Apple’s Round USB Mouse, a Road Apple

In the history of mouse design, none have earned more scorn than the round USB mouse that Apple shipped with early iMacs and Power Macs with USB.

Apple's round "hockey puck" USB mouseFrom an aesthetic standpoint, the puck-mouse nicely complements the curvaceous iMac, but from a user perspective, it’s incredibly frustrating to move the mouse one way and have the cursor go another simply because there is absolutely no tactile feedback to let you know you’re not holding it straight.

Not a single one remains in use among all the iMacs and Blue & White G3s where I work. They go in the equipment closet with the spare ADB cables, power cords, etc.

On the positive side, the round mouse has fostered an industry of third-party solutions: USB mice, shells for the Apple mouse, and mouse alternatives such as trackballs. After all, if there are around 2 million of these inexcusably un-ergonomic mice out there, that creates one very lucrative market.

I’ve used a lot of mice using Macs since 1986: Apple’s chunky mouse from the original Mac, the rectangular ADB mouse, their teardrop ADB mouse, the Kensington ADB Mouse, the Contour UniMouse, and still others back in my DOS days. There wasn’t a single one you could grab wrong without immediately sensing it.

To those who say you have to learn how to hold the round USB mouse in your palm or with your fingertips, I remind you that Apple has always promoted the mouse as an intuitive input device. Grab it, move it, see what it does, and work with it. A mouse should not require training.

Back to the drawing board, Apple.

Update: Apple did go back to the drawing board, releasing a modified round mouse in mid-1999. The new mouse has a dimple on the mouse button, giving more tactile feedback if the mouse is significantly misoriented. A smaller dimple or more ergonomic mouse would be nice, but it was a step in the right direction. And then, at Macworld Expo New York in July 2000, Apple replaced the puck mouse with a gorgeous optical mouse that wasn’t round.

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