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How Does Optical Mouse Work – A Revolutionary Invention

how does optical mouse work
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In recent times, all our important transactions are just a matter of a click! But, why and how was the mouse was produced? Why was the keyboard not sufficient for writing commands? And most importantly, how did the world shift from a ball mouse to an optical mouse? How does optical mouse work? What are the advantages of optical mouse? 

This article will take you on a journey to the early development of the small device that rests in its full glory on your work desk and will uncover bits and pieces on how the modernization of the mouse began with advancements in technology! So, without further ado, let’s get to know the device without which our day-to-day desk work would be next to impossible. 

The Early Inventions

Before directly jumping onto how does optical mouse works, let us first understand why the keyboard was not enough and how the evolution of the mouse-shaped the global computer industry. 

When the computer was invented, scientists did not care to attach a mouse to it! In fact, they were not even aware of such a system that can convert user-generated information into digital commands. Thus, the keyboard was the only device that was used to produce and write commands to get the work done. Now, imagine the hardships and complexity the users had to face while writing commands using keyboards. This problem was surprisingly sorted out with the launching of a mouse. So, who first invented the mouse, and what did the ancestor of the modern mouse look like? 

The father of the computer mouse is Douglas Engelbart who first assembled raw materials and gave the mouse a structural figure in the year 1964. His invention included two perpendicular wheels with a few circuits with a button on the top which was covered by a wooden box. 

Further innovations into the wheel mouse gave birth to the ball mouse which used the x-y system for the movement of the cursor. When the mouse is moved on the desk, the ball presses the wheels and breaks a beam of light inside, which then sends signals to the computer to move the cursor. 

But, this type of mouse, though popular among its users, needed a mouse mat for precise movements. Adding to the problem is the accumulation of dirt over some time. So, how did the problem of the ball mouse solved? Head over to the next section. 

What Is an Optical Mouse? 

While a ball mouse utilizes the x-y system for the movement of the cursor, a further innovative approach led to the discovery of an optical mouse. So, what is an optical Mouse? An optical mouse works in a completely different manner than a conventional mouse. An optical mouse utilizes the power of LEDs and photocells to detect the movement of our hands and this moves the cursor corresponding to hand movements. 

Now, the question that arises is, how does optical mouse work? How does it recognize the movements of the hands of the user and utilize it to move the cursor on the monitor? Let’s find out in a little detail. 

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How Does Optical Mouse Work – Magic Of LEDs And Photocells 

On April 27, 1981, the first personal computer mouse was produced by Richard F. Lyon of Xerox which utilized the x-y system of the mechanical mouse to track movements of the light dots over a dark mouse pad. But, major downsides of the Xerox mouse, such as using a mouse pad and accumulation of dirt could not hold the market for a long time, though it was quite famous during its initial launching days! 

Thus, the concept of the modern optical mouse came into existence which is an all-electronic mouse consisting of a LED, a photodetector cell, and a few other components such as a scroll wheel and microswitch. 

The LED, which is placed at the posterior end of the mouse emits red light which is reflected by the photodetector cell, present above the LED. The cell has a lens that magnifies the light reaching it, thus offering smooth movements of the mouse. While the mouse is moved in different directions, the pattern of the reflected light changes which is detected by the chip and in turn converts the analog signals to digital signals and helps in the movements of the cursor. 

Some optical mice have an extra LED which shows that the mouse is active. It also contains a wheel at the anterior end which helps in scrolling and sometimes acts as the third button of the mechanical mouse.

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Advantages Of Optical Mouse

This section will tell you the immense user advantages of optical mouse in place of a conventional mechanical mouse. 

  1. The optical mouse is an all-electronic mouse which means that there is no movement involved. Thus, wearing and failure are much reduced. 
  2. While the wheel and ball mouse had the greatest chances of accumulating dirt over a period of time, the modern optical mouse has no possibility of acquiring dirt. Thus, it reduces the pressure of dismantling the mouse after each use. 
  3. Optical mouse do not require any mouse pad, thus, the extra cost is also reduced. 


It is obvious that the conventional wheel mouse is on its way to taking its last breath. In recent times, all the computer industries are all in favor of the optical mouse which renders the production of mechanical mouse useless. In fact, in recent years, wireless and laser mouse has gained more popularity than any other mouse design. 

We hope that this article on what is an optical mouse and how does optical mouse works have uncovered all the necessary details regarding the history and modernization of the mouse- the inseparable element of a desktop system. 

For reading more interesting articles, visit Technology.

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