Computer Mouse That Inspired Steve Jobs Clicks In At Auction For $180K

An auction for a computer mouse that inspired Steve Jobs fetched £147k ($180,000) in winning bids.

<p><strong>The early mouse and coding keyset was created by computing legend Douglas Engelbart, a pioneer of the controller system. RR AUCTION/SWNS</strong></p>

A computer mouse that inspired Steve Jobs has clicked with bidders at a £147k ($180,000) auction.

The early mouse and coding key set was created by computing legend Douglas Engelbart, a pioneer of the controller system.

The lot sold for approximately twelve times its estimate of £12,000 ($15,000) in a sale by Boston-based RR Auction on Thursday.

The rare, early three-button computer mouse designed by Engelbart utilises two metal discs which correspond to the X-axis and Y-axis on the bottom to locate the position of the cursor, rather than a ball or optical light that came to be used later.

The coding key set features five keys, permitting 31 key-press combinations, for typing and entering commands.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and a Macintosh computer in January 1984. BERNARD GOTFRYD/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The pair of early input devices are like those used in Engelbart’s iconic 1968 “Mother of All Demos.”

The live demonstration featured the introduction of a complete computer hardware and software system. It demonstrated for the first time many of the fundamental elements of modern personal computing.

The “Mother of All Demos” would prove to be massively influential, though it took well over a decade for Engelbart’s ideas to become mainstream, partly thanks to Steve Jobs’ adoption of some of the concepts.

In the early 1970s, much of Engelbart’s original team ended up at Xerox PARC, where they continued their research in human-computer interaction and kept improving upon the mouse.

While touring the research facility in 1979, Steve Jobs witnessed the concepts of the mouse and the graphical user interface (GUI) in action.

Impressed by their user-friendliness, he aimed to simplify and incorporate these intuitive features into Apple’s computers.

The Xerox mice cost £245 ($300 USD) apiece, didn’t roll around smoothly, and had three buttons. Jobs wanted a simple, single-button model that cost £12 ($14 USD).

The computer mouse that inspired Steve Jobs. A £147k ($180,000) auction for a computer mouse that served as inspiration for Steve Jobs was a success. RR AUCTION/SWNS

Apple licensed Engelbart’s mouse patent from SRI for around £33,000 ($40,000 USD), and Jobs hired the design firm IDEO to bring the mouse to the masses.

Apple’s mouse—which used a rollerball mechanism—was introduced with the expensive Lisa computer in 1983 but achieved fame and popularity when the more affordable Macintosh was released in 1984.

“Engelbart’s invention would, in part, change the course of modern life,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction. “This device played a crucial role in the evolution of computer history.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker