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Collectors Corner: Mouse, Mouses, Mice

Collectors Corner
Collectors Corner

No, not that kind.

We’re referring to the computer kind. The kind that used to be connected via a cord to the back of the gigantic CPU taking up half your desk. The kind that had a ball underneath that glided over a pad or other surface until it clogged with cat hair and wouldn’t work until cleaned. The kind that was not named Mickey or Minnie.

The computer mouse can trace its lineage back to 1964, when Douglas Engelbart of the Stanford Research Institute, with the aid of his associate Bill English, built the first prototype. Electronic tracking devices had been in development since the late 1940s, but Engelbart’s was the first to use the configuration familiar to those of us today, and which he christened the “mouse” due to its resemblance to the small mammal, the chord being its “tail”.

Of course, many contemporary computer mice have lost their tracking balls and tails, but the name has stuck. (FYI: While the plural of mouse, the mammal, is always mice, the plural of mouse, the device, is usually mice, but can also, sometimes, be mouses!)

If you’re like most who use a mouse, chances are that it’s a fairly pedestrian black, white, or gray specimen made of plastic. If you had wanted something with a bit more style, you apparently had not looked hard enough. There are high-performance gaming mice that look as though they fell out of the anime universe. There are mice that look like turtles, bunnies, beetles, baby dolphins, and cars. There are mice of different colors, like pink, blue, and green; different materials (bamboo, anyone?); and some that look as though they’ve been doused in bling.

Collectors of computer mice generally fall into two, sometimes overlapping, categories: those who are seeking the unusual, and those who are focused on the historical. Unusual does not necessarily translate into valuable since many examples are readily available at retail.

Older mice, on the other hand, often command premium prices, especially if a potential buyer is attempting to complete a vintage computer setup. That is why, for example, a used, but working, Commodore C64 Model 1351 mouse (1983-86, with its original box) recently sold online for $51.05; a factory-sealed Tandy TRS 26-1197 Digi-Mouse (circa 1980s) fetched $120; and a factory-sealed 1988 MO142 Apple Desktop Bus Mouse was able to demand no less than $200.

Would you like to find out more about this area of collecting? Check out the resources listed below:

(And, no, mouse pads are not penthouse apartments for hip mice.)

Computer History Museum – Great resource aids in dating devices, good photos, more.

Firsts: The Mouse (Doug Engelbart Institute) – Check out the pics of the original mouse.

Computer Mouse – How Products are Made – History, parts, manufacture, more.

My Apple Mouse Collection – By Tormod Leithe

Strange and coolest computer mouse collection (Spicytec) – And you thought all mice were vanilla.

Michele Alice
Michele Alice
Michele Alice is EcommerceBytes Update Contributing Editor. Michele is a freelance writer in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. She collects books, science fiction memorabilia and more!