The Death of the Mouse

Bruce “Tog” Tognazzini predicts the death of the mouse in a recent Financial Times article. The replacement? Why our fingers of course.

“In many ways, our continued reliance on the computer mouse reduces us to little more than cavemen, running around pointing at symbols and ‘grunting’ with each click,” he says. “A revolution is long overdue, because we need more sophisticated tools that will allow us to increase our vocabulary way beyond that caveman grunt.” Plus, the link between the computer mouse and cases of repetitive strain injury (RSI) are hardly an argument in its favour, he adds.

Luckily, he says, those “more sophisticated” tools are right in front of our faces and we already know how to use them. They are, in fact, our fingers.

“Look at the facts: we’ve typically got 10 of these ‘tools’; they move in a multitude of different ways; and gestural language, which came long before verbal language, is an established and intuitive form of self-expression. Even primates can be trained to express needs and intentions using their fingers,” he points out.

I make a similar claim in the last chapter of the book in the section “Supplanting the Desktop Metaphor?”:

The most vulnerable part of our existing PC setup is the mouse: the mouse could be replaced (and on many laptops has already been replaced) by touchpads or gestural means of controlling the cursor and other onscreen objects.

Only time will tell, of course.

3 thoughts on “The Death of the Mouse

  1. I am a CAD worker, and while I can’t speak for all other CAD workers, I personally doubt the death of the mouse. I understand the concept of multi-touch and the power of gestural moves, but doubt the precision of my fat little fingers versus the scalable precision of a mouse.

    In fact there are still new tools being designed for manipulating interface that are not touch based, like the Space Mouse. I’m unsure how the functions of a 3 axis device could be replicated through a flat touch surface.

    My final point is probably overused, but with newer touch interfaces sharing screen surface there could be 2 effects. The first (positive) is direct “sketch” manipulation where a person can access the tools on the screen directly and act as a real sketch pad. The second (negative) is that while interfacing with this sketch pad I am reducing the size of the screen I am working on and blocking parts of my view.

    As a side note, maybe the DS got it right with one touch screen and one static screen. I mean of course for designers… they definitely got it right for game design.

  2. Fingers are decidedly less accurate than a mouse or stylus. Either there will have to be compensations made for that (a UI widget that “sharpens” the finger to a stylus-like point or interfaces changing to accommodate the wider finger size), or else the mouse/stylus will likely persist for specific tasks, such as design work.

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