Mighty mouse turns ten and shows more muscle

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The Independent Online
A MOUSE can be an infuriating little creature around the office - skidding across the desk, getting lost in the paperwork and generally not doing what you want. We are speaking, of course, about the computer mouse, the point-and- click device used with so much personal computer software. It is a simple enough creature: a hand-held piece of plastic with a roller on the bottom and a connecting cable - the tail.

Now, for its 10th birthday, the mouse has been redesigned by Microsoft, which makes heavy use of them in its software programs. The mouse is essential to the company's strategy: the easier it is to use, the more productive the user - and the more people will move away from keyboard-only computer applications.

At its worst, mouse technology can be crude indeed, leaving people less productive. Just ask one of the frustrated users of the sort of cheap mouse typically bundled in with a clone computer. A mouse of that type may retail for about pounds 20, but intensive PC users, particularly corporate ones who appreciate smoother movement and crisper clicking, have been content to pay about four times as much for a Microsoft version.

John Leftwich, director of marketing, said of the second- generation mouse: 'We threw out all the preconceptions about what a mouse should be, or do, and went about designing the ultimate ergonomic pointing device.'

Ergonomics experts helped the company design it and advised on hi-tech features to aid productivity. These include a softened cable to help eliminate inadvertent mouse movements, a 15-gram weight to optimise the centre of gravity, and Teflon glides for smoother movement. An opto-mechanical encoder replaces the mechanical-only version for greater cursor accuracy. An accompanying disk contains such features as a zoom function to magnify a section of the screen for more precise cursor control in detailed tasks, a 'snap-to' function to lock the cursor on to buttons in default boxes, and features to help laptop users.

In these days of RSI, the repetitive stress injury syndrome suffered by keyboard users, the maker provides an accompanying booklet and tutorial program to help users avoid ailments associated with heavy use. In addition to encouraging exercise and rest breaks, the company recommends placing the mouse near the keyboard, allowing enough room for unlimited movement, and using the whole arm to move the mouse. It also advises users, if possible, to have the PC and mouse on a desk designed for a computer (lower than traditional desks), and recommends that the forearms should be nearly parallel to each other as they type and move the mouse.

The new mouse has a recommended retail price of pounds 79; existing users are eligible for upgrades for pounds 39.

(Photograph omitted)