Former Apple engineer: Steve Jobs hated the idea of a multi-button mouse

“From ‘no-button’ design and multi-touch controls, to wireless technology and laser tracking, Apple mice have seen a lot of changes over the past decade or so,” Luke Dormehl reports for Cult of Mac. “In terms of the biggest changes with Apple mice since 2000, there are few better people to talk to than Abraham Farag, Apple’s former Senior Mechanical Engineer of Product Design. Today the owner of successful product development consultancy Sparkfactor Design, Faras was part-responsible for many of the big innovations with Apple mice named above — and was able to shed light on how they came about.”

“‘It all started with a model we did not have time to finish,’ he says,” Dormehl reports. “‘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 team managed it and the no-button mouse — called the Apple Pro Mouse — began shipping in 2000.”

“The Apple Pro Mouse did well, but the team was keen to push the concept further,” Dormehl reports. “In particular, they wanted to make the leap from a zero-button approach to a mouse that featured multiple buttons. Making this look attractive from a design perspective was hard. Convincing Steve Jobs that it was a good idea was harder.”

Much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]

19 Comments

  1. Two buttons is all a mouse really ever needs. I like the scroll wheels, hate the “3rd button” on it though..
    Or none like a Magic Mouse/trackpad.

    Now if you talk gaming mouse… Different story.

    1. “Two buttons…”

      In YOUR world maybe. In the UNIX world, where OSX comes from, three buttons are quite handy. Use it all the time.

      Now lets talk about the need for three different settings in the Increase Contrast settings in iOS7 where we didn’t even need an Increase Contrast group at all in iOS6. Now that’s stupid.

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  3. Conceptually, Jobs is right. I know people who can not ever remember where they have to use left or right button, it gives them headache. I know it seems impossible for any of us, who got to this geeky site, but this is reality.

    Of course, this does not mean that mouse should have only one (or two) button instead of three. This means that there is decision to make how to make use of those buttons simple and consistent. Ideally, computer should “activate” use of additional buttons gradually, once people firmly understand how the first button works. In practice, however, it is very difficult, since there are functions, which would need to be done via additional interfaces just because right button is not available, and this is bad. So no perfect solutions on that.

  4. Every time I buy a Mac, the first thing I do is buy a real mouse for it. Apple mice really, really suck. It’s the “Mac Tax.” These crappy Apple mice were more of Steve’s dumb ideas — kind of like his choice to deny us Blu-ray support.
    Don’t get me wrong. Jobs was great. But he had some really messed up quirks.

    1. I love the track pad apple makes, I got a magic mouse with my iMac that I use with my MBP instead (when I actually need a mouse with it on the road)

      Outside that.. Yeah I head for the Logitech isle 😉

      Blu ray… Stupid apple never officially supported it. (Yes, I know the download speech fanboys..) still would have been great to have it.

      1. I happen to agree with George, in that Apple mouse/mice have sucked. They’re not the easiest mouse/mice to use. That’s not to say that the buttonless design isn’t elegant. It is, but it’s a case of design trumping usability, a rare Jobsian lapse. Some people do like them though, and I don’t have any quibbles with them. To each his own.

        For me, the first thing I do is replace the Apple mouse. However, more to the point, I don’t see him (George) speaking for the rest of the Mac community. Where did you read that in his comment?

        Please stick to the facts and try not to put words in other people’s mouths.

  5. While I personally couldn’t live without two mouse buttons, I appreciate why Apple was so dead-set on shipping just the one-button mouse for so long. Applications should never require the use of the right mouse button — that should be a shortcut for power users. Too many Windows applications use the existence of the right mouse button as a crutch, requiring right-clicks to get anything done. That’s bad design, IMHO.

    ——RM

    1. Dead set is right. Abraham Farag tell is like it is. I worked at Apple for years around this time in the software group and we all wanted to move to a multi-Button mouse. But Jobs was Soo against it.

  6. I must say that Apple have Mice that look elegant and different than the rest but when it comes to user friendly they are not. I believe that Logitech seems to have the corner on this market. Nevertheless, the Magic Mouse I have seems to work fine for me but without its own hiccups.

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