Dean Hovey on the Mouse Project's Beginnings

Source: Interview with Dean Hovey, 22 June 2000.

Starting the Mouse Project

Hovey: Let me just start by telling you some recollections about how we designed the mouse.

Meeting with Steve Jobs

As I recall-- and sometimes you reconstruct these things over time when you try to remember-- I had scheduled an appointment with Steve Jobs on a Friday afternoon. The point of the appointment was, we'd been doing product design for Apple as a consultant for quite some time, but our goal always had been to do some of our own products. I had a few ideas and wanted to talk to Steve about them, and we scheduled a time, and got together. I started running down my list, and he said, "Stop, Dean. What you guys need to do-- what we need to do together-- is build a mouse." I had no idea what the mouse was.

Jim Sachs also discusses the project's origins.

But my recollection was that at this time Xerox had wanted to invest in Apple. As I've pieced the story together, Steve said, "Yeah, I'll let you invest; but I get to run around Xerox PARC for a few days and see the stuff you're doing." I believe he did that on the Wednesday and Thursday prior to the Friday meeting he had with me. So he explained what this thing was, and what it was all about, and I said, "Gee, that sounds kind of interesting." And as the young product designer I was when I walked out that door, I was ready to change the world.

For more on Hovey-Kelley's decision to take on the project, see a 1980 memo by Dean Hovey.

Building a Quick Prototype

But I needed to build something. So I went down to the mouse parts stores, of course, and bought the parts so I could build some mice, right? [Pang and Hovey laugh]

The first place I went was to Walgreen's, and I bought a number of things there. The first thing I picked up was all the roll-on deodorants I could find on the shelves. [Pang laughs] They had these plastic balls in them that roll around [demonstrates application of roll-on deodorant].

Then I went over to the housewares area, and bought some butter dishes, and plastic things that were about the size I might need to prototype something. Then I went to the plastic store, and got some casting resin, and other stuff.

"Simple spatial prototype"

Over the weekend I hacked together a simple spatial prototype of what this thing might be, with Teflon, and a ball. The first mouse had a Ban Roll-on ball. But it just shows, particularly in Silicon Valley, how you take a good idea and run with it and improve it. It's very rare that a lightning bolt strikes, and you come up with something that's never been thought of before; it's a lot more taking from this, taking from that, and trying to make something work, and going for it.

I came back to Hovey-Kelley on Monday, excited about the work: I said, "I think we can do this. Let's do it." We had a number of business discussions about how we might want to approach it-- royalties, speculative, do it ourselves, blah blah blah-- and we finally came to the conclusion that this was still a big leap of faith, and we couldn't fund development on our own. So we decided to work with Apple to figure out how we could do the project, and get some upside if we could. But it seemed like a fun thing for us to do, and we decided to proceed and build it.


Document created on 10 July 2000;