Thursday, February 19, 2015
Rodents = Unlizardy Wizardry
I’m all in favour of calling a spade a spade — but why did everyone’s favourite point n’ click computer accessory ever get called a mouse?
According to Geek Tech Legend, the phrase was coined by 60s IT pioneer Doug Englebart.
Like he said of his invention, “it just looked like a mouse with a tail, and we all called it that.”
However, on closer inspection of those pre-RollingStones lumps of computer wizardry, I’d say they looked more like rats.
And that’s if we stick with the Broadly Rodent model of nomenclature.
Mouse, Rat, Guinea Pig — yeah, I kind of get it.
But surely these quasi-mammalian factotums face the wrong way round.
Take a look at this Tasmanian Devil.
(I know it’s technically a marsupial, but it’s way bigger than a mouse or a rat or a guinea pig, and exposes the limitations of the mammal analogy perfectly.)
To use such a “mouse” you’d have to lay the palm of your hand on its shoulders, thereby exposing the blood vessels in your wrist to those nasty, snarly teeth.
Worse still, to make anything happen, you’d be dependent on the subtle play of your fingertips about this fearsome creature’s ARSEHOLE.
And to what effect?
So it could flail its tail at the computer’s inner hardware and write to disk like a souped-up paintbrush?
Level with me here, Mr Englebart: How’s that supposed to work?
If I could re-run the 1960s (and believe me, when it comes to some of those Monkees lyrics, I’ve tried), I’d change mouse to chameleon.
Now, your point n’ click device is facing the right way to see what it’s doing.
And your fingertips are operating those hypermobile eyeballs rather than fingering any kind of reptilian crack.
And instead of feebly flailing its tail, your polychromatic pointer is going
at all that data; pinning it down, picking it up, and moving it around — maybe even deleting it entirely.
Think about it. In the 1960s, no one had heard of ‘themes’ or ‘skins’ outside of toxic Ku Klux Klan literature.
If the guys at Name That Tech Central had gone with ‘chameleon’ over ‘mouse’, maybe we’d have figured out much sooner how a world based on the “white heat of technology” could have been less beige.
We might even have kept our desks free of berserk Killer Cats...