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Industrial use[edit]

I find it surprising to not find any reference to the widespread use in industrial and marine equipment, for marine use the trackball is the standard to operate radars and a whole host of other systems. Also the article mentions that hardly any new trackball models are rarely released, which is untrue there are quite a lot of companies still selling these except they usually do not cater to private consumers.

There is also no mention of the optical trackball or the laser trackball. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Alras (talkcontribs) 15:41, 19 November 2009 (UTC)


This article should mention something about trackballs with different ball sizes. There a re trackballs with balls that can be operated with the thumb. Other trackballs are meant to be operated with the middle three (or sometimes even more) fingers. While logitech has the small, thumb-operated trackballs, compare with the big and really big models of Kensington. Anyway I think the article should consider this somehow. Also, the section on computer games and trackballs is completely uninteresting, as trackballs are meant as mouse alternatives and more precise, this all already implies what this means for gaming. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:18, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

Trackballs as less damaging than Mice[edit]

I've often heard of trackballs as being used on the grounds that they are less damaging to users (carpal tunnel syndrome) than mice. Is this true? if so, perhaps a section noting this? (MarkG)

I personally switched away frome mice because my wrist was starting to hurt, but thats hardly evidence nor a believable source. (MindTwister)

Regarding which is better for you, the best I can find on the web (besides vendors' own promotional matter) is from the US Center for Disease Control, which says basically that it varies from person to person, and that one should try out different devices. I'll try to fold that into the article. -- Tomlouie | talk 21:11, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

I've made a switch to trackball around year 2000 after reading a discussion regarding the solution to aching wrist after long period of gaming. Back then I was still using the mice weren't so ergonomically designed and after extensive period of continuous mouse movement it indeed made my wrist ache. (I am talking about something like 8 hours or more, almost non-stop mouse movements) less than that it wouldn't develop into wrist-ache. The problem had haunted me since I've started to play online games. With the switch to the trackball, my wrist stopped aching. It only makes sense that, while using mice for gaming, the users often have to lift their wrist into the mid air. If done continuously for a prolong period of time, it would tire their wrist and the arm muscle thus, making them ache. Yet while trackball would solve the problem of mouse induced wrist-ache for me, it created another similar condition - thumb-ache. Same old deal in all aspects, just my thumb aches instead of my wrist. (Lanceton)

My experience has been that mice are mostly usable, while wheels [such as scrollwheels] and trackballs are unusable and extremely painful. Now that may be connected to coordination problems, or something, I haven't been able to find enough info on the issues. I would like too. (talk) 00:44, 27 April 2014 (UTC)

unify naming[edit]

Trackball, Tracker ball, etc.: be consistent. --Jidanni 2006-04-15

The device fitted to Type 22 Frigate Sonar consoles were definately "Trackerballs" MalFarrelle 16:19, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

History of...[edit]

This entry needs some more history of the invention and development of the trackball. Who invented it? --Navstar 23:35, 16 June 2006 (UTC)

The changes that that have occurred in trackball designs should also be mentioned, such as the movement from mechanical to optical technology for tracking. (Logitech says they were the first to introduce optical tracking to trackballs but...) Adding of more buttons, as well as scroll wheels to some designs should also be mentioned (possibly in response to similar changes to conventional mouse designs?).
On another note, the image should be replaced with a free image.... I have three trackballs at my house (a Logitech Cordless Optical TrackMan, a 4 button Logitech Marble Mouse, and a Kensington Expert Mouse), so maybe I can take a picture of them and upload it here. -Aknorals 00:55, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

Security risks of wireless trackballs[edit]

We all know the risks of using wireless keyboards (if you don't, find out now!). There is also a smaller risk in using wireless mice. What I don't know is the comparable risk of conventional mice over trackballs. Does anyone know if wireless trackballs are safer? 11:49, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

