On July 22, 1996, Microsoft announced its first mouse with a scroll wheel: the Microsoft Intellimouse. It wasn’t the very first wheel mouse, but it set standards and made a huge impact. Here’s why it was so loved.
Since the invention of window-based software systems, there’s been a need to let people change what information is viewed in the window. Somewhere along the way, the scrollbar was born—a user-interface element that lets you move viewable text within a window—and it became the standard way that users scrolled through text for at least a decade.
Scrollbars are handy and still in use today, but the act of finding the scrollbar on the screen and then clicking its arrows or clicking and dragging a bar slowed things down. That’s why the Intellimouse felt like such a big revelation. It included a wheel that, when rotated, let you scroll through text with ease. In fact, in its initial Intellimouse press release, Microsoft wrote, “IntelliMouse eliminates the need to use scroll bars.”
Notably, the Intellimouse wheel also functioned as a third mouse button that clicked when pushed down, which added more possibilities as to how it could be used.