Former Apple Engineer Recalls Steve Jobs' Great Displeasure with Multi-Button Mouse Concepts

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Steve Jobs' great displeasure about the the idea of a multi-button mouse was apparently the driving force behind Apple's push to greatly innovate in the area of input devices, according to a new interview with Apple's former Senior Mechanical Engineer of Product Design Abraham Farag (via Cult of Mac).

Farag, who is the current owner of product development firm Sparkfactor Design, says that he was brought onboard to Apple in 1999 to design a successor to the original Apple USB "hockey puck" mouse, which shipped with the iMac G3 in 1998 and garnered heavy criticism for its small size, short cord, and tendency to rotate in a user's hand.

From left to right: Apple's USB "Hockey Puck" Mouse, Pro Mouse, Mighty Mouse, and Magic Mouse​
The designer said that Apple's design team had worked on five complete prototypes to show Jobs, complete with lines cut for buttons and different plastic parts. Farag noted that the team made a last-minute choice to work on one more prototype model, which resembled the Apple Desktop Bus Mouse II.

However, that last prototype was not finished as Jobs entered the room to look at the group of potential mice, which led to an encounter between the CEO and the design team:
"It looked like a grey blob," Farag says. "We were going to put that model into a box so people wouldn't see it." However, when Jobs turned up things went awry.

"Steve looked at the lineup of potential forms and made straight for the unfinished one," Farag says.

"That's genius," he said. "We don't want to have any buttons."
"That's right, Steve," someone else piped up. "No buttons at all."
The meeting, it seemed, was over.

"[Afterwards], Bart Andre, Brian Huppi and I left the room and huddled outside with each other, [saying] 'how are we going to do that?'" Farag recalls. "Because of that unfinished model we had to invent a way to make a mouse with no buttons."
The unfinished model that Jobs designated as his choice eventually became the Apple Pro Mouse, and began shipping in 2000. Farag believed Apple was the first to create a mouse that used an LED for optical tracking in place of a rubber ball, as the team looked toward building a successor worthy of the Apple Pro Mouse. Once again, Apple's design team wanted to create a mouse with multiple buttons, as Farag recalled a meeting with Apple design chief Jony Ive in which multiple prototypes were being discussed.
"Steve wasn't invited to the meeting," Farag recalls. "Not because he wasn't allowed -- he could go anywhere in the company -- but just because it wasn't something we were pitching to him yet.

...Suddenly Jobs happened to walk by, on his way back from another meeting. Seeing prototypes on the table, he stopped and came over.
"What morons have you working on this project?" he asked as he realized what he was looking at.

"There was just a total hush," Farag recalls. "No one was going to fess up to being the moron in the room. Eventually I said, 'Well, this was asked for by the marketing division. It's a multi-button mouse. It's been approved through Apple's process channels, and so we've been working on it."

Jobs stared at him.

"I'm Marketing," he said. "It's a marketing team of one. And we're not doing that product." With that, he turned and stalked off.
Farag notes that it was Jobs' persistence to create a mouse unlike anything on the market that helped Apple in the long run, and that the concept of built-in capacitive sensors to emulate the presence of multiple buttons eventually changed the former CEO's mind about multi-function mice.

Apple then went on to produce the Mighty Mouse, which was the company's first mouse to ditch the one-button philosophy, and followed it up with the Magic Mouse, which features multi-touch gesture controls and is currently included with every new iMac.

Article Link: Former Apple Engineer Recalls Steve Jobs' Great Displeasure with Multi-Button Mouse Concepts
 

yuenadan

macrumors newbie
Sep 3, 2010
23
0
Taipei, Taiwan
Interesting piece of history. I'd also like to hear more development about Apple's modern-day trackpad. It's a joy to use on my MacBook Air, and for productive work I think it blows a touch a touchscreen right out of the water. It makes using my a mouse on my Windows PC painful to use by comparison.
 

theipodgod16

macrumors 6502
Aug 10, 2003
372
55
Berkeley, CA
I've owned each one. Magic Mouse is by far the best, though the Pro Mouse looked cooler.