There isn't any reason to believe that wireless risks are any different whether the input device uses a conventional mouse or trackball design. The wireless vulnerabilities of a mouse/trackball input device would be in the communication between the computer and the input device, which is independent of whether it is a trackball or conventional mouse. -- Tomlouie | talk 15:16, 13 August 2006 (UTC)
What risks? Wireless interception of typed keys? Prolonged exposure to radiation? -- JimQ 19:22, 7 September 2006 (UTC)
Posture. People tend to go crazy with wireless keyboards and hold them on their laps or in other decidedly un-ergonomic positions. Anyone concerned or at high risk should in any case first go with a professional 'natural' (ergonomic) keyboard and should definitely pursue proper placement and posture. Typing dozens of pages of text daily on laprops, ill-placed conventional keyboards, or wireless keyboards not on a hard surface in a proper position is simply crippling. Proper scientific evidence that I know of? None. The personal experience of a translations professional (myself) and one of my subordinates, both of whom suffered greatly from wrist cramps before switching? Yes. Hardly citable, but an improvement that reaches quality-of-life magnitude nonetheless. Back to the topic, trackballs do seem to help some individuals who primarily use pointing devices. My mother, whose work requires lots of research on the Internet yet little to no typing on a daily basis has seen significant improvement with a trackball. However, the fact that she had had unrelated surgery on a tumor in her right hand that left her with a large scar and possibly muscle damage may have something to do with her preference. In any case, such anecdotal evidence, while not proving anything, certainly suggests that people who suffer from computer-use-related pain, discomfort, or risks should certainly investigate alternative input devices and find whatever suits them best, although I believe that the impact of posture is even more significant and cannot be eliminated by any device whatsoever. Sufferers should take a good look at what they are using and how they are using and ought to try various solutions until near-absolute comfort is achieved (muscle fatigue after a dozen hours is inevitable, but there should be no pain).
As to radiation? Go sue the bloke in the next cubicle or the bluetoothing teenager next to you on the bus. Oh, and do check that your neighbours aren't using WiFi - if you live in any sort of apartment building or work in an urban area, you're constantly exposed to it 24/7. It might or might not have a significant impact, but exposure to it in a technological society seems inevitable at this point in time. Aadieu (talk) 00:20, 4 June 2008 (UTC)

FYI all you trackball fans[edit]

<removed information that could be used to spam>

And no, it means you manufacture someone else's design. - Denimadept 16:29, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

Chopper wheels?[edit]

What are they? Please add definition before using the term.

The previous generation of mouse / trackball used slotted wheels that rotated between an LED and sensor. The slots in the wheel periodically broke the light path between the LED and sensor. Counting interruptions told you how fast the mouse is moving in that axis. Using two sensor cells spaced 90° out of phase told you which direction. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:38, 31 October 2007 (UTC)

... put trackballs at a disadvantage ... why?[edit]

Why were trackballs put at a disadvantage by the scroll wheel and the switch to optical mice? Trackballs added scroll wheels and optical tracking as well so it seems the only distinction is that the new mice had less disadvantages, but it doesn't seem like they gained any advantages that trackballs did not also gain? (talk) 17:23, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Agreed. The claim that the advent of optical tracking in mice put trackballs at a disadvantage makes no sense, as trackballs acquired optical tracking before mice. The first optical mouse (using the modern definition) was released in 1999 by Microsoft. The Logitech Trackman Marble used optical tracking and was released in 1996 — around 3 years earlier. Laurence Gonsalves (talk) 16:50, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

I've fixed this. CodeTalker (talk) 19:46, 10 June 2016 (UTC)

Why did mice win?[edit]

So, I was wondering. Given that trackballs apparently preceded the invention of computer mice by at least a decade, and don't have any significant disadvantages compared to mice - why is it that just about everybody uses computer mice? This doesn't seem to be explained in the article. Are either of those premises false? If so, the article is misleading. Is it just historical contingency? (Engelbart influences Xerox PARC, which influenced Apple, which invented personal computers.) If so, that ought to be covered as well. --Gwern (contribs) 05:12 19 July 2008 (GMT)

Some utterly unscientific guesses: the learning curve for trackballs is steeper, they tend to cost more than mice (although whether this is a cause or effect is a mystery), they're bulkier in size and weight than mice, and there's little standardization -- thumb-operated and finger-operated trackballs are totally different beasts to use, and there's considerable variation between models. Jpatokal (talk) 16:01, 11 December 2008 (UTC)
I would imagine that it has something to do with biofeedback. Trackballs are stationary, whereas mice move. The connection between a mobile cursor on the screen and the hand moving (and using the "pointer" finger to "point"/select) is more similar than the connection between a cursor and manipulating a trackball. Learning curve isn't as much an issue as status quo. I don't know if there is research out there on this issue, but it might be something worth studying. Tha Pyngwyn (talk) 18:36, 6 February 2011 (UTC)
I assume
  • You can press more buttons while moving a mouse.
  • A mouse is easier for large sweeping movements over a larger area.
Somethings are better for a trackball like fine fast movements. Pleasetry (talk) 14:40, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
My guess is that cost is the big one. Trackballs have always been more expensive than mice. When outfitting a PC, the cheaper option wins. Watch kids who've never used a mouse or trackball before and they'll find trackballs wonderfully intuitive and fun. After all, users don't tend to gravitate to what's most efficient, but what's most intuitive and convenient - I think trackballs and mice are pretty much at-par on those issues. But the optical thing was a real nail-in-the-coffin, as optical trackballs still require cleaning unlike optical mice... but even before then they were on their way out. Pxtl (talk) 18:26, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
☛The questions in this section are answered elsewhere in Wikipedia. (Some links from this article to those might be helpful.) For example, trackballs were invented (twice) some 18 years before the mouse, but they were part of top-secret naval warfare systems, and were classified military secrets for over 10 years. Engelbart's original mouse had no wheel at all -- that was a later refinement. Most significantly for the present discussion, the mouse was a rarity, a niche product in the graphics community, for almost twenty years. (And by the way, Apple most certainly did not invent the personal computer, nor did they invent GUI.) Why did the mouse win? I don't know. Why do the British drive on the left, and most of the world on the right? Solo Owl 01:16, 2 April 2015 (UTC)

