Happy New Year

10:12 PM 0 Comments


Apple Gets Into The Mouse Game

Around the same period, Steve Jobs was also looking for an innovative input system for his forthcoming Apple systems, and considered the mouse to be just it. For this reason, he commissioned design firm Hovey-Kelley to create an inexpensive, mass-producible and quite reliable mouse.


The “ball mouse” and Xerox

8:27 AM 1 Comments

Although it was Engelbart who first developed the mouse, his former colleague, Bill English, was the one who took forward its development. Hence, while working in 1972 for Xerox in its already famous Palo Alto Research Park, English and Jack Hawley refined the design of Engelbart's mouse and added some interesting new features, the most important being the replacement of the two gear-system with a small metal ball, pressed against metallic rollers for tracking the movement. Another important innovation is related to the improvement of the interaction system with the computer, which now does not require anymore an analog-to-digital converter, instead sending digital positional information directly to the computer.


The B.X. (Before Xerox) Era

Most people tend to associate the invention of the mouse with Xerox and its research park. In fact, the first functional mouse was actually demonstrated by Douglas Engelbart, a researcher from the Stanford Research Institute, back in 1963. The respective peripheral was far away from what we know today as “mice,” given the fact that it was manufactured from wood and featured two gear-wheels perpendicular to each other, the rotation of each single wheel translating into motion along one of the respective axes.

It's not exactly very clear where the name “mouse” originates, since, apparently, the name came from the fact that the device had a “tail” behind it, connecting it to a computer and a display and was the idea of Bill English, a colleague of Engelbart's and the person who actually built the prototype device.

Engelbart's product was not the first pointing device, though. In fact, it seems that the first such product, the trackball, was invented a lot earlier, namely at some point in 1953, by Tom Cranston, Fred Longstaff and Kenyon Taylor from the Royal Canadian Navy, as part of the secret military project DATAR. The name “trackball” comes from the fact that the respective device actually used a standard Canadian five-pin bowling ball. Just imagine how “easy” using such a product really was.


Computer Mouse

A mouse is a pointing device that functions by detecting two-dimensional motion relative to its supporting surface. Physically, a mouse consists of an object held under one of the user's hands, with one or more buttons.

The mouse sometimes features other elements, such as "wheels", which allow the user to perform various system-dependent operations, or extra buttons or features that can add more control or dimensional input. The mouse's motion typically translates into the motion of a pointer on a display, which allows for fine control of a graphical user interface.


3½ Inch Format

Sony introduced their own small-format 90.0 mm × 94.0 mm disk, similar to the others but somewhat simpler in construction than the AmDisk 3-inch floppy. The first computer to use this format was Sony's SMC 70 of 1982. Other than Hewlett-Packard's HP-150 of 1983 and Sony's MSX computers that year, this format suffered from a similar fate as the other new formats; the 5¼-inch format simply had too much market share.

Things changed dramatically when in 1982 the Microfloppy Industry Committee, a consortium ultimately of 23 media companies, agreed upon a 3½-inch media specification based upon but differing from the original Sony design. The first drives compatible with this new media specification were shipped in early 1983. In 1984 Apple Computer selected the format for their new Macintosh computers.Then, in 1985 Atari adopted it for their new ST line, and Commodore for their new Amiga. By 1988 the 3½-inch was outselling the 5¼-inch.


Mitsumi's "Quick Disk" 3-inch floppies

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Another 3-inch format was Mitsumi's Quick Disk format. The Quick Disk format is referred to in various size references: 2.8-inch, 3-inch×3-inch and 3-inch×4-inch. Mitsumi offered this as OEM equipment, expecting their VAR customers to customize the packaging for their own particular use; disks thus vary in storage capacity and casing size. The Quick Disk uses a 2.8-inch magnetic media, break-off write-protection tabs (one for each side), and contains a see-through hole near center spindle (used to ensure spindle clamping). Nintendo packaged the 2.8-inch magnetic media in a 3-inch×4-inch housing, while others packaged the same media in a 3 inch×3 inch sq housing.

The Quick Disk's most successful use was in Nintendo's Famicom Disk System. The FDS package of Mitsumi's Quick Disk used a 3-inch×4-inch plastic housing called the "Disk System Card". Most FDS disks did not have cover protection to prevent media contamination, but a later special series of five games did include a protective shutter.


