From the January-March 2007 Issue
Although the name may suggest a sideline role, computer peripherals have become
a key component of how we interact with technology, from input devices like
mice and keyboards, to output devices like printers, and more entertainment-driven
hardware like speakers, gaming controllers, webcams and memory card readers.
These devices are more than just an addendum to the computing experience; they
are the hands-on part of it. These devices have become so ingrained as part
of our everyday work and entertainment, that it would be difficult to imagine
a desktop without them.
of the most revolutionary peripherals, even to this day, is the mouse. Not such
a simple contraption anymore, the invention of the computer mouse is credited
to (and patented by) one researcher and his staff back in 1963. Doug
Engelbart, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at his offices just a few
years ago, was then a researcher at Stanford Research Institute (now simply
SRI), and was looking for ways to improve the interaction between computer and
user. His vision of a point-and-click interface resulted in the first mouse,
with a casing he carved from wood and one button. He also created the first
computer monitor, using a cathode-ray tube to display text, graphics and the
mouse pointer. He was a pioneer in the development of online computing and e-mail.
Engelbart is one of the foremost geniuses of our day, having shepherded many
of the computer interaction technologies we now take for granted.
Engelbart’s team had also experimented with track balls, joysticks,
light pens, foot and knee-operated pointers, and even a head-operated nose-pointing
contraption. Many of these devices would eventually also become available, especially
for those with disabilities, though in the early days the focus was on efficiency
The mouse and other peripherals have continued to evolve, from digital optical
mice that no longer use a trackball, to wireless devices and the latest generation
of laser-pointing devices. For those readers who still have cords running around
their desktop, it’s time to wake up! Wireless mice and keyboards are extremely
convenient, freeing the user from stretching the mouse to get more wire, and
can prevent those coffee and soda spills that are the result of “cord
Here are a few of the latest mice and keyboards that, aside from being cool,
can help increase productivity, accuracy and efficiency.
This latest cordless laser mouse from Logitech (www.Logitech.com)
includes a four-way scroll wheel with “hyper-fast scrolling,” which
lets users move up and down through hundreds of pages of long documents or spreadsheets
with a quick flick, or can precisely move line-by-line. The mouse also includes
a search feature, an e-mail button, and the ability to easily cut and past between
documents. The MX Revolution costs about $99 and is available through Logitech
or at retailers including Dell, Wal-Mart and office stores. Logitech also makes
a laptop version called the VX Revolution, which is smaller but offers the same
features for $79.
Cordless Desktop MX 5000
Logitech also offers several cordless desktop mouse-keyboard combinations, including
Bluetooth-enabled systems like the Logitech Cordless Desktop MX 5000, which
lets users turn their PC into a wireless hub, enabling data synching between
PC and a mobile phone or PDA, as well as the ability to view message alerts
and media information on an integrated LED display. The mouse and keyboard include
functions for controlling multimedia audio systems and other enhanced function
keys and can work from as far as 30 feet away from the computer. The MX 5000
laser desktop combo costs about $149 and is available through Logitech or at
retailers including Dell, Wal-Mart and office stores.
Bluetooth Keyboard and Mouse Bundle
Dell (www.Dell.com) also offers
its own Bluetooth wireless set, with a programmable seven-button mouse and multimedia
keyboard that includes eight hotkeys and eight programmable keys. The system’s
Bluetooth receiver enables up to seven devices to be connected and functioning
simultaneously. The wireless keyboard and mouse set has a 33-foot maximum range
and costs $89 from Dell’s website.
Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000
top-of-the-line wireless Bluetooth-enabled desktop combo sports a high-definition
laser mouse with four-direction scrolling and a magnifier button for enlarging
on-screen text and images. The curved thin keyboard features various Windows
shortcuts, such as the Start button and a Windows Live Call Button to access
the user’s Messenger buddy list. The keyboard also has a navigation pad.
Other keys are available for accessing Favorites, folders, files and web pages.
The mouse and keyboard have up to a 30-foot range.
For the more cost-conscious, Belkin’s (www.Belkin.com)
Wireless Keyboard and Optical Mouse desktop combination provides the advantages
of a wireless optical system in a basic package that offers a six-foot range
of wireless capability, with the ability to customize shortcut buttons for quickly
accessing various websites or programs. The combo costs $59.99 at the company’s
website or at various retailers.
PilotBoard Laser Wireless Desktop Set
offers keyboard-mouse combinations for both PC and Mac users, giving the convenience
of wireless and functionality of optical technology, with one-touch access to
a user’s multimedia system. The systems start at $69.99.
This is definitely not your dad’s old TV clicker. Think of the Harmony
as a mouse for the non-computer electronics in your home. The line of universal
remotes provides users with a color LED touch-screen interface on a handheld
device that can be used to control everything from the most advanced HDTV and
TiVo systems, as well as audio and entertainment systems, and even home lighting.
The Harmony supports more than 5,000 electronics brands and 175,000 devices,
with programming updated daily and syncable from Logitech’s website. These
tech marvels start at about $130.
I love the mouse. There are many other peripherals that have evolved since it,
of course, including digital pens, advanced audio systems, two-way headsets,
webcams, gaming devices, virtual reality goggles, etc. But the mouse was the
start of it all. So look at your mouse, upgrade if you think it’s time,
but also reflect on your mouse’s evolution. It started just about 40 years
ago with a hand-carved wooden model. More on Doug Engelbart can be found at
the Bootstrap Institute (www.Bootstrap.org),
including a pictorial history of the development of the mouse and other input
devices. While you’re there, also check out his curriculum vitae. All
that’s missing is a Nobel, but I expect he may yet meet the King of Sweden.
Mr. O’Bannon is the technology editor for The CPA Technology Advisor.
He can be reached at email@example.com.