Technology A quick look back at the reveal of the Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer 25 years ago today


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There are only a few days in the history of computing where one can safely say everything changed for a certain kind of product. On April 19, 1999, that indeed happened with PC mice. That's the date, 25 years ago today, that Microsoft first revealed its latest mouse, the IntelliMouse Explorer.

Just in case you might be unfamiliar with why the IntelliMouse Explorer is so important in the development of PC accessories, the IntelliMouse Explorer was the first one made for the home PC market with an optical sensor. While it was not the first mouse product with that kind of technology, the IntelliMouse Explorer was certainly the first that had an optical sensor instead of the normal embedded mouse ball that was made for a mass-market audience.

Microsoft, of course, had been designing and making PC mouse products for a long time beforehand. The first Microsoft Mouse was sold in May 1983. It also announced the first product in its Intellimouse lineup in July 1996, That mouse was one of the first to include a scroll wheel, and that quickly became a standard feature in future mice from other accessory makers.

However, the scroll wheel addition was just a prelude to what Microsoft wanted to put into the IntelliMouse Explorer. The optical sensor technology that was used was first developed by Agilent Technologies, which at the time was a subsidiary of HP, before it was spun off into its own company in 1999.

Microsoft called its version of the optical sensor technology IntelliEye.

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