Saturday, April 03, 2010

magic mouse?

They call it the magic mouse. I didn't know this when it came with packaged with my new iMac at work. See the smooth top surface? No buttons, just touch control. Not unlike the surface of an iPhone, I assume, but I don't know if it's the same technology. Something about the magic makes me less inclined to research.

Of course it's wireless, so when IT dude asked me if I wanted to keep it or get a "regular" mouse, I said I'd try this one. More because I dislike cabled mice so much I bought a wireless one for work on my own dime. Or my own $10, which was how ridiculously cheap wireless mice are these days.
Excluding this magic one, which is not so cheap.

Okay. So why a post about the humble and innocuous mouse? Because it triggered a phenomena that I hadn't expected nor experienced before.

20 years of mouse technology has seen dozens of changes that seemed significant to me. The addition of scroll bars. The transition from little wheels and balls (chock full of desktop bellybutton lint) for motion to laser sensors. And of course, wirelessness.

Some failures (for me) were Apple's first round mouse that looked cute but required visual "righting" because you couldn't tell quickly, by feel, which curve was the top. And the trackball: a large ball inserted into a stationary mouse–which some folks loved but not me. I draw with my hand and wrist in a movement that I couldn't quite transfer to just my fingertips. There's also the Wacom-style pads and styluses, which my coworker swears by. The tablet seems quite intuitive but I never have felt quite as comfortable with it.

All these things were nice little adjustments that happened over time and made computer life a little more pleasant. I played with the pristine little lozenge and thought its low profile might be a problem. It wasn't.

Here's the amazing thing: the touch movement, scrolling and clicking were so...intuitive I was unaware how quickly I'd adjusted. Within days, I was at home with my now Flintstone-like block-o-plastic mouse and realized I was dragging my finger over the completely non-responsive surface* of a mouse I'd used for years.

In less than one week, my decades-long training on clicking and scroll bar use was seamlessly supplanted. That is creepy and amazing. I hadn't personally experienced technological evolution at this speed before. If mice were a species [yes, I'm chuckling] this one would be the genetic super mouse that adapts as its ancestors die off. That is, if it wasn't priced $50-$60 in a market where you can get a decent wireless mouse for $10-$15.

The only drawback is that it's so sensitive that sometimes I'll be working in a palette window of one of my programs, adjusting an image size or line width. Then, I'll move the mouse to my main window when suddenly the 25% adjustment that I chose is racing up to 90% because the cursor was still active in the little field. It interpreted my innocent move as a command to scroll the numbers up.

The other surreal behavior is that when my fingers are just hovering over the top, Magic Mouse thinks I'm just asking for something very quietly and complies. Like a Ouija board planchette, it sometimes moves things around without my participation.

See? It really is a magic mouse.

*Like whispering at a rock concert, nothing is communicated.

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