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

Tuesday March 11, 2014 3:09 AM PDT by Richard Padilla

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.

apple_mice_evolution

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.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
79 months ago
For me personally, Apple has never made a mouse I enjoy using.
Score: 41 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
79 months ago

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 (http://www.guidebookgallery.org/pics/gui/desktop/firstrun/macosxdp4.png), 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.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
79 months ago
So Steve thought it would be better to hold down the control key on a separate keyboard "device" instead of just adding a right mouse mutton?
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
79 months ago

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.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
79 months ago

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.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
79 months ago
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.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Acquires Weather App Dark Sky

Tuesday March 31, 2020 10:22 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple has acquired weather app Dark Sky, Dark Sky's developers announced today. Dark Sky is one of the most popular weather apps on the App Store, known for its accuracy and storm warnings. Our goal has always been to provide the world with the best weather information possible, to help as many people as we can stay dry and safe, and to do so in a way that respects your privacy. There is no ...

Zoom Accused of Misleading Users With 'End-to-End Encryption' Claims Amid Other Security Issues [Updated]

Wednesday April 1, 2020 2:47 am PDT by Tim Hardwick
Zoom is facing fresh scrutiny today following a report that the videoconferencing app's encryption claims are misleading. Zoom states on its website and in its security white paper that the app supports end-to-end encryption, a term that refers to a way of protecting user content so that the company has no access to it whatsoever. However, an investigation by The Intercept reveals that...

Case for Upcoming Low-Cost iPhone Shows Up at Best Buy With Alleged April 5 Stock Date

Monday March 30, 2020 4:25 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Apple has a new low-cost iPhone in the works, which is supposed to be launching sometime in the first half of 2020. Given the ongoing situation in the United States and other countries, it's been unclear if the device is going to launch within the planned timeline, but there are signs that it could be coming soon. We started seeing cases for the new low-cost iPhone back in early February,...

Bloomberg: Apple's 5G iPhone Still on Schedule for Fall Launch, But Future Products Could Be Delayed

Monday March 30, 2020 2:40 am PDT by Tim Hardwick
Apple's 5G iPhone is still on track to launch within the company's typical annual fall release schedule, according to a new Bloomberg report on filed on Monday. Signs are that Apple's Chinese-centric manufacturing -- of which Hon Hai is the linchpin -- is slowly getting back on track. The next iPhones with 5G wireless capabilities remain on schedule to launch in the fall, partly because mass...

Testing Brydge's New Pro+ Keyboard With Trackpad for iPad Pro

Monday March 30, 2020 2:04 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Well ahead of when Apple introduced trackpad support in iOS 13.4, Brydge announced an iPad Pro keyboard with a built-in multi-touch trackpad. We have one of Brydge's new Pro+ keyboards on hand, and thought we'd check it out to see how it works with Apple's new 2020 iPad Pro models. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The Brydge Pro+ keyboard is similar in design to...

Apple's Work on New Upcoming Products Progressing Normally as Employees Adjust to Telecommuting

Monday March 30, 2020 11:58 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple's development of upcoming products is progressing as usual despite the fact that Apple employees around the world are working from home, according to a new report today out from Bloomberg. Apple is still working on new versions of the HomePod, Apple TV, MacBook Pro, budget iPads, Apple Watch, iPhone, and iMac, all of which could be released "as early as later this year" and have been...

Apple Releases ProRes RAW Beta for Windows

Monday March 30, 2020 9:33 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple today released ProRes RAW for Windows in a beta capacity (via Mark Gurman), with the software designed to allow ProRes RAW and ProRes RAW HQ video files to be watched in compatible applications on Windows machines. According to Apple, the software will let the files be played within several Adobe apps: Adobe After Effects (Beta) Adobe Media Encocder (Beta) Adobe Premiere...

Apple Configurator 2 Updated With New Features, Including Support for Restoring Firmware on 2019 Mac Pro

Tuesday March 31, 2020 5:34 am PDT by Joe Rossignol
Apple Configurator 2 has been updated to version 2.12 with several improvements, including support for restoring firmware on the 2019 Mac Pro. The release notes:• Added support for restoring firmware on the 2019 Mac Pro • Allow access to websites using TLS 1.0 and 1.1 • VPN: Configure Provider Designated Requirement for Custom SSL connection type • VPN: Configure network options for ...

Seemingly Unreleased Version of Logic Pro X With Live Loops Appears on Apple's Education Site [Updated]

Sunday March 29, 2020 7:23 am PDT by Hartley Charlton
Update: Apple has replaced the Logic Pro X image with an older version. Original story follows. A seemingly unreleased version of Logic Pro X has appeared on Apple's education site, as spotted by a Reddit user. The image from Apple's education products page shows a 16-inch MacBook Pro running Logic Pro X, but with a familiar interface that looks extremely similar to GarageBand's Live Loops ...

Apple's 2020 MacBook Air vs. 2020 iPad Pro

Wednesday April 1, 2020 2:45 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Apple in March updated both the MacBook Air and the iPad Pro, and with the iPad Pro increasingly positioned as a computer replacement, we thought we'd compare both new machines to see how they measure up and which one might be a better buy depending on user needs. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We're comparing the base model 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the base model...