The very first computer mouse, something we recognize as an ancestor of modern pointing devices, was invented in 1964 at the Stanford Research Institute. Douglas Engelbart and his team crammed two metal discs (one for horizontal tracking, one for vertical tracking) into a block of wood and added a button on top for selection. The team refined both the hardware and input devices for the “Mother of all demos” in 1968, which laid the foundations for graphical user interfaces and much of modern personal computers.
Early examples of Engelbart’s mouse design are museum pieces and coveted collector’s items. For example, a slightly refined three-button mouse and its accompanying five-key coding input tool were sold on March 16th from the auction house RR, as reported by Metro. This combination of serial inputs was essential to the famous demonstration that revolutionized the way computer input was imagined. It’s easy enough to draw the line between this mouse design and the one included with the Xerox Alto as the first consumer model, although by 1973 various engineers had figured out how to track vertical and horizontal movement with one ball rather than two discs.
Although the auction house estimated the final price at around $15,000, the lot sold for $178,936. It was part of a series of auctions titled “Steve Jobs and the Apple Computer Revolution”, easily outselling other items such as an original Apple Lisa ($81,251) and a first-generation sealed iPhone ($54,904). It should be noted that Engelbart’s famous demonstration was not actually attended by Jobs: he went on to inspire the Xerox designs of the early 1970s, which would later blossom into a partnership that helped create the first Apple machines of the early 1980s.
But I guess “The things that would ultimately end up influencing Steve Jobs, and pretty much every piece of personal computing for half a century,” doesn’t really go off the tongue.