Wired has an interesting profile out this morning on Jim Yurchenco, a now-retired engineer whose career virtually started with the task of helping create the first mouse for Apple and Steve Jobs:
Yurchenco was just a year or two out of school when he got a call from an old Stanford pal, David Kelley. Kelley had just started a new design firm and asked if Yurchenco might want to join as an engineer. That meant a proper salary—Yurchenco had been working at a medical tech start-up, being paid mostly in stock—so he agreed. The company was called Hovey-Kelley; Ideo was still a few years off at that point. But thanks to co-founder Dean Hovey’s relationship with Jobs, Apple became one of the young company’s first clients.
Probably most interesting in Yurchenco’s account of his time working on the first Apple mouse is the influence the Atari gaming system played on it. The Xerox mouse that predated the Apple mouse was too expensive and too complex to meet Apple’s needs, and the Atari’s trackball served as influence in solving that:
The Atari machine differed from the Xerox mouse in a few key ways. For one, its trackball wasn’t forced up or down. Instead, it just floated. Yurchenco tried doing the same and found the mouse functioned just fine if you let gravity do the work. Moreover, it resulted in less friction and fewer parts. That was one key insight. The Atari machine also used optics to track the trackball’s movement, relying on interrupted beams of light instead of mechanical switches. By borrowing this concept, Yurchenco further streamlined the internal components. That was insight number two.
Aside from the Atari influence on the Apple mouse, the profile also describes Yurchenco’s task of making the product both affordable to build and easy to use. You can read the full profile on Yurchenco’s career at Wired then stare at your Magic Mouse and admire how far we’ve come.