Geek Redux: The Feel of Geek

I love mice.

They’re nimble and sleek. They come in a myriad designs, sizes and colors, with or without tails, three buttons or two or one, with scroll wheels and balls and gleaming laser-optics. And they do one thing that makes them absolutely irresistible to me: they point and CLICK.

Ever since my very first computer—a 28 Compaq “luggable,” I have geeked out over tactile feedback. First, it was keyboards. Because I was a PC-user (all because of a little word processor called PC-Write—more on that geek-out some other time), I started life without a mouse. I became a connoisseur of keyboards. I loved the clackity tappit of the IBM keyboard I had at work and hated the soft, mushy rubbery feel of the Osbornes and  Mac Classics I’d played with. (And we won’t even discuss that old VT-200 terminal in the HR department.) I wanted keys that didn’t just depress. I wanted keys that clicked, that ticked, that said: “Ooh, baby, I’ve been typed!” with every finger tap.

When I got my first Mac laptop, I thought I had found the keyboard of my dreams. I liked it even better than the standard Mac keyboard I used on my desk rig (I run an additional flat screen display, keyboard and mouse off my laptop with a Tardis USB hub for thumb drives and other gadgetry). But one day my Dear Husband (Chef Jeff Vader, All-Powerful God of Biscuits), who works for Apple, came home with a keyboard for me that was the cat’s pajamas, whiskers and meow all rolled into one. The keys are thin, flat little squares that  type so lightly, so trippingly, I swear you could breathe on that puppy and it would type three short stories and a screenplay.

I was in seventh heaven. And then, hardware fans, he brought me the Macbook Pro on which I am typing this blog. It has—I can hardly believe it—the same amazing, tactilely satisfying keyboard as the desktop. AND the keys light up, making it ideal for working (as I am now) in a semi-dark living room with the flickering movement of the Australian Open making things interesting.

So, keyboards make me happy. But mice … mice make me positively giddy. With a good mouse under my hand, I am the most talented, beautiful, and powerful wordsmith in the known Universe. There is something so sensually pleasing about the palm-fitting curve of a good mouse. Something energizing and soul-satisfying about my favorite mouse attribute—THE CLICK. There are times that the click of my one button Magic Mouse causes a delicious chill of what my Buddhist friends call “suchness”—as if, in that moment of clickage, I know that God is in His heaven and all is right with the Universe. I am suddenly and unutterably content.

I collect mice. My husband (who has more guitars than most touring rock bands and collects studio mics the way our daughter collects My Little Ponies) does not understand this.

“I bought you a Magic Mouse for Christmas,” he says, perturbed a my inability to be monogamous(e). “Why do you need other mice?”

“Because it’s good to use multiple input devices,” I reply sagely. “As much time as I spend on a computer, I need to guard against carpal tunnel syndrome.”

This is utter bull hockey. The truth is, they all feel just a little different. And as much as I love my husband, I say “Vive la difference!” My old Kensington mouse has a more stately click than my Logitech travel mouse (RIP), whose clicks were so perky, my fingers wanted to dance across the buttons. And my old Mac mouse with its two-state single button and little bi-directional scroll ball is a steady, solid work horse—er, rodent.

But yes, the star of the show is the Magic Mouse. She is tailless and has no dongle. Nor does she have buttons, per se, and no scroll wheel or ball. The entire top of the mouse is a clicking surface and “knows” which button you mean to press. It is also a scrolling surface that even allows two-finger drags to page back and forth through documents or websites. (Be still my heart.)

This mouse has also earned a singular honor among my collection past and present. She has a name. Only fans of a particular network TV show will get this, but since my husband decided I should name my new laptop “Castle,” the mouse’s name is “Beckett.”

Many of my friends become quite overwrought when working on the computer. Nerves get frayed because of browsers that won’t open or word processors that won’t obey simple commands like “Go stuff yourself, you misbegotten heap of spaghetti code!” The computer quickly becomes an adversary. My advice: Go to your nearest computer store and play with the mice. Click to your heart’s content. Then pick the mouse whose shape you find the most pleasing, whose clicks lift your spirits the highest and BUY THAT MOUSE.

Or buy a whole bunch of mice—buy one for every day of the week. Deduct them as a business expense or charge them to your health insurance as a stress relief or meditation aid. Then click your way to happiness.

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Geek Redux: The Feel of Geek — 8 Comments

  1. While I don’t collect mice, I am picky about size, conformation and clickability. I also like color. As much as I enjoy my Microsoft wireless for feel and ease of use, it’s a boring black and grey. Next time a pretty pink or (be still my heart) blue one flirts with me in the store, she’s coming home with me.

  2. Or, well, choose one or two good devices and be content not to clog landfill with a lot of cheap plastic….

  3. I have a track ball, gaming mouse (Logitech), and a slew of other wireless mice. Most of them are orphans of dead wireless keyboard/mouse sets.

    For me, the touch of the keyboard is very important. The mouse, is, but not as much as the light, quick response of a keyboard. Logitech Comfort is my favourite, followed by the Mac general keyboard. The Microsoft keyboards feel squishy and actually hurt my wrists after extended use.

  4. One of my face mice was a Contour mouse (http://ergo.contourdesign.com). They’re weird looking things but oh, so comfy. They come in different sizes for different sized hands (I was a medium due to long fingers) and kept your hand in a natural position tipped slightly to starboard. I’m glad to see they still make them. I credit that mouse with keeping me from getting carpal tunnel syndrome during an intensely mousy part of my career.

    BTW, Connie, mice should NEVER go to the land fill. There are programs at most high-tech companies for the recycling of these gadgets. We collect the dead ones and twice a year or so, deliver them to the Apple recycling program.

  5. FYI, there is a lot of psychological study on the addictive nature of ‘click-and-respond’ loops. The loop of ‘take in meaningful content, click for more’ fires up the same receptors under MRI that heroin addiction does…

    Most of these studies are in their infancy, but they’re going for the root cause of why computer games can cause people to become shut ins for three weeks after they come out.

  6. Oddly, with me it has nothing to do with taking in meaningful content or clicking for more. That’s more like my research addiction. (Aw, just one more page of stuff on Mongol meat tenderizing techniques…)

    With me the pleasure of clicking is literally in the click itself, or in the way the keys of my keyboard respond to me pressing them.

    I dug out my old Logitech travel mouse this morning and ascertained that, yes, it still has the best clicks ever. Oh, if only it were cordless!

  7. I also collect mice, as does Patrick. I just counted. There are nine mice in the mouse bowl, plus the one I am using now, plus several more on my work desk. I have Logitech and Microsoft mice because they have pretty patterns, Kensington mice because they have interesting shapes, a Magic Mouse because nothing beats Apple designs. Patrick pays more attention to the feel than I do. His mice are ones that fit well in his hand.