[ Retro Scan of the Week ] IBM ScrollPoint Mouse

April 19th, 2010 by Benj Edwards

IBM ScrollPoint Mouse Ad - 1997Overcome one of the Internet’s least annoying problems.

Ever since Microsoft introduced its first mouse with a scroll wheel, the IntelliPoint Explorer, in 1996, mouse designers have been tripping over themselves to solve the non-problem of how to allow a user to scroll a document horizontally as well as vertically. Along the way, we’ve seen solutions like the IBM TrackPoint (above), Microsoft’s own “tilt wheel” mice, and more recently the “scroll ball” on Apple’s Mighty Mouse. In the case of the ScrollPoint mouse seen above, it looks like IBM simply took its TrackPoint pointing device and stuck it on a mouse where a scroll wheel should be.

It’s all been for naught, though, because 99% of mouse users don’t care about scrolling horizontally. In fact, if you have to scroll horizontally to view a website — the task most often enhanced by a scroll wheel — the website has been terribly designed. As a result, I suspect that horizontal scrolling apparatus tend to annoy users more than help them. I’m sure someone out there will read this and swear by their horizontal scrolling mouse, but I’m also fairly certain that person is in the minority.

For more on mouse history, check out this nifty article I did for Macworld a few years ago. It includes a handy mouse technology timeline.

[ From PC World, November 1997, p.27 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Does your mouse provide the means to scroll horizontally as well as vertically? How do you feel about it?

15 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] IBM ScrollPoint Mouse”

  1. Jay Says:

    Well, I use a Logitech trackball (actually called confusingly a “Marble Mouse”) at home, for ergonomic reasons, and it doesn’t have any builtin scrolling capacity at all. However there’s a nice Windows-based driver hack for it (with the unimaginative name of “Marble Mouse Wheel”) that fakes it by holding down a button, and it works both vertically and horizontally.

    I use the horizontal scrolling occasionally, usually when looking at large images. It is annoying, though, because it’s a lot slower than vertical scrolling (and that’s the case on all pointing devices I’ve used, probably because monitors are wider than they are tall). It’s a nice feature to have, but frankly I wouldn’t miss it.

  2. jdiwnab Says:

    I use a tilt wheel on both mice that I use. I use it, like Jay said, mostly for viewing large images or documents, although large directories sometimes also are too wide for the window. While I don’t use it that much, I find myself missing the feature when using other mice.

    I, too feel that the horizontal scrolling is much too slow, and there is no good way to adjust that, as all the configurations are for vertical scroll speed, and not horizontal speed. On my laptop that has gesture recognition, I use two finger scrolling both vertically and horizontally. This is much more fluid and easier to use. Maybe the scroll ball on the mighty mouse provides the same, but I haven’t ever used one.

  3. Brook Says:

    I agree that “the task most often enhanced by a scroll wheel” is indeed viewing websites, and that there’s little use for horizontal scrolling there. But I would argue (as do the two previous commenters) that the task most often enhanced by a *horizontally-scrolling* mouse is viewing / editing large images, a context in which scrolling in two dimensions to scroll is actually incredibly handy.

    I don’t especially like the whole-mouse-is-a-button Apple Mighty Mouse, but I *do* like its scroll ball… if I could have a conventional two button mouse with a Mighty Mouse scroll ball instead of the standard scroll wheel, I’d be all over it. Similarly, once you’ve gotten used to two-finger scrolling (vertical and horizontal) on a MacBook trackpad, it’s hard to go back to anything else.

  4. Jon Says:

    I work in cs4 all day, so my Magic Mouse makes it super easy to navigate my sprawling documents and many artboards. So yeah, I’m in the 1%.

  5. Benj Edwards Says:

    So it looks like I’m actually in the minority so far. I can see how the ability to scroll around a large image with the scroll ball would be handy. Anybody else have an opinion on the matter?

  6. Kevin Says:

    I like the horizontal scroll too, but agree with the rest as it’s way too slow. Why not just a thumb button to make the vertical scroll wheel scroll horizontally? Then the user justs presses a button and gee whiz, they can control the scroll speed the same way they do in the vertical. Leave it to engineers to over complicate things.

  7. SirPaul Says:

    My previous mouse had horizontal scrolling capabilities, but I never used it. I didn’t know how to, mostly, plus I had no reason to do so.

  8. Geoff V. Says:

    Most modern PC mouses provide horizontal scrolling through a third button or by click-and-holding the scroll button. This scroll is scalable and IMHO far superior to the mechanical tilt-wheel horizontal scroll.

  9. Tim Says:

    My primary PC is a laptop, and I stick to the touchpad. It has both vertical and horizontal scrolling. I can’t say I need it often, but it’s nice to have the horizontal scrolling when I do.

  10. PWP Says:

    I work with images in Lightroom and the horizontal scrolling capability of Apple’s new Magic Mouse is very handy. I’m still getting used to it, though. Before I had to use the KB arrows keys for horizontal scrolling.

  11. Michael Thompson A. Says:

    I have tried using mice such as this, but I found it a bit annoying when I try to scroll vertically, and instead I scroll horizontally.

  12. Chris Says:

    I have a Kensington Slimblade Trackball (the best alternate input device EVAR!), and I totally enjoy scrolling with it – you turn the trackball like screwing a bottle cap on or off. Of course this means that you lose the ability to scroll horizontally, but you don’t need it that often.

    On the otherhand, I did have the IBM Intellipoint Mouse and liked it while it lasted.
    Pro: Scrolling without continually flicking your finger, horizontal scrolling was intuitive.
    Con: The nub was rough enough to give you callouses, and scrolling was tricky when the nub was worn smooth.

  13. RubberBekki Says:

    I’ve used many mice. But, for my current desktop rig, it’s somewhat retro. It’s a circa 1995 Microsoft PS/2 IntelliMouse 1.1A salvaged from an ancient Gateway 2000 computer. But it isn’t my first MS-Mouse. I actually used to own the first retail serial Microsoft Mouse with the green buttons and the large steel ball for use with my PCjr in the ’80s. Oddly enough, PCjr ColorPaint supported it natively without the use of additional drivers.

    For retro mention: I’m using one of the spare IBM keyboards that I stocked up on for $5 a piece in the mid’90s. No Windoze-centric keys here! And, since it’s an authentic IBM keyboard it has a nice typefeel to it. Granted, it’s a bit mushy when compared to their ’80s keyboards (they are simply classics and I’m sure I have an older one in my private stash) but not as mushy when compared to the current ones.

    The original keyboard that came with my desktop rig died in three months. 🙁 But this old mouse and keyboard have held up amazingly well!

    Anyway, the IntelliMouse has a vertical scroll wheel. I mainly use it as a third button to active scrolling in SeaMonkey and simply move the mouse slightly up and down. That and the scroll wheel doesn’t turn quite well due to how tight it is possibly due to the rubber coating on the wheel.

  14. Internetlad Says:

    I use a G5 logitech mouse and, while i rarely use the horizontal scroll wheel, I appreciate that it’s there.

  15. Cody Says:

    I never use the tilt wheel, and find it annoying because it often makes it impossible to middle click the scroll wheel.

    I can’t remember the last time I even saw a horizontal scroll bar, mostly because every monitor for the past half decade has been wide screen.

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