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Mice and Keyboards

While the rest of the computer industry has gone through several cycles of revolution, the venerable mouse and keyboard combo have rarely strayed from their simple roots.  In fact, the basic design of both input devices has remained intact over the last two decades.


Originally designed for the Apple computer, mice came into the PC picture with the MS Windows system of the early 90’s.  The mouse allowed users to point and click on graphical user interfaces (GUI) with high precision.  It replaced the tablet (like a pen) for many practical purposes.  The mouse began as a simple two-button device with a mouse ball inside that rolled along the surface.  Two rotors detected the relative motion of the mouse in vertical and horizontal directions.  The mouse was connected to the computer through a serial port, which had limited bandwidth capacity.

Today, this principal has been extended into new forms.  A modern mouse uses either a PS2 port or a USB port, both of which have higher rates for data transfer.  New mice are often optical, meaning there are no moving parts within the mouse.  Instead, an LED sprays light down to the surface, and the light gets bounce back to a photodetector.  By monitoring the way light changes as the mouse moves back and forth, the optical mouse can translate the motion with high accuracy.  This solved the problem of mouse balls and rotors that collected large amounts of dust and stopped working.  To further enhance their usefulness, many mice are now wireless.  These mice have a receiver unit that still connects to the computer.  Between the mouse and the receiver, RF waves are transmitted.  I really like wireless mice because you’re not tied down with a cord that will tug if you move it too far.  A wireless optical mouse is not that expensive anymore, and is an excellent value for your money.  Of course, you’ll have to pay for batteries once in a while, but they tend to last for months at a time.


Keyboards have also gone through some minute changes over the years.  Once they used to plug into specific keyboard ports, but now they can use either USB or PS2 connectivity.  Wireless keyboards are also an option, though they’re not as useful as wireless mice.  Unless you have a big monitor that you can view from a distance, you’re not likely to find a wireless keyboard that handy.

Some keyboards come with special buttons (aside from those annoying start menu and context menu buttons) that can perform useful actions if you have the drivers installed.  Things like volume control, muting, e-mail access, and Internet access are just a simple key press away.  I don’t find these specialty keyboards that useful though.