Here’s Why Apple’s Mice Don’t Really Have Buttons

Steve Jobs reportedly didn’t want a “me too” solution for Macs

Apple’s Magic Mouse may not seem like an odd piece of equipment in this day and age, but back when Apple came up with the first buttonless mice, you can be sure they created a stir.

And the first controversies started within the company, according to Abraham Farag, Apple’s former senior mechanical engineer of product design.

Farag tells Cult of Mac the reasons why Apple’s mice generally don’t have what can be considered physical buttons. He goes through almost the entire history of Apple mice, from the “hockey-puck” mouse, to the Apple Pro mouse, explaining that Steve Jobs was dead serious about Apple mice looking completely different than competitors’ solutions.

“To Steve’s credit — and ultimately to Apple’s credit — at his core was the idea that he wanted to come out with a product that wasn’t a ‘me too’ product, that was leapfrogging whatever the current technology was at that time,” Farag says.

“To him, I think he felt that if we held on to the idea of the one-button mouse it would force the UI designers to come up with something that was as clean as possible. What changed his mind was that he felt that users were finally ready to embrace an interface that had contextual menus and multiple buttons that did different things. But while he was going to accept that, he wasn’t going to accept a mouse that looked like anyone else’s.”

Farag went on to explain that it wasn’t only Jobs’ stubbornness that eventually led to the creation of these buttonless mice, but also a strong conviction – on behalf of the visionary genius – that interfaces must be the ones to undergo the most changes, not the hardware of a computer.

“Steve was a firm believer in the fact that if you make the UI good enough, you should be able to do everything you needed to with one button,” Farag said.

“In the early 2000s there were a few people at Apple who were strongly suggesting that it was time to work on multiple buttons. But convincing Steve to go for it was almost like a war of attrition. It wasn’t just about showing him physical prototypes that he liked, but also convincing him of what the UI could do that would useful.”

Apple’s current-selling mouse, the Magic Mouse, is the peak of Apple’s research and development in point-and-click peripherals. Featuring no individual physical-buttons and lacking a scroll-ball/scroll-wheel, it is the most ergonomic, durable, and attractive mouse Apple has ever created.

Steve Jobs’ mice may not have been ideal for gaming, but working with a Magic Mouse has some serious advantages when you start using that multi-touch area in music and movie editing, photography, drawing... pretty much all the stuff that Macs were made for in the first place.

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