Have you ever wondered when different components of the modern computer were invented? Me too!
Mouse – The mouse was invented in 1964 by Doug Engelbart in his research lab at Stanford. He had been looking for an accurate way to plot X-Y coordinates on the computer screen. He and his team went through several prototypes including one with a foot pedal, but settled on the small pointing device we use today. In Engelbarts words:
“Five or six of us were involved in these tests, but no one can remember who started calling it a mouse. I’m surprised the name stuck.
We also did a lot of experiments to see how many buttons the mouse should have. We tried as many as five. We settled on three. That’s all we could fit. Now the three-button mouse has become standard, except for the Mac.“
Keyboard – The keyboard is a natural extension of the typewriter. There’s a lovely write up of the history of the typewriter here: The typewriter was first invented in 1706 by Henry Mill. (There’s no proof that he ever built it, however.) Other models followed, but the typewriter, with a QWERTY keyboard, wasn’t commercially available until 1873. Little has changed since then, except making typewriters electric. The biggest difference between the typewriter of yesterday and the computer keyboard of today are the function keys.
Remote Control – Few things have encouraged the rise of the couch potato (pun intended!) as the remote! The first “remote” was developed by Zenith in 1950 and was called the “Lazy Bones“. It was “connected to the television by a wire. A wireless remote control, the “Flashmatic”, was developed in 1955 by Eugene Polley. It worked by shining a beam of light onto a photoelectric cell, but the cell did not distinguish between light from the remote and light from other sources. The Flashmatic also had to be pointed very precisely at the receiver in order to work.” The Universal Remote – a remote that would work with multiple devices – wasn’t invented until 1985!
Router – We probably wouldn’t have the network we have today if William Yeager hadn’t invented the router in 1981. It all started at Stanford:
“This project started for me in January of 1980, when essentially the boss said, ‘You’re our networking guy. Go do something to connect the computer science department, medical center and department of electrical engineering.”
Do you have a favorite history story about technology? Share in the comments below!
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