Only 3 refs[edit]

I see only 3 refs, used again and again. Bettering the Wiki 00:36, 9 August 2008 (UTC)

Microsoft's exit from trackballs[edit]

Microsoft's optical trackballs (such as the Trackball Optical 1.0) used three tiny steel support balls embedded in a plastic cage. When users do not wash their hands or the trackballs are used in a dusty environment, those steel support balls quickly wear flat spots and the trackball drags on the cage. In extreme cases the ball itself will get scratched and dull, further accelerating the wear of the steel support balls. I suspect this was a cost cutting measure. Rather than fix the problem, Microsoft just quit making trackballs.

Other brands, Kensington and Logitech among them, use synthetic gemstone or ceramic supports, which don't wear out.

Microsoft's first trackball was a conventional mechanical-optical design, rather bulky, with a blue-green ball and scroll wheel. It was a fingertip ball design. Can't find a thing about it on the web. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Bizzybody (talkcontribs) 22:51, 8 July 2010 (UTC)


Are that sentences don't contradict each other?
"trackball requires no mousepad and enables the player to aim swiftly (in first person shooters)"
"Computer gamers have been able to successfully use trackballs in most modern computer games, including FPS, RPG, and RTS genres, with any slight loss of speed compensated for with an increase in precision"

They're not necessarily contradictory. Aiming with a trackball might be slightly slower than with a mouse, yet still swift. It would be better to have cited statements, though. Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 10:02, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
ps. Remember to sign with ~~~~ and put new posts at the bottom. Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 10:03, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

Ok, i move it to the bottom. Zn2r41e3 (talk) 12:46, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

Another contradiction? When mice still used a mechanical design (with slotted 'chopper' wheels interrupting a beam of light to measure rotation), trackballs had the advantage of being in contact with the user's hand, which is generally cleaner than the desk or mousepad and does not drag lint into the chopper wheels. The late 1990s replacement of mouseballs by direct optical tracking...

mechanical mice did not use light. the information in parentheses should be removed or fixed. something similar to (with a roller ball and wheels to measure rotation). aaron (talk) 15:34, 4 June 2013 (UTC)

Actually, the slotted wheel “light-beam chopping” design was in Douglas Engelbart's original patent, as one of 3 ways he mentioned to detect and measure rotation of the tracking wheels. Solo Owl 01:30, 2 April 2015 (UTC)

Kenyon Taylor[edit]

There's mention of Kenyon Taylor in caption of the world's first trackball image, but there's no mention of him in the body text. Was Kenyon Taylor part of the Royal Canadian Navy's DATAR team? His article states he was. Best Regards. DynamoDegsy (talk) 18:46, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

"direct optical tracking"[edit]

I know there is a specific name for the scattering of dots on a trackball, but that name escapes me. If someone knows it, can they post here and/or update the article? Thx! --Kickstart70TC 13:34, 23 August 2011 (UTC)

Pippin gamepad picture[edit]

The pippin gamepad is an *incredibly* obscure device and is a very odd selection for the sidebar. Why is it there? Pxtl (talk) 18:26, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Removing dubious, along with better explanation[edit]

I have removed the "dubious" tag, which had no discussion of course, from the LEAD. Reading over the various materials, it's clear the original version was never built, and Benjamin states this in an interview (refed). I do suspect that the Ferranti team was aware of this work, given the almost identical nature of Benjamin's work and the DATAR concept. Maury Markowitz (talk) 00:42, 3 August 2013 (UTC)

Dubious dubiousness in ergonomics[edit]

I don't see anything dubious about the first paragraph in the Ergonomics section. It has a citation and seems reasonable. Am I missing something? Hanzalot (talk) 15:43, 24 July 2014 (UTC)

Agreed. I've removed the dubious tag since it is sourced. CodeTalker (talk) 19:47, 10 June 2016 (UTC)

Section/article for 'arcball'? Is it a physical 'reality'?[edit]

Is there a wikipedia article for an "arcball"? I'm not sure if there is actually any physical basis for that interface concept, or if it's just a concept. But it seems odd that there isn't, since both concepts are usually mentioned together in graphics textbooks. Jimw338 (talk) 02:32, 2 March 2015 (UTC)