Retired British professor ‘invented computer mouse 20 years before U.S. engineer Doug Engelbart’

July 11, 2013 | by | 0 Comments

A retired British professor today claimed HE invented the computer mouse – 20 years before a celebrated American engineer who died last week.

Tributes flooded in when Californian boffin Doug Engelbart – who is credited with inventing the computer device in the 1960s – died aged 88.

But now former Royal Navy technician Professor Ralph Benjamin has revealed that he built the first computer mouse during the Second World War.

A British professor claims he invented the mouse 20 years before U.S. engineer Doug Engelbert

A British professor claims he invented the mouse 20 years before U.S. engineer Doug Engelbert

He was working on radar tracking systems for the Royal Navy in 1946 when he designed a cursor which could be controlled on a display screen using a pad moved by the palm of a hand.

But the idea was kept confidential by the admiralty, which meant he could not reap the commercial benefits of his ingenious invention.

Prof Benjamin, 90, said: “The system was an interface between digital data and a display.

“It therefore needed a cursor that could steer independently to reach a spot and record the position of the data.

“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 admiralty at the time were not interested in making profits so they decided to make it confidential by patenting it.

“Household computers mouse uses something very similar to the version that I thought of to identify data on the screen.”

Mr Engelbart, an American engineer who died last week, is widely credited with developing the first model of the computer mouse in the 1960s.

It started as a simple wooden shell with two metal wheels inside, but over a billion mouses have been sold since.

Despite the staggering success of the gadget he claimed was his idea, Prof Benjamin is happy to see his ideas are being used around the world.

He added: “I am pleased that the basic concept I developed is being used very widely. More widely than I envisaged, because technology at the time was so far removed from the technology we have today.

“Throughout history, ideas or reinvented or redirected at some point.

“That is life, and life is a four letter word after all.”

Professor Benjamin, of Kings Weston, Bristol, joined the Royal Navy Scientific Service in 1944, beginning his career at the Admirality Surface Weapons Establishment.

He has also been credited with inventing cat scans which are used to detect tumours inside the body.

During the 1950s and 1960s he was a leading member of national Advanced Computer Techniques Project and in 1961 he was Acting International Chairman NATO of Von Karman studies on Man and Machine and Command and Control.

He then worked for GCHQ and was tasked with briefing former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on security issues.

Category: Tech

Add your comment

Libellous and abusive comments are not allowed. Please read our House Rules

For information about privacy and cookies please read our Privacy Policy