The 3-inch compact floppy disk

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Throughout the early 1980s the limitations of the 5¼-inch format were starting to become clear. Originally designed to be smaller and more practical than the 8-inch format, the 5¼-inch system was itself too large, and as the quality of the recording media grew, the same amount of data could be placed on a smaller surface. Another problem was that the 5¼-inch disks were simply scaled down versions of the 8-inch disks, which had never really been engineered for ease of use. The thin folded-plastic shell allowed the disk to be easily damaged through bending, and allowed dirt to get onto the disk surface through the opening.


The "Twiggy" disk

In the early '80s, Apple fell victim to a serious case of NIH Syndrome (Not Invented Here), and decided to manufacture their own disk drives. Not content to be industry compatible, instead they designed what they believed to be leading-edge drives: the Twiggy floppy drive and the Widget hard drive.
The Twiggy floppy drive was a double-sided drive, but unlike conventional double-sided drives the heads were not directly opposing. Instead the heads were on opposite sides of the spindle, and opposing each head was a pressure pad (as commonly used in single-sided drives). This was supposed to reduce head wear. It also meant that the stiff jackets of the floppy media had to have non-standard cutouts. The write-protect cutout was moved to the side of the disk that would be nearest the back of the drive. One corner of the disk was notched for "keying" to prevent the user from inserting the disk incorrectly. A rectangular hole near that corner was apparently for use to latch the disk in the drive, preventing the user from removing it while it was in an inconsistent state. 


The 5¼-inch mini floppy

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In a 1976 meeting, An Wang of Wang Laboratories informed Shugart Associates' Jim Adkinson and Don Massaro, that the 8-inch format was simply too large for the desktop word processing machines he was developing at the time. Adkinson and Massaro proposed a 5¼-inches wide format which Wang accepted. Shugart Associates then developed a new drive of this size storing 98.5 KB later increased to 110 KB by adding 5 tracks. The 5¼-inch drive was considerably less expensive than 8-inch drives from IBM, and soon started appearing on CP/M machines. At one point Shugart was producing 4,000 drives a day. By 1978 there were more than 10 manufacturers producing 5¼-inch floppy drives, in competing physical disk formats: hard-sectored (90 KB) and soft-sectored (110 KB). The 5¼-inch formats quickly displaced the 8-inch for most applications, and the 5¼-inch hard-sectored disk format eventually disappeared.
Apple introduced the 5¼-inch Disk II for the Apple II in 1978, using GCR encoding to store 35 tracks of 13 sectors of 256 bytes (113KB). An upgrade to a more sophisticated GCR scheme in 1980 increased track capacity to 16 sectors (140KB for the disk).
These early drives read only one side of the disk, leading to the popular budget approach of cutting a second write-enable slot and index hole into the carrier envelope and flipping it over (thus, the “flippy disk”) to use the other side for additional storage. This was considered risky by some, for the reason that single sided disks would only be certified by the manufacturer for single sided use. In reality, since some single-head floppy drives had their read/write heads on the bottom and some had them on the top, disk manufacturers routinely certified both sides of disks for use, thus the method was perfectly safe. An alternate reasoning was that when flipped the disk would spin in the opposite direction inside its cover, so some of the dirt that had been collected by the fabric lining in the previous rotations would be picked up by the disk and dragged past the read/write head.
Tandon introduced a double-sided drive in 1978, doubling the capacity, and a new “double density” format increased it again, to 360 KB


The 8-inch disk

In 1967, IBM gave their San Jose, California storage development center a task to develop a reliable and inexpensive system for loading microcode into their System/370 mainframes in a process called Initial Control Program Load (ICPL). The System/370 was IBM's first computer system family to make extensive usage of volatile read/write semiconductor memory for microcode, so for most models, whenever the power was turned on the microcode had to be loaded (System/370's predecessor, System/360, generally used non-volatile read-only memory for microcode). IBM also wanted inexpensive media that could be sent out to customers with software updates.
IBM Direct Access Storage Product Manager Alan Shugart assigned the job to David L. Noble, who tried to develop a new-style tape for the purpose, but without success. Noble's team developed a read-only, 8-inch-diameter (200 mm) flexible diskette they called the "memory disk", holding 80 kilobytes of data. The original disk was bare, but dirt became a serious problem so they enclosed it in a plastic envelope lined with fabric that would remove dust particles. IBM introduced the diskette commercially in 1971.
The new device, developed under the code name Minnow and shipped as the 23FD, was a standard part of System 370 processing units (IBM internally used another device, code named Mackerel, to write boot disks for distribution to the field). It also was used as a program load device for other IBM products such as the 2835 Storage Control Unit.