Of Mice and Men

My little affair started innocently enough. One button stuck on a bar of soap, quite handy for 10 year old hands intent on drawing stuff on a Mac Plus at school. After being constrained to a keyboard or joystick, this little puck was freedom! Drawing was so easy compared to telling that damn turtle where to go, if a bit more chaotic. I don’t have much of a memory of the tactile feel of the buttons on this guy, but I do remember it wasn’t the most precise thing in the world and I kept having to have someone pull the ball out and clean it off.

Time passes, and I move on to middle school. The middle school had Commodore 64’s and 128’s, joysticks and game cassettes locked in the closet until Friday, but no mice and no Macs. Then in 7th grade, we got the Amigas. Amazing graphics, much faster, they had these disk thingies, and (gasp) a TWO-BUTTON mouse! Two buttons! It was amazing the things you could do with two buttons. It still had that darned ball though, and those were always getting dirty, so a first order of business was always to castrate the mouse and clean off the ball. It seemed way more modern than the Mac mouse, with it’s slopey lines and two buttons, and it saw a lot of use building little copies of Ann Arbor in SimCity, drawing graphics in EA’s Deluxe Paint and shooting down aliens in Blood Money. Actually, I don’t think you used the mouse in Blood Money, but I just wanted to link to that awesome game.

A bit more time passes and my dad decides it would be a good idea to get a proper home computer (for home finances and such, of course, I think. I don’ t really recall the proper reason given for the massive purchase) and these fancy new IBM PS/2’s had just come out, so he takes the whole family to the computer store and we get pick up a model 50 (with 8MB of RAM, 20MB hard drive, 1200 baud modem and a special external 5.25″ drive) along with DOS and this weird “Windows 2.0” thing that I largely ignored. Sadly, this one didn’t play very many games of the time, as it was just too fast. Jumpman was impossible, though that didn’t stop me trying. It also came with a two button mouse with what seemed like enormous buttons that took a fair bit of force to press. The mouse didn’t get a lot of use, unless I was dinking around in that Windows thing, but none of the games seemed to use it. Many a night was spent clacking around on that clacky IBM keyboard. Clack clack clack.

More time passes and the industry flashes past our wee little 286. Windows 3.0 comes out and finally the mouse gets some real love on our IBM. Hours spent poring over a properly laid out game sheet for some of Lone Wolf role-playing books, pixel by laborious pixel. We still have this machine, sitting in our basement. I’m pretty sure the mouse and keyboard still work too. Those IBM components were indestructable, if quite industrial.

I hit college and get to play with a bunch of new computers. Suns with their fancy optical mice that require the special mousepad. Painful. HP’s and their round mouse with three buttons. Painful. Microsoft is still introducing new mice and they’re getting successively nicer. I actually have a job, so I’ve got a little spending money and I try out some of the new mice that come out, generally keeping up with the latest thing Microsoft has out, occasionally diving into the dark side of Logitech. I always like the feel of the Microsoft mice, so I generally stuck with them.

In 1996, we get the Intellimouse with a scroll wheel. From then on, I have to have a scroll wheel on my mouse or it just feels wrong. It’s basically just the Mouse 2.0 with a wheel, but that’s fine by me.

In 1999, we get the Intellimouse Optical. Now this is a fancy mouse. No ball to clean and you can use it on your jeans. I immediately pick one up and don’t look back. Balls are a thing of the past. Microsoft starts releasing a new model every year and I pick one up every time. This is the true beginning of the obsession. I graduate from college and get a job on the east coast. They have crappy mice, so I just buy my own.

I can’t tell you how many different Microsoft optical mice I purchased. I think I have about five sitting around the apartment in various states of use.

2001. I go to a .NET developers conference at Microsoft’s Redmond campus, days after the first wireless Microsoft mouse comes out. They let us go to the Microsoft store to buy whatever we like at employee prices and I pick up a brand new wireless mouse for like $10. What a great idea, no more mouse cords! Don Box is raving about how awesome it is and I rip it open to try it out as soon as I’m back in the hotel.

The thing sucks. It’s large, clunky, and worst of all, laggy. When you move the mouse, it takes a good quarter of a second for the arrow to move on screen. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s very very noticeable. I really like the lack of cord, but the lag is just killing me.

More time passes, more wireless products come out and they all have this same problem. I try some Logitech wireless products, but they’re still laggy, if a bit better. Sometime in this stretch, my new office mate Mike turns me onto trackballs and I become a devout Logitech trackball user for about a year. I still have a wired mouse around to play Quake and other stuff, but most of the time, I’m on the trackball.

After a bit, I tire of the trackball and start looking around again. More wireless products have come out, along with higher resolution optical products. Neat, but not ground breaking.

Logitech then introduces the MX700, which promises to be just as responsive as a wired mouse. Of course, I can’t resist, and it works very well. It’s a bit heavy, but I like the wheel and the wireless works quite well. The batteries only last about a day, so it spends a lot of time on that charger. This becomes my main mouse for about a year and I think I still have it somewhere. The battery thing is killing me though, as is the weight. I end up picking up a variety of new mice, a couple Microsoft wireless ones that still have the lag problem to some degree and a little Logitech mobile mouse that I love until the receiver snaps off in my laptop’s USB port. About six months ago I picked up a Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 6000, which is alright and seems to do the job. The wireless reception is flaky at times, but alright.

All that brings us to the present day. Yesterday, I received a fancy new Logitech MX Revolution and it’s easily the best mouse I’ve had. The weight is fantastic, the buttons feel good, and the wheel is really cool. It feels a bit heavier than most wheels and the flip between geared and non-geared is pretty nifty. It feels much more precise and responsive than my Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 and feels a lot better in my hand. Today’s the second day I’m using it full time, and so far, I love it. I’m sure this won’t be the last one I ever buy, but so far, it sure is the best.