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Lot #7019
Douglas Engelbart's Three-Button 'X-Y' Mouses

Early three-button Engelbart 'X-Y' mouse with rare prototype—one of just ten made!

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Estimate: $45000+
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Early three-button Engelbart 'X-Y' mouse with rare prototype—one of just ten made!

Two rare, early examples of the three-button computer mouse designed by computer pioneer Douglas Engelbart, both measuring approximately 4? x 2.75? x 2.5?. These early mice used two discs (corresponding to the X-axis and Y-axis) on the bottom to locate the position of the cursor, rather than the ball or optical light that came to be used later. Both have intact cords in the front, complete with serial connectors. These were presented by Engelbart to a member of his Stanford Research Institute staff in 1978.

The first mouse features two metal discs, a white plastic housing, three round white buttons, and is labeled on the bottom, "LPM-009" and "SRI-ARC." The second, a rare prototype—one of just ten made during unsuccessful efforts to create a lower-cost, easily mass-produced model—features two plastic discs, a beige housing, and three square black buttons. In overall fine condition.

Computer visionary Douglas Engelbart is remembered for founding the field of human-computer interaction and for his development of the computer mouse. His original patent for an 'X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System' was filed in 1967 and introduced at the Augmentation Research Center (ARC) of Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park, California, the next year, in 'The Mother of All Demos.'

The consignor of these mice, Israel Torres, worked with Engelbart at SRI/ARC from 1975 to 1978, and at Tymshare (after its acquisition of ARC) from 1978 to 1984. He writes: "Our last day at SRI was June 28th 1978. The reason I remember that date was that my son was born early that morning and I went from the hospital to work to help with the move. On that day Doug gave me a sealed box with the two mice and told me that he was gifting me a little something for the birth of my son." Also includes an image of Torres as part of an ARC/SRI & Tymshare alumni group at the 30th anniversary of the 'Mother of All Demos' in 1998, a poster of Engelbart from that event, and a display box for the mice.

Steve Jobs had been introduced to the concept of the mouse (and the GUI) while touring Xerox PARC in 1979, and aimed to simplify and incorporate these intuitive features into Apple's computers. The Xerox mouse cost $300 apiece, didn’t roll around smoothly, and had three buttons. Apple licensed Engelbart's mouse patent from SRI for around $40,000, and Jobs recruited IDEO to bring the mouse to the masses, telling the design firm's co-founder, Dean Hovey, that he wanted a simple single-button model that cost $15. Apple's mouse was introduced with the expensive Lisa computer in 1983, but achieved fame and popularity when the more affordable Macintosh was released in 1984.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Apple and Steve Jobs
  • Dates: #615 - Ended August 19, 2021