Function Over Form (7/4/00)

A few years back, Apple was gushing red ink in pulsing arterial spurts, the product line-up included such forgettable entries as the "Boxy And Beige" Power Mac 4400 and the "Doubles As A Hibachi" PowerBook 5300, and the company's future was in the hands of a wild-man visionary known as Gilbert Amelio. So who would have thought that in the year 2000, the hot topic of discussion around the Mac community water cooler would be when Apple would replace that damn hockey-puck mouse? It kind of puts things into perspective, doesn't it? But yes, we understand that there are those of you who strongly feel that all traces of the Puck should be incinerated in a blast furnace, after which we should never speak of it again. Relax. While Apple's stopping short of going the full revisionist route and expunging the Puck from the history books, it is working on a replacement.

We've all heard the rumors: this new mouse has no buttons, it's optical, it's wireless, it can cut through a tin can and still slice this tomato. But it's only now as Macworld Expo draws nearer that we're starting to get some glimpses of what Apple's new rodent may actually look like-- and those of you with weaker stomachs may want to avert your eyes. The first images surfaced in a ZDNet article, in the form of an "artist's rendering." What's shown is a glossy black oblong device with small, semicircular grey accents on its sides-- it's not exactly butt-ugly, by any means, but neither is it the sort of lickable design we're all accustomed to seeing emerge from Apple's industrial design think-tank in the past couple of years.

Speaking of butt-ugly, if ZDNet's illustration left you cold, the 3D renderings over at AppleInsider may throw you into heroin-withdrawal-style chills and vomiting. (Sorry for the graphic description, but we have a responsibility to warn our viewers when things get ugly.) For those of you who dare not risk your lunches by looking yourselves, AppleInsider's graphics (supposedly obtained from sources within Apple) depict what appears to be an AirPort Base Station that was left on the dashboard of a car in the July sun, stretched out into a tennis-shoe shape, and smooshed by someone's right hand to leave a series of unattractive finger indentations. Pretty it ain't. Granted, the renderings are merely supposed to be sketches, and supposedly, "in reality, [the mouse] does not appear as bulky and cumbersome as the sketches may imply, nor is its 'footprint-like' shape as apparent." That's all well and good, we suppose, but if Apple's new mouse even remotely resembles the lumpy form depicted in those sketches, we sense an even greater market for third-party USB input devices than the Puck generated.

We're not overly worried, though. There are several reasons we doubt Apple would ever design, let alone ship, a mouse like the one shown at AppleInsider. For one thing, it's clearly a right-handed design, and we can't believe Apple would ever ship a mouse that wasn't ambidextrous. For another, its "form-fitting" shape seems to invite the use of one's whole hand when operating it; we're no experts, but to us that sounds like an ergonomic disaster just begging to happen. And lastly, have we mentioned that this thing is ugly? Steve would have to have a complete tastectomy before he'd allow Apple to ship anything that looks like this lump of malformed plastic. ZDNet's rendition may not be exciting, but at least it doesn't trigger our gag reflex.

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The above scene was taken from the 7/4/00 episode:

July 4, 2000: Sony drops its patent infringement case against Connectix-- for about eight seconds. Meanwhile, questionable images of Apple's new mouse make the rounds, and several clues hint that ATI may soon be supplanted by NVIDIA as Apple's OEM graphics chip manufacturer...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 2392: All-American Lawsuit (7/4/00)   It's Independence Day here in the colonies-- a distinctly American holiday, and so what better way to celebrate the Fourth than to partake of the national pastime? The crack of the gavel, the roar of the jury.....

  • 2394: ATI Out, NVIDIA In? (7/4/00)   Given that the Mac is a platform with such a long-standing reputation for graphics excellence, we've always found it a wee bit ironic that our options for graphics cards have always been rather limited...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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