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A look back at the first Microsoft Mouse released nearly 40 years ago

Microsoft Mouse

This week, Microsoft announced a true end of an era for the company. It revealed that it would no longer make or sell any of its Microsoft-branded mice, keyboards, or webcams. Instead, any future PC accessories the company will make will be sold under its Surface brand.

Ironically, this announcement came nearly 40 years to the day that the first Microsoft Mouse was sold. That happened on May 2, 1983, and it would be the first of many, many PC mice of all different designs from Microsoft.

The Microsoft Hardware division was formally formed one year earlier in 1982, sometime after the company started selling the Z80 SoftCard add-in card for the Apple II in 1980. However, by 1982, other companies like Mouse Systems, IBM, and Logitech had launched mice products for IBM-based personal computers. Microsoft decided it wanted to enter that small but growing market as well.

Microsoft Mouse

When the mouse was first released on May 2, 1983, it sold for a whopping $195. That was a massive expense for a PC accessory back then, and today that price would be more than enough to get a very fancy wireless gaming mouse from Logitech or Razer.

With its distinctive pair of green buttons, it's no wonder that the first Microsoft Mouse got the nickname "The green-eyed monster". There was no "plug and play" USB connection here. This first mouse product from Microsoft had an InPort ISA interface that also required that the PC have a Microsoft bus card inside. It used a steel ball for its sensor and had a slightly curved design that made it fit more comfortably in the hand compared to other mice products that looked and felt like the owner was moving a brick around. Of course, you could also see the cool Microsoft logo on top of the mouse.

Microsoft mouse software

While the mouse was first sold in May 1983, the accessory was later bundled with the first version of Microsoft Word, which launched just a few months later in September 1983 (and you can bet we will be writing about that 40th anniversary when the time comes). ToastyTech has some more info on the software that came with the mouse. It included "PIANO.EXE" a virtual piano program. along with "DOODLE.EXE" a drawing program.

Other applications that were included in the first Microsoft Mouse were the DOS version of Notepad. There was also "LIFE.EXE." No, this was not the classic board game, but a game that tried to simulate the rise and growth of microorganisms.

Microsoft Mouse manual

If you are curious, you can download the PDF of the original printed manual for the first Microsoft Mouse on the company's website. It's actually a fascinating read and a true look back at PC technology from 40 years ago. You can even download the mouse's software with the bundled Microsoft Word for DOS.

Microsoft grey eyed mouse

Even with including the Word software with the mouse, Microsoft's first PC accessory product didn't sell all that well. This Day in Tech History says that Microsoft actually made 100,000 units of the original mouse, but only sold 5,000 of them.

It would take the second version of the Microsoft Mouse released in 1985 before the company's mouse products started to take off. That second mouse evolved the original's curved design but ditched the distinctive green buttons for grey ones. The company would continue to evolve its PC mice products over the decades, including products like the Intellimouse, the Arc Mouse, and more.

It now seems like Microsoft's PC accessory hardware business is at a crossroads with this week's announcement that it would no longer offer any new devices under the Microsoft brand. The Surface division does continue to sell a version of the Arc Mouse. However, it remains to be seen if that part of Microsoft is interested in making any new mice devices that are made to work with all PCs.

Of course, there's also a ton of competition from other companies who are more than willing to innovate and evolve the PC mouse. However, it would be a shame if Microsoft, one of the true pioneers in this market, were to quietly go away.

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