Jonathan Dobres

the mighty mouse

Mighty Mouse

Yesterday, the batteries in my Mighty Mouse finally died on me. It’s been about three months, so that’s pretty reasonable. On the whole I’m pleased with the Mighty Mouse. I’ve always preferred mice to trackpads, and I figured that when you’re already ponying up the cash for a MacBook Pro, what’s a few more bucks for the Bluetooth-enabled mouse?

In most ways it’s exactly what I want from a mouse. It’s got no cord to perpetually wrap and unwrap, which was a big selling point. The wireless connection is solid. It fits nicely in my hand, even with my Crypt Keeper fingers. The four-way scroll ball is well implemented and has proven surprisingly useful. This particular mouse, unlike certain others, doesn’t leave presents for me on the kitchen countertop. Another bonus.

The Mighty Mouse still has a few problems, some of them downright perplexing. Granted, Apple has always been…eccentric…about mice. Remember the hockey puck? Is there a word that means the opposite of ergonomic, because that would describe the hockey puck perfectly. And yes, despite not owning an Apple computer until this past September I have every right to complain about that ancient peripheral. My high school was brimming with first generation iMacs. I’m more than familiar with the hockey puck, believe me.

There are two things that one can do with a mouse:

  1. Point
  2. Click

One of my issues with the Mighty Mouse is that it doesn’t always click appropriately. When a product only has two functions, it’s a big deal when one of them malfunctions even slightly. Still, the problem crops up so infrequently that the benefits of the mouse weigh in favor of continued use. I doubt that the click problem has anything to do with the wireless connection. Instead, I’m almost certain that it’s a byproduct of the Mighty Mouse’s biggest problem, which usually plays itself out in three acts:

  1. It’s a one-button mouse.
  2. No, wait, it’s a two-button mouse.
  3. What?

The Mighty Mouse is a two-button mouse. There are right and left mouse buttons straddling either side of the scroll ball, you just can’t see them or feel them. The Mighty Mouse is covered by a smooth plastic shell that conceals what should be the most obvious feature of the device. Even when you click the mouse, the shell depresses as a single unit. It’s a huge usability error that sows confusion and makes rocker gestures impossible. The fact that right-button functionality is off by default in Mac OS adds to the confusion.

Likewise, the Mighty Mouse has extra buttons on the right and left sides of the mouse, but in fact, these are one button. It’s supposed to, I don’t know, wrap around the bottom of the mouse? It’s nonsensical. Why would you trick me into thinking I’ve got two side buttons when I actually only have one?

Apple’s staunch refusal to leave the one button design is understandable. To a novice computer user, there’s pointing and there’s clicking (see List 1, above). I’m sure it’s hard for most of you to remember this, but the distinction between right and left clicks is something you had to learn. Naïve computer users don’t get it off the bat.

Still, this position is paradoxical for Apple, especially in 2007. Apple builds only high-quality machines and blatantly prides itself on that. They have neither the need nor the desire to build a computer for the lowest common denominator. Why, then, would they make a mouse for them? Sure, it’s possible to be a naïve user who also wants to start with a high quality product, but catering to that microscopic subset of consumers doesn’t make any sense. People who have no idea how to wrap their hands around a two-button mouse are a dying breed. No, literally, they tend to be elderly, and they’re dying. I rest my case.

You know what’s cool? Hardware that looks like what it does, not hardware that looks like an oversized Vicodin. Just my personal opinion.