Juan Buis


We need to talk about the nipple mouse

It just won’t die.

This is the nipple mouse. If you’ve never seen one before, it’s pretty hard to guess what it actually does. Nestled in between the keys of your keyboard, the rubbery red dot sticks out like a sore thumb.

The pointing stick, as it’s also called, is a way to control your laptop. Developed by IBM in the 80s as an alternative to the trackpad and mouse, it was designed to keep your hands hovering above the keyboard. This way, you could switch between typing and moving the cursor faster, without moving your hands.

Wiggle wiggle.

Sounds great, right? If you’ve ever used it, you know it’s pretty much the worst thing ever. The nipple mouse isn’t just incredibly ugly — it’s also very hard to use.

To move the cursor, you need to firmly press your finger on the dot and wiggle your finger around in the direction where you want it to go. This nipple is extremely sensitive, however, which makes it hard to land the cursor where it needs to go — instead, it tends to fly across the screen uncontrollably.

After IBM’s invention, they refined the technology and put it on its laptops. Now called TrackPoint, throughout the 90s millions of consumers got to know the dumb dot — it was stuck on the keyboard of the company’s popular line of ThinkPad computers. Lenovo then acquired the ThinkPad line in 2005.

Cute, except for that red dot.

The pointing stick never became a commercial success — today, trackpads dominate the laptop market. Apple used to make the best ones — they’re big, made of glass and support multi-touch — but in recent years other manufacturers caught up, and most laptops sold today feature a great trackpad.

All the while, companies are constantly coming up with new ways to interact with our devices. Microsoft’s Surface Studio introduced the Dial, a funky puck-shaped controller that’s great for creatives. Apple’s new iPhone X comes with an impressive array of sensors that map the muscles in your face to enable things like Animoji.

All the while, for some reason, the pointing stick is still alive and well.

You read that right — this 2017 Lenovo ThinkPad has it front and center. You can buy a new laptop today and it’ll still have one of the worst pieces of technology ever baked in. And it gets worse—on September 25, the 25th Anniversary Edition of the ThinkPad leaked. Guess what it still has.

Whoomp, there is it!

When Lenovo’s chief design officer David Hill was asked why the hell some of the company’s laptops still ship with a nipple mouse, he replied:

Some people get it and some people don’t; some people acquire the taste. It’s hard to explain, but I still think there’s a use for it.

David, are you serious? Come on dude, it’s time to retire this… thing. Call it the nipple mouse, call it a TrackPoint™ Pointing Device, I don’t care. It’s old technology, it’s incredibly ugly and nobody wants it.

After 3 decades, just take your loss. Trackpads won.

XKCD knows best.

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