Jim Sachs on Engelbart's Mouse and Jobs' Vision

Source: Interview with Jim Sachs, 29 March 2000.

(Engelbart's mouse)

Sachs: People often ask me, when they see the mouse patent on my wall, whether I invented the mouse. I point out that I did not invent the mouse; I, and the rest of the Hovey-Kelley team, moved the mouse from the lab to the living room. Doug Engelbart invented the mouse. His mouse was crude but effective, and remarkable because he demonstrated it, along with a graphical user interface and all kinds of other things, at Brooks Hall in 1968. A video is available, some of it on the Web, and it's fascinating. Engelbart's mouse consisted of two rotating disks attached to potentiometers, and a big clunky wooden box.

One would never have concluded that that would be the primary interface to millions of computers in the future. I credit Steve Jobs with having the vision that that is the way the masses would use computers, and he was correct. I think he's not been recognized enough for that. I think people tend to spend more time thinking about the young, brash, rude, obnoxious Steve Jobs of the 1980s, not that he truly had a vision for seeing this gem in a lab in Xerox PARC, and saying, "They may not be able to commercialize it, but we can."

In interviews, Jim Yurchenco and Rickson Sun talk about Steve Jobs' involvement in the mouse project; Dean Hovey talks about Steve Jobs and his appreciation of product design.

So we set about essentially taking a laboratory instrument, the Xerox mouse, and figured out what they were trying to do, and what we needed to do to make it mass-producible. It was the first commercial product I had ever worked on. There was a team at Hovey-Kelley of myself, Dean Hovey, Jim Y., David Kelley, and Rickson Sun. At least three of them are still working together at IDEO, which is what Hovey-Kelley Design later became. We worked as a team to design the new mouse, and I have an archive of the various things we went through to get there-- photographs of the different elements and so on.

(May 1980 prototype)

I have here a photograph of the very first prototype, dated May 1980. It was a literal breadboard; It started out when I gave Dean a circuit board and said, "Whatever you make, put it on here, so I can put some electronics around it."


Document created on 2 August 2000;