Why is the mouse pointer slanted instead of pointing straight up?

By on February 18, 2014, 6:30 AM
found, mouse pointer, arrow, mouse arrow

Have you ever pondered why some things are the way they are in computing? Or perhaps why some aspects have lived on well past their prime? The System Request key and the Scroll Lock key are two perfect examples of features that are no longer relevant yet still remain a staple on most keyboards.

Even the modern mouse pointer is an interesting case with a history all its own. Surely you’ve noticed (but perhaps never questioned) why the mouse pointer is tilted to the left instead of pointing straight up. This very question recently came up over at Stack Exchange and I’ll be the first to admit that I had no idea as to the answer (nor had I ever really questioned why it didn't point straight up).

As software developer Bart Gijssens points out, Douglas Englebart was responsible for inventing the mouse and subsequently, the mouse pointer. Early iterations did in fact point straight up but ultimately the pointer was changed to what we’re familiar with today because it was easier to distinguish on the low resolution screens of the time.

Gijssens goes on to point out (no pun intended) that Bill Gates copied it from Steve Jobs who copied it from Douglas Englebart.

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User Comments: 22

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TS-56336 TS-56336 said:

I always just assumed it was because that's typically the way a pen is pointing when writing on paper so that's what we're used to.

4 people like this | Guest said:

Maybe because having it angled left gives you a flat, vertical edge on the left-hand side, which allows you to see the exact horizontal cut-off point (with the tip of the array marking the vertical cut-off point), so that you can see the exact X,Y point you are clicking on more easily.

misor misor said:

Gijssens goes on to point out (no pun intended) that Bill Gates copied it from Steve Jobs who copied it from Douglas Englebart.

if one can't create original content, copy from someone else.

p51d007 said:

Mine points the other direction, because I'm a lefty

Guest said:

Maybe because having (x,y) location we do not need to more extra calculations where to draw pointer, just start at this location

JC713 JC713 said:

Wow this is very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

1 person liked this | MilwaukeeMike said:

Maybe because having it angled left gives you a flat, vertical edge on the left-hand side, which allows you to see the exact horizontal cut-off point (with the tip of the array marking the vertical cut-off point), so that you can see the exact X,Y point you are clicking on more easily.

Yeah, this is what I would have guessed... slanted lines don't look right on a screen made from pixels.

Did you know the mouse was originally meant to be used turned around with the cord (tail) coming out the bottom? Then some smart person came along and realized how much easier it was to use if you flipped it around.

1 person liked this | davislane1 davislane1 said:

Gijssens goes on to point out (no pun intended) that Bill Gates copied it from Steve Jobs who copied it from Douglas Englebart.

if one can't create original content, copy from someone else.

The vast majority of content is copycat. The key to an effective product is changing someone else's formula just enough so as to not be egregious.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

The way that arrow cursor is done in Windows today: its left side is precisely vertical, for best appearance. The rest is just done to resemble a tidy arrow. There is nothing else to it.

Guest said:

Funny how we get use to the pointer and forget he is wandering on the screen doing everything.

Tygerstrike said:

Its always the little things that catch your attention. I KNEW the mouse was invented VERY early on. Never thought about it much really. I grew up in the PC revolution. And I dont mean the 1990 one. Im talking before there were ever home computers. I grew up watching the tech grow!! From the start of cabinet video games to home computing. POint is, I grew up in this era and I didnt know the history of the PC mouse. Like I said, its always the small things that catch your attention. And to all those people who DID grow up in the 90's, congratz!!! But there was PC before they were born. Each decade since its inception has seen MASSIVE growth. We tend to get "hypnotized" by our tech. The CURRENT versions are all that matter. But this nice tidbit is from our past and shows us that the nice little things we take for granted DO have a history. So to all those out there that poopoo subjects like this, just wait, there WILL be a time when YOU are old and will want little reminders of when YOU were growing up. Thats what this story is, a reminder. A reminder of our past, a reminder of WHERE we came from. We are so used to computers and how they run/ruin our lives that we have forgotten that there was a time when the only computer on the planet was buried underground in a 5 story complex and it FILLED the complex. A reminder that there was a simpler time, that WE as a species have depevolped this amazing tech to make our lives better, and a reminder that we as a people are capable of GREAT things. Maybe you dont get that, but I DO.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Not only do I not know what the "scroll lock" key does, but the damned light from it annoys the hell out of me. :p (It's not so bad with a wireless keyboard, since they don't light up)

....[ ]....We are so used to computers and how they run/ruin our lives that we have forgotten that there was a time when the only computer on the planet was buried underground in a 5 story complex and it FILLED the complex.
Don't forget that the "transistors", were actually vacuum tubes. I saw one of these at the Franklin Institute, on a 5th grade class trip.("Univac", I think)

A reminder that there was a simpler time, that WE as a species have depevolped this amazing tech to make our lives better,
Quite a bit of that statement is debatable.
...[ ]...and a reminder that we as a people are capable of GREAT things. Maybe you dont get that, but I DO.
Indeed.... And almost all that's left to do now, is bring "the phaser" into existence, with a virtually limitless power source. That would free our soldiers up from carrying those big, heavy, clips of bullets into battle. (yay)!

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Maybe because having it angled left gives you a flat, vertical edge on the left-hand side, which allows you to see the exact horizontal cut-off point (with the tip of the array marking the vertical cut-off point), so that you can see the exact X,Y point you are clicking on more easily.
Oh sure, but what if you're left handed?

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I always just assumed it was because that's typically the way a pen is pointing when writing on paper so that's what we're used to.

Same here, assumed since that's how the majority of people hold a writing utensil it was just the natural evolution to tilt the cursor for a digital equivalent.

Guest said:

It is obvious that the inventor of the mouse had Erectile Dysfunction.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

It is obvious that the inventor of the mouse had Erectile Dysfunction.
Yes, but it was likely caused by EM radiation(*) from the old style CRT monitors. Then too, digital photography, erotic art, and the ability to transmit large files on the web, have increased manifold since then. Plus, this was all going on in the year, "10 BC", (before Cialis).

Ergo, it's likely nobody's suffering from a, "limp mouse", these days.

(*) The front glass of a CRT is even leaded (Pb), so as to prevent X-Ray emission.

EClyde EClyde said:

Never gave it a thought but it's nice someone did

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Actually, with the left side of the cursor being a straight vertical line, it won't pixelate on a low resolution monitor. If you rotate to true vertical under those circumstances, you could possibly get,"stair-stepping".

<< Look at the collar on my avatar, you'll see what I mean.

misor misor said:

"10 BC", (before CaptainCranky.

fixed or not! cheers!

(I actually like almost all the posts of captaincranky and skidmarks as they are informative or witty)

I wonder how the guest above compared the mouse design to E.D. ...

MadnessRed said:

Since when is Sys Req no longer relevant? SysReq + REISUB when you mess up Linux restarts safely

Guest said:
  1. "Since when is Sys Req no longer relevant? SysReq + REISUB when you mess up Linux restarts safely"

Holy *hit man then that button is the Holy Grail of buttons. Keep it for eternity.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

...[ ]...I wonder how the guest above compared the mouse design to E.D. ...
Well, because the pointer is laying over at at angle, and not directly vertical.

However, you do have to have a case of "phallus mind (*)", (as it would seem our "guest" does), to spuriously draw that conclusion.

(*) Take a moment to translate that term into more contemporary vernacular.

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