recall having a trackball for a while. It was great, especially on a desk with no space to move a mouse around amongst all the rubbish various paperwork :-/

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