Steve Jobs, IDEO, and the Rubber-Coated Mouse Ball

IDEO founder tells the story of the first Apple mouse commissioned by Steve Jobs

Ever wonder how the first mice came to be? Well, as many Apple fans will tell you, Steve Jobs basically stole the idea from Xerox. But he improved it tenfold when he commissioned the first batch of point-and-click devices for the Macintosh.

Sharing a similar philosophy, Steve Jobs and IDEO founder David Kelley worked together on numerous projects back when Apple was a startup.

When the time came to incorporate the Mouse into the Macintosh computer, Jobs called upon Kelley to make one that would work brilliantly and cost only $17/€12.

“The whole thing was ‘make it intuitive for the human’,” Kelley recalls. When they finally had a prototype ready, Jobs didn’t like how the underlying trackball sounded on the table.

So IDEO began brainstorming new ideas and eventually came up with a rubber coating.

“Well, rubber-coating the ball was a huge technical problem, because you can’t have any seams, you’ve got to get it just right.”

Kelley also recalls getting his first iPhone. According to the man, Jobs had one ready for him on launch day.

“The day after the iPhone was announced, he had one for me,” he recollects. “You know, your own iPhone given to you by Steve Jobs the day after it comes out - it was a lovely feeling.”

Jobs wanted to personally set up the device for his friend, “so he gets on the phone to AT&T and he's going to hook up my phone and it's not going well,” says Kelley.

“Eventually he pulls the 'I'm Steve Jobs' card, you know, he says to the guy 'I'm Steve Jobs.' I'm sure the guy on the other end says ‘yeah buddy, and I'm Napoleon’ like get out of here. Yeah, but anyway he never did get it hooked up. No, not that day,” Kelley says.

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