William English, Co-Creator of the First Computer Mouse, Dies at 91

William English, Co-Creator of the First Computer Mouse, Dies at 91

The co-creator of the first computer mouse led the way for the mice we know and use today.

William English, the co-creator of the world’s first mouse has passed away at 91.

In 1960, William English —Also known as Bill English— joined the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). In 1964 he was one of the first to join Douglas Engelbart’s lab known as the Augmentation Research Center. William English and Douglas Engelbart worked together to create a prototype in 1963 of a computer mouse that that designed by Engelbart and built by lead engineer, English.

William English and Douglas Engelbart  Mouse Prototype

William English and Douglas Engelbart’s SRI Mouse Prototype (Image credit: SRI International via Wikimedia)

The prototype, originally designed in 1961, looked nothing like the mice we know today and was a block with a button and a super old cable. There were a pair of wheels, one rolled horizontally, the other vertically, and this would allow the computer to plot the X and Y coordinates the cursor. After applying, and getting a grant from NASA, in 1965 the mouse was the winner for the Computer-Aided Display Control report.

In 1967, SRI filed a patent for the mouse under the name “x,y position indicator for a display system.” The patent was awarded in 1970. In 1968, at the Mother of All Demos English and Engelbart revealed the mouse alongside a bunch of other things. You can watch the mouse demonstrated in Clip 12.

In 1971, William English left SRI and joined Xerox PARC where he eventually developed the ball mouse which was similar to the Rollkugel, a trackball developed by Telefunken in 1968. Telefunken never applied for a patent for the Rollkugel because it felt the invention was too unimportant.

Douglas Engelbart passed away back in 2013 at the age of 88. And thanks to Englebart and English, and their team at SRI, the world of computing progressed with the help of mice. Eventually leading to the creation of the first laser mouse developed by Logitec in 2004.

Featured Image Credits: Mouse screenshot from Web.stanford. Image of William English from New York Times via English family.