Sometimes improvements come at the relative sacrifice of aesthetics.
 

mabhatter

macrumors 6502a
Jan 3, 2009
864
222
Interesting piece of history. I'd also like to hear more development about Apple's modern-day trackpad. It's a joy to use on my MacBook Air, and for productive work I think it blows a touch a touchscreen right out of the water. It makes using my a mouse on my Windows PC painful to use by comparison.
If Steve wasn't crazy about zero mouse buttons, the trackpad wouldn't work so well with the OS. When you use a Unix-like OS that expects 3-button mice with "hidden" actions all over the place you start to appreciate how rid if Apple adhered to keeping the OS functions tied to just ONE pointing action.

That's why when they "pulled the rug" out from iOS pointing it worked so much better than Windows or Android that have to emulate those hidden buttons devs won't let go of.
 

SmoMo

macrumors regular
Aug 20, 2011
210
16
unihandic

People always criticise Steve Job's hatred of multi button mouses, but I'm not sure they realise he only had one finger.
That's why he always kept his hands behind his back and would secretly poke his finger up onto the desk to click the mouse when no-one was watching.
 

dilbert99

macrumors 68020
Jul 23, 2012
2,170
1,791
Windows or Android that have to emulate those hidden buttons devs won't let go of.
Both windows and OSX use the right mouse button click to bring up a contextual menu. Its silly to only have a one button mouse which forces the second button to the keyboard only.
 

BBCWatcher

macrumors regular
Jan 28, 2008
115
60
Singapore
Farag believed Apple was the first to create a mouse that used an LED for optical tracking in place of a rubber ball....
LED-based optical mice have been around a very long time. Originally they used special mouse pads with grids.

Microsoft (with some help from HP) introduced a pad-less, ball-less optical mouse in 1999. And they may not have been the first either, but they were a bit ahead of Apple, to their credit.

I don't think Farag's memory is accurate on this point.
 

lamerica80

macrumors 6502a
May 22, 2008
602
286
Ive never cared for apples mouses. The one button thing was just annoying and unnecessarily. The magic mouse looks cool but not very comfortable for doing a lot of photoshop, video editing etc.
 

srminton

macrumors regular
Sep 5, 2008
113
134
Ive never cared for apples mouses. The one button thing was just annoying and unnecessarily. The magic mouse looks cool but not very comfortable for doing a lot of photoshop, video editing etc.
It's obviously a matter of taste, because the magic mouse is the best mouse I've ever used. When I use my Windows PC, I miss it. The swipe-gestures on the magic mouse make web browsing and general navigation much snappier, right-click works perfectly without the keyboard, double-tap to zoom is great, and I find the magic mouse especially comfortable for long sessions of video editing etc. But, each to their own - I know someone who swears by the that little pointer-stick thing on Lenovo laptops, says he can't use a laptop which doesn't have one, and I can't stand those at all. :)
 

everything-i

macrumors 6502a
Jun 20, 2012
827
2
London, UK
IMO Apple have never made a good mouse. The best input device they have ever produce in the magic trackpad, I love using that. The trackpads on their laptops are also better than anything any other manufacturer has done by a mile.
 

mabaker

macrumors 65816
Jan 19, 2008
1,122
293
I really miss him. He had the power like no one else. He gave direction no one else dared to steer to. Now the ship is sailing but fir how long before it get overtaken by the "Apple approval process"?
 

Macboy Pro

macrumors 6502a
Feb 16, 2011
730
52
Ive never cared for apples mouses. The one button thing was just annoying and unnecessarily. The magic mouse looks cool but not very comfortable for doing a lot of photoshop, video editing etc.
I happen to agree with you. The magic mouse looks great, but functionally, it is not as easy to use as a standard mouse. Also, its about 60% more expensive, which is another downfall.
 

Alenore

macrumors 6502
Apr 7, 2013
423
426
I love my magic mouse, except for all these stupid swipe I constantly do when switching from mouse to keyboard ; ;
 

flottenheimer

macrumors 65816
Jan 8, 2008
1,195
171
Up north
For me personally, Apple has never made a mouse I enjoy using.
I feel the very same way. To me Apple mice (every single one of them) are all form over function/ergonomics. As an Apple purist I have really tried. But I have ultimately given up on all of them.

