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Computer "mouse" is an English term known and used worldwide. Reference about its origin appears to suggest that the term, which obviously refers to the shape of a small mouse, may actually come from nautical slang.

  • The trackball (also known as the computer mouse) a related pointing device, was invented in 1941 by Ralph Benjamin as part of a post-World War II-era fire-control radar plotting system called Comprehensive Display System. Benjamin was then working for the British Royal Navy Scientific Service.

(Wikispaces.com)

  • Mouse in the computer sense is from 1965, though applied to other things resembling a mouse in shape since 1750, mainly nautical.

(Etymonline)

  • The earliest known publication of the term mouse as a computer pointing device is in Bill English's 1965 publication "Computer-Aided Display Control".

(Wikipedia)

One nautical usage I could find refers to a technique called mousing:

  • a wrapping of several turns of small stuff around the shank end of a hook.

enter image description here The first mouse (1965)

Questions:

  • Is there any evidence that may suggest that the "trackball" device invented by Ralph Benjamin was colloquially referred to as "mouse" before the 1965 publication?

  • Does the term "mouse" actually come from nautical slang.

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    According to wikipedia: A few months after Telefunken started to sell the Rollkugel, Engelbart released his demo on 9 December 1968. Independently, Douglas Engelbart at the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) invented his first mouse prototype in the 1960s with the assistance of his lead engineer Bill English.[13] They christened the device the mouse as early models had a cord attached to the rear part of the device looking like a tail and generally resembling the common mouse.[14] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_mouse#History – Max Williams May 17 '16 at 9:25
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    Possibly. books.google.com/… – TRomano May 17 '16 at 12:23
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    Not everything has a nautical origin. The device would have been referred to as a "mouse" by just about anyone who saw it, due to its resemblance to the beast. There are numerous other uses of "mouse", such as a wad of fluff on the end of a string, sucked through a conduit by an electrician. The fact that some uses are nautical is not a surprise, as there are all sorts of mouse-looking things in this world. – Hot Licks Nov 10 '16 at 23:24
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    And one confusing thing about this whole thread is that a "trackball" is different from a "mouse". A "trackball" has the ball facing up in a stationary fixture, and the hand is used to directly move the ball. A "mouse" is an inverted "trackball", where the ball (in the old implementation) is rolled on the desk by moving the fixture. A "trackball" has similarities to a "joystick". – Hot Licks Nov 16 '16 at 13:11
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    @Rathony - Of the two answers I upvoted only Frank's, but the choice is yours of course. – user66974 Nov 17 '16 at 19:32
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A man named Douglas Englebart introduced the mouse in 1968, and it's likely that the name derives from its appearance and movement. People noticed, for example, that the mouse-like shape and size, including a wire that resembles a tail, all pointed to the easy-to--remember name mouse. One can also speculate that the advent of computers created a need among amazed (and threatened) people to bring this incredible piece of technology into the more comfortable human world by giving it a familiar name based on its animal-like attributes.

  • Please, reference(s)? – Alan Carmack Nov 14 '16 at 16:13
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Is there any evidence that may suggest that the "trackball" device invented by Ralph Benjamin was colloquially referred to as "mouse" before the 1965 publication?

No. The device invented by Ralph Benjamin was not called a mouse. In an interview in The Telegraph, he says:

I suggested one way of doing it was with a joystick but the other way of doing it was something you rested your palm on, which we would now call a mouse.

The article says Benjamin's team called the device a ball tracker. His use of the phrase "which we would now call a mouse" further suggests the device was not at that time called a mouse.

The same article says the device was kept secret:

The tracker was described in various internal Admiralty documents, but was kept secret, and not disclosed, explicitly when the technology was patented, in 1946

The fact the original inventor and his team did not call it a mouse, and very few people would have known about it because it was secret, make it extremely unlikely that the device would have been referred to colloquially as a mouse.

Does the term "mouse" actually come from nautical slang?

It's unlikely. The inventors themselves say they don't know why they called it a mouse. It was introduced to the public at a demonstration in Stanford Research Institute on December 9, 1968. In that demo, Douglas Engelbart (along with Bill English, widely credited as being the inventor of the mouse) says:

I don't know why we call it a mouse. It started that way and we never changed it.

You can hear this directly from the horse's mouth, here:

http://web.stanford.edu/dept/SUL/library/extra4/sloan/MouseSite/1968Demo.html

(Clip 12, 00:58)

However, other sources such as this Wikipedia page, support the common theory that Engelbart and English

christened the device the mouse as early models had a cord attached to the rear part of the device looking like a tail and generally resembling the common mouse

Perhaps this was the reason, or perhaps someone on the team had nautical knowledge and spotted a resemblance to a stay mouse. Occam's razor would suggest the former.

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