Today the laser mouse celebrates its tenth birthday. Ten years ago, on September 1 2004, Logitech announced a breakthrough improvement on the red light-emitting diode optical mouse. Logitech’s new product was the MX1000 Laser Cordless Mouse, interestingly still available on Amazon today, ten years still after its launch.

In 2004 Logitech made two bold predictions about the impact laser tracking technology would have on the future of mice. In a press release, a Logitech VP was quoted saying “laser will eventually make the optical mice of today obsolete” and “with laser technology, mice will see more microscopic detail.”

The VP’s predictions were mostly right. What wasn’t completely right was the part of optical mice becoming obsolete: optical mice are still made and sold in 2014, the price factor undoubtedly contributing to their longevity.

The prediction about “microscopic detail,” however is spot on. Logitech’s first laser mouse used a sensor that was capable of 800 CPI (counts per inch). But during the past ten years, laser mice boasting ever-higher CPI measures have hit store shelves. Today mice in a variety of colors and shapes with 12000 CPI are a mouse click away for most consumers.

12000 counts per inch is certainly noteworthy. Taken at face value, the claim means these mice of today can’t be moved even 1/12000 inch (0.00083 inches or 2 µm) without the device being aware of the movement.

How tiny is 2 µm? It’s about the size of some prokaryotic single-celled bacteria, which vary between 0.5 and 5.0 µm. Imagine the zoo of bacteria, germs, fungus spores and godknowswhat that thrives on your mouse pad. Now imagine your mouse being able to observe it all creep around.

But this is ridiculous, of course? The human eye cannot perceive individual bacteria nor move individual bacteria around without assistance?

It is ridiculous but at the same time typical of a larger trend that has been going on for years. In 2012, Apple launched retina display with “a pixel density that is so high, your eyes can't discern individual pixels at a normal viewing distance.” We have keyboards that can accept keystrokes faster than the human fingers can move.
For years computers have been able to produce sounds outside the spectrum of human hearing. In fact it looks like the only thing left to develop is a display with a frames per second measure faster than the human eye can detect.

Why are we making this technology? And for whom? Are we anticipating an upcoming visit from alien beings with motor and sensor capabilities that far exceed our own?

The consumerization of IT has pushed user experience forwards in our awareness, but like with enterprise IT in the 1970s, we have reached the point that increased spending on technology no longer automatically generates benefit. That is a useful perspective to keep in mind when drafting the target user experience in application modernization projects, as we estimate target system capacity requirements, more is not necessarily better.

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