Swipe, swipe, pinch-zoom. Fifth-grader Josephine Nguyen is researching the definition of an adverb on her iPad and her fingers are flying across the screen. Her 20 classmates are hunched over their own tablets doing the same.
Conspicuously absent from this modern scene of high-tech learning: a mouse.
Gilbert Vasquez, 6, is also baffled by the idea of an external pointing device named after a rodent.
“I don’t know what that is,” he said with a shrug.
Nguyen and Vasquez, who attend public schools here, are part of the first generation growing up with a computer interface that is vastly different from the one the world has gotten used to since the dawn of the personal-computer era in the 1980s.
My nephews are the same. Multitouch trumps the mouse every time. And that’s increasingly true for me as well; I rarely even use mice anymore. My MacBook trackpad is intuitive, smooth and the gestures are a joy to use. If and/or when I get a Mac desktop in the future, I’m getting a Magic Trackpad. The trackpad works well for almost about every task that I regularly throw at it. I say almost because there is one major area where the mouse is still needed.
Though not impossible, it can be quite tedious trying to play games like Starcraft without a mouse and its buttons. Sure, I can right-click easily with two fingers on the trackpad, but with a mouse it’s just one click on the right mouse button. This may seem like a small difference, but when you consider just how often each mouse button is used within even one mission, it all adds up.
Will the mouse go the way of the floppy disk and—increasingly—the CD/DVD drive? I think in time it will. At the very least, it’ll be relegated to specific use cases where people require the tactile feel and ability of mouse buttons, like gaming. But if (when?) areas like gaming move on from the mouse and adopt different and perhaps more intuitive modes of interaction and input, there will be less and less reasons for the mouse to exist, and most people will only have one for those just-in-case moments.
Like my Logitech mouse that’s sitting on my desk, for those moments when I want to play Starcraft again. I’m trying to figure out when else I’d ever use it… and I got nothing.