A mouse is a mouse by any other name
There are no rodents, not yet, with tails in front and moving around like nocturnal predators. When we think of it, nothing would have prevented...
There are no rodents, not yet, with tails in front and moving around like nocturnal predators. When we think of it, nothing would have prevented Engelbart to design a device exactly like a mouse. But being a genius, he preferred to have it that way for convenience which has become a handy tool for all those who use computers
At this moment, millions of people on the planet may be moving the mouse and pressing the buttons on either side of its head to move the cursor on the computer screen without wondering who was the genius behind the device that made our lives a lot easier. Douglas Engelbart, an American electrical engineer, who died at the age of 88 on July 2 at his home in Atherton, California, was little known outside the computing world. He was a genius whose many inventions had enriched the world of computers. But his most famous invention remains the computer mouse, in short an avatar of the common rodent that is credited with intelligence as good as an average human being. Engelbart got patent for the mouse in 1970, years ahead of personal computers became a household name in the US and elsewhere. But its usefulness had started dawning upon millions of computer users only when PCs became a part of our life one or two decades later. Still it rules the roost in offices and homes, despite the fact that laptops, tablets and such similar devices that have successfully shrunk the size of computers are becoming popular. Ever since the mouse became popular, the common question being asked is why the little contraption is called mouse. The inventor himself did not know. The name just got stuck to it. But the later interpretation is since it resembles a rat with a tail, no other name would have mattered. However, that's a poor explanation and observation. Rodents have tails at the rear, not in the front, whereas computer mouse wire will be in the front. If it is imagined in the form of a live mouse, its computer version may look grotesque. There are no rodents, not yet, with tails in front and moving around like nocturnal predators. When we think of it, nothing would have prevented Engelbart to design a device exactly like a mouse. But being a genius, he preferred to have it that way for convenience which has become a handy tool for all those who use computers. If Engelbart is remembered for his famous electronic mouse which in recent years has given birth to cordless ones, there are hundreds of scientists whose inventions have changed the way we live, handle day-to-day situations, add entertainment value and a host of other things. But their names rarely cross our minds; nor do we remember them unless the media remind us of their achievements, probably on their birth or death anniversaries. Surely, they deserve much more than a mere mention in the newspapers. A better way of remembering them is to name the product after the inventors. Such honour generally goes in exceptional cases and reserved for original research that is often recognized by awarding Nobel Prize. Raman Effect, for example. But it is worth considering why a popular product should be left with only a commercial name without attribution. For instance, the mouse. Why should it not be called Doug mouse? None has thought about it, including the humble Engelbart who died without getting even royalty for his invention. The only title he got was "Father of mouse." Not an appropriate one that befits his stature. In a way, it's injustice. But such things are galore in the scientific world. How many people know who the inventor of zip fastener is? It is used in dozens of daily use items ranging from trousers to airbags. Could anybody imagine a world without zips? Such simple but extraordinary applications that imitate the animate world in electronic and mechanical way have changed our lifestyle and we are greatly indebted to those whose sparks of brilliance keep upgrading our lives. As Engelbart said, "the mouse was just a tiny piece of a much larger project aimed at augmenting human intellect," we have to strive more and more to realize the human mind's potential to discover new horizons. That means we have to reinvent ourselves to reach such goals.