The Truth about Trackballs

Truth is, a trackball is better than a mouse. Mice might be more prevalent, but that's another sign of what's wrong with the world. The trackball preceded the mouse. It has a superior design - the whole point is to move the ball in the first place, so why not move it directly? No need for a mousepad, no need to pick the entire device up and reposition it when it gets to the edge of its little square. The trackball just becomes part of your hand. Many of them only require one or two fingers to operate. And the heel of your palm does not become an aching pivot point.

A mouse is eternally separate from your hand, clumsy and non-ergonomic. It's the equivalent of putting plastic vampire fangs on your teeth and trying to eat and talk with them.

But Steve Jobs or some other Apple genius decided to flip the trackball over and create a 'mouse' that was more inefficient but easier to name with a cutesy Apple metaphor. "See, computers are easy to use because we've named the odd parts after rodents that scare you to death." Here you see the fault line in the style over substance-esque dichotomy of the design rhetoric vs. marketing reality behind Apple's products.

Alas, the world has voted with its feet for the more inefficient, clumsier mouse (and at the same time for PCs over Apple: oddly planting the stupid mouse decision within the smart PC decision). And the makers of wrist splints rejoiced. For millions of people have wrenched their wrists into impossible positions to use these clumsy perversions. They revel in obtaining superfluous mouse pads where their computing experience will resemble running in place on a pretty manhole cover.

But show 10 people a trackball and 9 of them will look perplexed and disturbed. Then they'll stay with a mouse and continue to complain about wrist pain. Why? Because there is an indescribable, incomprehensible desire on the part of some hunk of the populace for the inefficient, the painful, the inconsistent; the path of being consciously stupid. I don't know where this comes from or what mental comforts outway the bone-grinding, productivity-sapping costs. It might be familiarity, or laziness, or resistance to change, or a desire to bang one's head against a wall.

Yes, this could be chalked up to a matter of taste. That is, if you consider taste a matter of closing oneself off to alternatives without much thought or preference. I'm not denying people the choice, put as a fully certified lazy person, I just don't get why they'd make it. And I'm totally and utterly perplexed as to why they would be proud of it.


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Bulworth said...

Trackballs are evil.