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Right Turn, Left Turn: In Defense of the 'Hockey-puck' Mouse

Rodney O. Lain - 1999.11.04

This article was originally published on The iMac.com, a site which no longer exists. It is copyright 1999 by RAC Enterprises, which also seems to no longer exist. It is thus reprinted here without permission (which we would gladly obtain if possible). Links have been retained when possible, but many go to the Internet Wayback Machine.

One man's trash is another man's treasure
 - Folk saying

Believe it or not, there have actually been instances in the last two years where Steve Jobs and Apple Computer knew more than we arm-chair CEOs do.

Apple's round USB mouseI'm talking about the round mouse that was introduced with the original iMac, and was subsequently hated by millions.

I only know two people who willingly use the hockey-puck-shaped mouse. One of them is a customer who came into CompUSA a while back, with the iMac mouse in hand.

"Do you sell any replacements for this?"

"No, sir."

"I love it," he said. "I want to get another one."

The second person is a lady who bought an original iMac. She concedes that the mouse isn't the most ergonomic one on the market, but she continues to use it, because "we humans can get used to anything. I'm sure I'll get used to this."

Everyone else I know who bought an iMac or a Blue-and-White PowerMac G3 replaced it immediately with a "better" mouse or trackball (and sometimes, they also replaced the keyboard with an equal swiftness).

There are two reasons why I think the round mouse is a good idea. The first reason is one that Apple probably hadn't realized, while the second one is probably part of Apple's Master Plan.

Color Me Ambidextrous

I just did a "Sherlock 2" search on variations of the following question: "Are there any left-handed mice for the Macintosh?" This yielded zero search results.

Then I did a general search for "left-handed mice." This returned a couple of URLs for PC-only mice for lefties. What piqued my interest wasn't the link or two about left-handed mice, but the links I found about left-handed people in general. In addition to factoids like the names of famous lefties like Michealangelo and chess champ Bobby Fischer, I ran across the fact that left-handed people make up 10 percent of the world population. Assuming we have close to five billion people alive today, it seems we have somewhere between 400- and 500 million lefties [1].

Most left-handed people, if they use computers, are forced to use mice that are shaped to be ergonomically correct for right-handed users.

The iMac mouse, however, works with either right- or left-handed users. I'm not sure if Apple's industrial design engineers planned it, but we have an ambidextrous mouse, folks. A round one, but a ambidextrous, round one.

On a side note: Apple's elves deserve kudos for putting a USB port on both sides of the keyboard (not that this is the first time - my 17" Apple display has an ADB port on both sides for connecting my keyboard).

I don't know about you righties out there, but I'm sure there may be at least one or two lefties who are appreciative of this round mouse.

You Got the Look

Apple has a more far-reaching plan with the round mouse. You may not like it, but the round mouse is for your own good.

The round mouse is the most easily recognizable mouse in the world. When you see that round mouse, you know it is an Apple mouse. It's an ingenious marketing ploy via industrial design.

Every nuance of Apple's products serve a purpose. Take the new iMacs. Apple has put the logo on the back of the computer. Even when seen from the rear, you know it is an Apple computer.

Open up the box to an iMac or a G4, and the first thing you see is a picture of the iMac mouse on the box of accessories.

The mouse. That round mouse.

Apple is making the mouse as ubiquitous as the "Think Different" refrain Remember how many of us poo-poo'd the original "Think Different" ad? We didn't know where Apple was going with it.

Now, when we see it, it's a work of art. "Think Different" is synonymous with "Apple Computer." Have you noticed that Apple no longer uses the words "Apple Computer" with the Apple logo? The only thing you see on Apple ads is the Apple logo and the words "Think Different."

Apple Computer is doing the same thing with the round mouse. It's an uncomfortable mouse, true, but Apple is positioning it as part of the companies overall brand and image.

So get used to the round mouse, you bellyachers out there. It will be with us for a while, methinks.

Notes

[1] This is the only link I bothered to read that was for left-handed mice - <http://www.thelefthand.com/d203.htm>; also, you can read the following links on lefties in general: "Being left handed" - <http://www.his.com/~pshapiro/left.handed.html>; and "It's a right-hand world" - < http://www.serve.com/aesndi/TalonsPost/TP970214/0214left.htm>

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Rodney O. Lain, a former university English and journalism instructor, works full-time as a software developer and works part-time at a local CompUSA Apple Store Within A Store. A card-carrying member of the local Macintosh User Group Mini'app'les, Rodney writes this column exclusively for theimac.com. His greatest desire is to become an African-American Guy Kawasaki. A self-professed "workaholic writer," he waxes prolifically about race, religion, and the "right OS" at "Free Your Mind & Your Behind Will Follow", his unabashedly pro-Mac website. When he's not cranking out his column, he collects John Byrne comic books, jogs, and attempts to complete his first novel. He lives in Eagan, Minnesota, a southern suburb of St. Paul.

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