Gadget: Intellimouse

SAN FRANCISCO (01/04/2000) - The computer mouse is an underdeveloped animal.

Little bits of lint, food, dust and other unidentifiable substances, known not so affectionately as "mouse droppings,"constantly gum up the rolling ball that talks to your cursor. Most mice also contribute to the widespread digital-age disease, repetitive strain injury. Recently, a new model has emerged from a hole in the wall called Microsoft Corp.

The IntelliMouse Explorer looks the part of a next-millennium mouse. Its swoopy, two-tone silver housing is accented by a red LED glow emanating from its base. Flip the mouse over to peer inside the translucent crimson plastic, and you'll see the IntelliEye technology that makes this mouse mighty: In place of the problematic rubber ball is an optical sensor like those found in digital cameras.

The sensor snaps a picture of the surface on which it's moving, 1,500 times per second. An onboard microprocessor then translates that data into impressively crisp and smooth onscreen cursor motion with far fewer hang-ups than a traditional, mechanical mouse. And no ball to get snagged means the IntelliMouse Explorer works on almost any nonreflective surface with enough detail for the IntelliEye to track. Glass doesn't work, but a pant leg will do.

The rubberized sides are comfy in your palm, while the Scroll button, common to the IntelliMouse line, negates the need to click on a scroll bar, reducing repetitive actions. Two additional buttons on the side of the mouse are programmable and work quite well for the Forward and Back browser commands. And the IntelliMouse Explorer is Mac-ready, thanks to USB and free downloadable software for the Apple platform. It's expensive, but an evolutionary leap for the species.

The Details

Score (1-5): Utility: 5; Design: 5

Est. Lifespan: Six months (we want wireless IntelliEye!)
Price: $74.95 System Requirements: PC: Windows 95/98 or Windows NT Workstation 4.0 Service Pack 3 or later, 30MB of available hard disk space, round mouse port (compatible with IBM's PS/2 port) or USB port, CD-ROM Mac: OS 8.5.1 or later (iMac requires iMac update 1.1), 15MB of available hard disk space, USB port.

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