The DIY mouse project
In 1988, an influential Czechoslovak computer club launched an ambitious DIY hardware project. Local tinkerers have been making DIY mice since the mid-1980s, but the computer club of the 602nd basic organization of Svazarm (a paramilitary organization that was home to most technical activities) aimed higher. They designed a kit to be sold via mail order. he kit included a table tennis ball in place of a mouse ball, as well as plastic housing, and mechanical and electronic components. The accompanying booklet contained detailed instructions on how to build the mouse and connect it to one of the supported 8-bit machines. As clubs could not officially enterprise, manufacture, or sell products, the kit was promoted as instructional material in a long-distance educational program on computer peripherals. Five thousand pieces were (reportedly) manufactured and sold, some of which have been preserved in personal collections. In the photos, you can see one, borrowed from the collection of my informant Jan Lonský. The top-down one shows the buttons, which were not exactly ergonomic. In the upside-down picture, you can even see the logo of the Chinese company that manufactured the ping pong ball!
There are a few mentions of the mouse in the book, but you will also be able to read about it in my upcoming chapter in the Oxford Handbook of Communist Visual Cultures, edited by Aga Skrodzka, Xiaoning Lu, and Katarzyna Marciniak.
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