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Who Made That Mouse?

[2018年4月16日] 来源:纽约时报 作者:PAGAN KENNEDY   字号 [] [] []  

In the late 1950s, computers ran so slowly that you might wander off for coffee, or even go home to bed, while you waited for your office’s machine to work through a problem. But Doug Engelbart, an electrical engineer, envisioned a computer fast enough to react instantly to commands. And a machine like that, he decided, would need a driver’s seat.

20世纪50年代末,电脑运行异常缓慢,等待办公室的电脑完成一项工作期间,你都能出去喝杯咖啡,或者干脆回家躺会儿了。但是电子工程师道格·恩格尔巴特(Doug Engelbart)预见到将来电脑可以快到足以马上对命令做出反应。他觉得,这样一台机器需要配备“驾驶席”才行。

Engelbart had always been good at solving mechanical problems. When he was 13, his neighbor had an old Ford sitting in his barn, his daughter Christina told me. “My dad got it running again,” she said. “A car in those days — you used the steering wheel, a choke and both of your feet on the pedals. Your whole body was involved.” (Her father, now 88, is no longer giving interviews.)


Engelbart wanted to give people the same kind of physical control over a computer. In 1963, he began a series of experiments at his lab at the Stanford Research Institute, placing subjects in front of a monitor that looked like a 1950s TV set. The screen, as round as a porthole, displayed flickering words. Various devices were used to move the cursor — to correct an error or add a sentence — requiring so much new technology that the workstation cost about $100,000. Engelbart even rigged a helmet-mounted pointer that let you move the cursor with a nod of your head, but users found it awkward. In the end, the best cursor-control device turned out to be a box on wheels that you rolled around the desk like a toy car, which Engelbart designed himself.

恩格尔巴特希望让人们能像开车那样,用身体控制电脑。1963年,他在自己位于斯坦福研究所(Stanford Research Institute)的实验室里开始了一系列试验,把各种东西放在一台好像20世纪50年代电视机的监控器前面。它的屏幕是舷窗一样的圆形,上面显示着闪动的字词。各种用来移动屏幕上光标的设备(修改错误,增添句子)需要大量新技术,足足花了工作站10万美元。恩格尔巴特甚至制造出装在头盔上的指针,可以通过点头的动作控制光标,但使用者觉得它太不灵活。最后,恩格尔巴特亲手设计出了最好的光标控制装置——一个带滚轮的小盒子,可以像玩具车一样滑过桌面。

The researchers in his lab nicknamed this device the mouse. “It was just what they called it affectionately,” Christina Engelbart said. Her father thought the name sounded unprofessional, so he christened it the “X-Y position indicator for a display system.” But with its wire tail and way of scampering across the desk, the gizmo was born cute. The name stuck.





Bill English, an engineer at the Stanford Research Institute lab in the ’60s, was instrumental in the design of the first mouse.

比尔·英格里希(Bill English)是20世纪60年代斯坦福研究所实验室里的工程师,曾经参与设计了第一只鼠标。

In Doug Engelbart’s lab, you also tried out a knee-operated pointer, right?


Oh, yes, the knee pointer, in terms of functionality, turned out to be second only to the mouse.


The knee? Who knew?


The knee can be a good controller. You’re rotating your foot, so you can precisely move the cursor to the left or right, up and down. But of course it was impractical, because the device had to be built to fit the person who operated it.


What kind of design considerations went into the mouse?


One of the fundamental things you had to decide was the ratio of mouse movement to the movement of the cursor on the screen. I remember sitting there playing with a box on my desk and thinking, How far would I be willing to move my hand to make the cursor move across a line of text? That’s how I got a feel for how big the wheel ought to be.


So you had to figure out what kind of hand gestures would be ideal for moving the cursor?


Yeah, I just moved a box around the desk and thought, That feels about right.


Are we still using the same kind of hand movements?


Well, let’s see. I’m sitting here at my screen right now and moving my mouse. Yeah, it’s pretty much the same as the original one.




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