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First Ever Mouse Gifted to German Computer Museum

First Ever Mouse Gifted to German Computer Museum

Wednesday, 14 August, 2019 - 06:30
Paderborn, London - Asharq Al-Awsat

Rainer Mallebrein, inventor of the first computer mouse, had introduced one of his rare pieces as a gift to a museum in Germany.

The 85-year-old inventor said: "This is the original mouse. We were way ahead of our time. We created it between 1965 and 1968. At the time, there was no personal computer, no one heard the word PC (personal computer)."

The German engineer's words came while he was introducing the mouse as a permanent loan to the Paderborn-based Heinz Nixdorf Museum & Forum (HNF), the biggest computer museum in the world.

Mallebrein had developed the mouse for the Telefunken Company, which started to sell it 1968 with its then top computer TR 440. But, according to Mallebrein, only 46 devices had been sold, mainly for universities, as the computer was so pricey and cost up to 20 million Deutsche marks.

The mouse (1,500 marks) he invented did not live long. Mallebrein said it was not patented and "its potential applications were not discussed at the time. This mouse could have enhanced the interaction between humans and machines."

The Telefunken Company did not show significant interest in the mouse, while the inventor dedicated his time for other creations.

The mouse - which, according to the museum, maintained Mallebrein's design – did not make its real global appearance until the 1980s.

The US developer Douglas Engelbart played a major role in the spread of this product. In late 1968, two months after the launch of the German invention, Engelbart unveiled his own version of a personal computer mouse in the United States, the German news agency reported.

But, the US model had two rotating wheels instead of one, and was widely recognized, unlike the German device which remained unknown.

The two inventors, based in San Francisco and Konstanz, have never met or spoke according to Mallebrein. Engelbart's invention was given an attractive name: "mouse".

According to the California-based Computer History Museum's website, Engelbart could not remember how he and his colleagues came up with the name: "It just looked like a mouse with a tail, and we all agreed to give it this name."

But what did the German inventors call their device? "We were almost embarrassed," Mallebrein recalls.

"We called the whole thing the control of the tracking ball." But Malibrain is convinced that his device was "far better in design" than the US version. Today, three pieces of this rare mouse are left in Stuttgart near Munich and in the United States.

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