Jef Raskin on the Mouse

Source: Interview with Jef Raskin, 13 April 2000.

Pang: Can you say something about your role in deciding how many buttons the mouse would have?

Raskin: Yeah. That's my fault entirely.

I had observed at PARC, in myself and others, that the three-button mouse was confusing. And I said, "What would be the way of making it so there would never be any question about what button to press?" If there's only one button, you can't make any mistakes. So I said, "Let's make a mouse with one button." But the first thing is, how can you do all the things? You have to use a few buttons to do everything on the PARC machine.

See also the interview with David Kelley, Dean Hovey, Jim Sachs, and Jim Yurchenco and Rickson Sun on the perspective from within Hovey-Kelley Design on mouse button issues.

So I designed the method of using a one-button mouse, and so invented a lot of methods that are still in use, like click and drag for selecting a region, and for dragging things across the screen. Now the first one, it turns out, I only learned years later-- only a few years ago-- there had been a use of dragging for selecting text in Gypsy, but I didn't know about that editor then, so I invented it independently. But the ones about collecting things, and dragging icons across, that was not at PARC.

So I invented the one-button mouse, and the methods for how to use it, and it's really a very heady feeling to go up to almost anybody in this entire culture, and know that they're using something that I invented every day. They don't know that anybody invented it at all.

Pang: Did you have any contact with the people at Hovey-Kelley who did the industrial work on the mouse?

Raskin: A little bit, but Jobs had so much fun with them that he didn't let too many other people play with them.

Raskin discusses the choice of the mouse over other input devices elsewhere in this interview, and problems with the use of the mouse and keyboard.


Document created on 6 June 2000;