The mouse that comes with your PC today is pretty standard and simple: two buttons, maybe another button for scroll control. It works perfectly with your software because the operating system has the standard driver software natively.
That wasn’t always the case. The early days of the PC saw more variety in available computer mouse models. Many required their own software and weren’t necessarily compatible with all applications. They definitely were not plug and play.
The PC Mouse from Mouse Systems is a good example. It’s an optical mouse, which uses LEDs to detect movement, that has three buttons. The left button called up an option menu for specific spreadsheet applications such as VisiCalc or Multiplan. The middle button functioned like the Enter key, and the right button like the Escape key. That changed with word processors such as WordStar or IBM Personal Editor. The left button still called up an application-specific menu, but the middle button offered motion options while the right button offered options for actions on the file (save, print, etc.).
You needed more paraphernalia to make the PC Mouse work, too, including a mouse pad, RS-232C interface, and power supply–all for $295. That’s about ten times what you pay for a decent mouse today.
Original Retail Price: $295
Base Configuration: mouse, mouse pad, RS-232C interface, power supply, driver software for Lotus 1-2-3, IBM Personal Editor, VisiCalc, WordStar, Volkswriter, and Multiplan