Have you ever wondered why the trackpad on your MacBook Pro comes with right-click disabled by default? It could be because Steve Jobs apparently hated the idea of multiple buttons on a mouse, according to a former Apple engineer.
“Steve was a firm believer in the fact that if you make the UI good enough, you should be able to do everything you need with just one button,” Abraham Farag, Apple’s former Senior Mechanical Engineer of Product Design who joined the team in 1999, said to Cult of Mac.
Not everyone at Apple shared Jobs’ mindset, however, Farag said.
In the early 2000s there were a few people at Apple who were strongly suggesting that it was time to work on multiple buttons … But convincing Steve to go for it was almost like a war of attrition. It wasn’t just about showing him physical prototypes that he liked, but also convincing him of what the UI could do that would be useful.
That didn’t stop the Apple team from investigating the idea. When Farag and Apple’s marketing chief Jony Ive met to work on a multi-button mouse prototype, Jobs stopped by on his way back from another meeting.
“What morons have you had working on this project?” Jobs asked, according to Farag. “There was just a total hush. No one was going to fess up to being the moron in the room.”
The project died from there, but Jobs eventually warmed up to the idea that built-in capacitive touch sensors could serve the same purpose while maintaining a clean, buttonless design. This laid the foundation for Apple’s present-generation Magic Mouse, which was developed a few years after Farag left Apple in 2005.
Jobs came around to implementing capacitive touch sensors into mice when user interfaces became more complex and included multiple menus.
“But while he was going to accept that,” Farag said, “he wasn’t going to accept a mouse that looked like anyone else’s.”
The standard mouse and Magic Mouse available in Apple’s store today maintain the sleek design that Jobs initially envisioned. However, the Apple store does offer a handful of multi-button mice from third-party vendors including Logitech and Kensington.