Do you ever wonder why we all started using a mouse rather than any other way of interacting with the user interface on the screen? Well, as you might have suspected, the mouse wasn’t always the logical step, and it was more of a stepping stone towards something that could be more time saving and easier to use. Now that we have developed and refined it further, research shows that the mouse is the ultimate way to interact with objects on the screen. Of course I say that with the reservation that we might see a shift in this user friendly device now, depending on what comes out of all of these Kinect technologies that hackers around the world are doing their best to put together. However, you will be surprised to know that IBM almost changed the way we interact with the screen with one of their own inventions.
The way IBM saw it back in 1990 was that the “Pointing Stick” was the ultimate tool to manipulate and interact with the WYSIWYG user interface. It was a stick that was embedded into the keyboard which you could pivot in different directions to achieve movement on the screen. This feature was actually shipped with a few of their computers.
The funny thing is that this technology didn’t really take off until laptops from IBM were introduced to the market. Instead of the Trackpad that we have today, there were “Pointing Sticks” embedded into the keyboard of all the IBM laptops. Personally, I have never liked the approach for this technology, but I always enjoy a good retro video with geeky techie documentary narrating. We just don’t have that anymore. So did we chose the right approach using the mouse or should we have chosen to go with the “Pointing Stick” instead?