On the other hand our friends at Apple have seriously nailed the trackpad (all laptops+magic trackpad).
Big in size. No need to physically click when using 'Tab to click'. Multitouch. And that oh so perfect surface.
It is trackpad heaven.
 

batchtaster

macrumors 65816
Mar 3, 2008
1,031
217
Both windows and OSX use the right mouse button click to bring up a contextual menu. Its silly to only have a one button mouse which forces the second button to the keyboard only.
There is a significant difference: on OS X, you don't have to. You are absolutely not forced to use the second button. It is an Apple UI guideline that no commands should be in the contextual menu that are not available somewhere else. The Mac has always been designed to be approachable by anyone. That means, if you have never used a mouse before, you don't have to think about main- or secondary-clicking, what each means and why, or aiming with a weaker finger. You point. You click. You start with the simplest methods - click once, click a menu in the menubar, click a command. When you get proficient, you can do fancier stuff. Action menus in the Finder window. Trackpad multi-touch gestures. It's the entire reason the menubar still exists. I'm sure Adobe could come up with a way of using Photoshop that required no menubar at all, á la X Window. Why don't they? Because that menubar is the foundation of the Mac UI, and has been from the very beginning. And the mouse is designed to accompany it. (I recall the outcry when the original proposal was to place the Apple symbol in the middle of the menubar, symbolically shining over all on the screen - they were forced to put it back on the left and give it a purpose.) How many commands on Windows can you not do without a secondary-click? A bunch of the desktop organisational ones for starters. Does your grandma know how to clean up her desktop?

And yes, I realise in this day and age, people who have never used a mouse before a thin on the ground (although the number is probably on the upturn with iPads and other touchable interfaces).

Whether you agree or not, that's why it is the way it is. Which is not the same as Windows. Secondary-clicking is an option for Mac (among several). It's required on Windows.
 

Someyoungguy

macrumors 6502
Oct 28, 2012
272
291
It's obviously a matter of taste, because the magic mouse is the best mouse I've ever used. When I use my Windows PC, I miss it. The swipe-gestures on the magic mouse make web browsing and general navigation much snappier, right-click works perfectly without the keyboard, double-tap to zoom is great, and I find the magic mouse especially comfortable for long sessions of video editing etc. But, each to their own - I know someone who swears by the that little pointer-stick thing on Lenovo laptops, says he can't use a laptop which doesn't have one, and I can't stand those at all. :)
If only I hadn't had to put duct tape on the inside of the battery door to keep (now two of them) from disconnecting I, too, would share in your enthusiasm.
 

imajez

macrumors regular
Mar 11, 2014
110
40
"Farag believed Apple was the first to create a mouse that used an LED for optical tracking in place of a rubber ball, as the team looked toward building a successor worthy of the Apple Pro Mouse."

Believed incorrectly as I was using PCs back then and I recall Apple launching their 'revolutionary' [or some similar overegged superlative] optical mouse as an fantastic innovation. Which may have come as a surprise to Microsoft and others who had sold such things for quite a while. Plus they had multi-buttons so were far more user friendly.

I never understood Jobs hatred of buttons or cursor keys. Single button mice and keyboards without cursors are inferior in use to those that are not crippled.
Insisting on a mouse with one button whilst it sat next to a keyboard with over a hundred seemed a bit daft really. Particularly as you had to use one of them to make the mouse work properly, meaning a single button mouse needed two hands to use. :confused:
As the the dreadful puck mouse, I know people with permanent RSI as a result of using that abomination.
 

wikiverse

macrumors 6502a
Sep 13, 2012
568
403
I feel the very same way. To me Apple mice (every single one of them) are all form over function/ergonomics. As an Apple purist I have really tried. But I have ultimately given up on all of them.

On the other hand our friends at Apple have seriously nailed the trackpad (all laptops+magic trackpad).
Big in size. No need to physically click when using 'Tab to click'. Multitouch. And that oh so perfect surface.
It is trackpad heaven.
Apple mice are terrible. The Magic Mouse is a nice concept, but It sucks for video. You end up zooming and side scrolling all over the place when you readjust the mouse in your hand.

I shouldn't need to have hover hand or hover fingers when using a mouse.

There's a reason no other manufacturer has copied that design.
 
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