Feeds

Steve Jobs had BETTER BALLS than Atari, says Apple mouse designer

Xerox? Pff, not even in the same league as His Jobsiness

Business security measures using SSL

Steve Jobs was well known for the size of his cojones, but it turns out that his former employer Atari had even better balls than him.

In fact, it was these balls that inspired the first ever Apple mouse, the man who designed the first fruity iRodent has confessed.

Jim Yurchenco, a retired engineer now in his dotage, was part of the design team that worked on the mouse which controlled the Apple Lisa.

He shared a few of his memories with Wired as he prepared to hang up his stylus.

At the time of the Apple mouse saga, Yurchenco was a fresh-faced Stanford graduate working for startup design agency Hovey-Kelley, co-founded by his old university pal David Kelley and one Dean Hovey, who happened to be a friend of Steve Jobs. Yurchenco was tasked with creating a control device after Jobs spotted a Xerox mouse during a tour of its facilities.

“It was obviously way too complicated for what Jobs needed, which was a really low cost, easily manufacturable, reproducible product for consumers,” Yurchenco remembered.

Naturally, what Jobs wanted, Jobs got. Yurchenco went away and analysed the trackball used on Atari arcade games in the hope of designing a better, cheaper mouse. The Atari machine used optics to track the ball's movement, which required fewer moving parts, and was generally simpler than the $400 Xerox gizmo.

In contrast to the arcade giant's ball of joy, the Xerox mouse used a complex mechanism which required a small ball to be pushed down on the tabletop. Its movement was then measured by a complex array of mechanical switches. While this solved the problem, it was still far too complicated to meet Jobs' specification.

Yurchenco was, however, impressed by the Atari model and decided to use it as inspiration to create his own model.

Just like so many people we all know and love, the designer wasn't really bothered about pinpoint accuracy - something that is important when assassinating virtual enemies, but not so important when trying to open a word processor.

“Suddenly we realized, you don’t care if it’s accurate!” Yurchenco added. “It’s like driving a car. You don’t look at where you’re turning the steering wheel, you turn the steering wheel until the car goes where you want.”

The relative simplicity of this design meant the mouse was cheaper to produce - a boon for Apple.

“It was a couple of very simple insights, when you get down to it, that drove how the thing would behave,” Yurchenco added. “And that determined how you’d design it.

The resulting design, which used a rolling ball along with light-based detectors, went on to inspire more progeny than even the horniest rodent could hope to leave behind.

“They had a pretty good run. There were probably billions of those suckers made,” Yurchenco snickered. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Oi, Tim Cook. Apple Watch. I DARE you to tell me, IN PERSON, that it's secure
State attorney demands Apple CEO bows the knee to him
4K-ing excellent TV is on its way ... in its own sweet time, natch
For decades Hollywood actually binned its 4K files. Doh!
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
DARPA-backed jetpack prototype built to make soldiers run faster
4 Minute Mile project hatched to speed up tired troops
Hey, Mac fanbois. HGST wants you drooling over its HUGE desktop RACK
What vast digital media repository could possibly need 64 TERABYTES?
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Apple's ONE LESS THING: the iPod Classic disappears
RIP 2001 – 2014. MP3 player beloved of millions. Killed by cloud
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.