Steve Prentice

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Stephen Prentice
VP & Gartner Fellow
13 years at Gartner
35 years IT industry

Stephen Prentice is a VP and Gartner Fellow working in the Executive Leadership and Innovation Group (part of CIO Research). He takes a specific interest in emerging trends and the long-term future of technology - looking at the intersection of technology, business and society. Current research interests include... Read Full Bio

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Happy Birthday to the Mouse – Enjoy it while you can!

by Steve Prentice  |  December 3, 2008  |  2 Comments

So the mouse is 40 years old! ¬†Congratulations and all that! And Logitech has manufactured 1 billion of them (who keeps that accurate a count of these things? I’m impressed!). Seriously, this speaks volumes for the success of this little pointing device and the dominance of the graphical user interface of which it is an integral part. But let’s not get carried away.

40 years ago (thereabouts) I built my first computer. And I mean physically soldered things together. It had, as I recollect, 1 kilobyte (that is just 1,024 bytes for those of you out their used to counting in Gigabytes!) of memory, and that included the optional memory extension pack. We have surely come a long way in the last 40 years. Even in the last decade computer technology has advanced at an ever increasing pace so it is somewhat optimistic to believe that things are going to go on as before. The chances of the mouse ever collecting a bus pass seem pretty remote!

Computers are not what they are, and what we do with them has changed dramatically. They are now part of our lives, they store our music, our pictures, our home video alongside documents and data. They are our telephone and general purpose communicator and are increasingly becoming embedded in the very fabric of our lives. Smartphones, with their touch screens, cameras and accelerometers are the chosen device of the younger generation and there is no place to plug in a mouse there. In the home, entertainment and computing are merging as broadcast gives way to delivery on demand. Microsoft’s Surface computer puts the computer into the table top, and the next generation of display technology will put screens into the walls of our living rooms. Where do you put the mouse then? Does it get lost down the back of the sofa along with the TV remote? Mind you, as you are skiing downhill on your Wii-Fit this Christmas will you even care?

The next generation of gestural computing interfaces offer a new paradigm in our ability to interface to our digital doppelganger, they are easy, intuitive and fun. They can also offer pixel accuracy so those who claim the accuracy of the mouse will save it are in for a nasty surprise. 

But let us not be churlish and spoil the happy event. The mouse is 40 – Many Happy Returns! Enjoy the moment, you are entitled to a little celebration! The 1 billionth mouse has rolled (or should that be scampered?) off the production line. Hoorah!

But remember, the average lifespan of the mouse in the wild is about 3 months (although as a pet or in the lab they can live up to 2 years) – our furry little rodent friend is living on borrowed time!

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