The very first computer mouse, something that we’d recognize as an ancestor of modern pointing devices, was invented in 1964 at the Stanford Research Institute. Douglas Engelbart and his team crammed two metal discs (one for horizontal tracking, one for vertical) into a wooden block and added a button on top for selection. The team refined both their hardware and their input devices for the “Mother of All Demos” in 1968, which laid the foundation for graphical user interfaces and much of modern personal computers.
Early examples of Engelbart’s mouse design are museum pieces and coveted collector’s items. For example, a slightly refined three-button mouse and its accompanying five-key coding input tool were sold on March 16th by the RR Auction House, as reported by Metro. This combination of serial inputs was essential to the famous demonstration that revolutionized the way computer input was imagined. It’s easy enough to draw a line between this mouse design and the one included with the Xerox Alto as the first consumer model, though by 1973 various engineers had figured out how to track vertical and horizontal movement with a ball instead of two discs.
Though the auction house had estimated the final price at around $15,000, the lot sold for $178,936. It was part of a series of auctions titled “Steve Jobs and the Apple Computer Revolution,” easily outpacing other items like an original Apple Lisa ($81,251) and a sealed first-generation iPhone ($54,904). It should be pointed out that Engelbart’s famous demonstration wasn’t actually attended by Jobs — it went on to inspire Xerox’s early 1970s designs, which would then result in a partnership that helped create the initial Apple machines of the early 80s.
But I guess “The stuff that would eventually end up influencing Steve Jobs, and pretty much every piece of personal computing for half a century,” doesn’t really roll off the tongue.