Why The Mouse Cursor Is An Arrow And Not...Something Else

Why The Mouse Cursor Is An Arrow And Not...Something Else

It's one of those things you've probably never even bothered to think about, so think about it now: just why is a mouse cursor a slanted arrow and not, say, a straight arrow? Or a pointing fish? Or something?

The answer is a simple one. Go back in time to the birth of the mouse and we find we're dealing with displays with a very low pixel count. Douglas Englebart's very first designs for a mouse cursor had it pointing straight up, which on those blocky monitors made the pointer tough to spot.

So the R&D team at Xerox had an idea: slant the mouse. The angular side would make the pointer stand out in a screen made up of mostly straight lines (and letters). Steve Jobs and Bill Gates borrowed the idea, and despite the displays of today (or even the 90s) advancing well beyond the need for a slanted cursor, the tradition has stuck.

Why Your Mouse Cursor Looks The Way It Does [Fast Company]


    This is something I have always wondered. It has kept me up at night for many, many nights, thinking. "Just why, why is the mouse cursor an arrow."

      I am not sure if you are joking but I have seriously wondered about it myself.

        Sounded like sarcasm to me. Although it is interesting to find out why it is an arrow.

    I can remember using quite a few oldschool macs that always had a hand with a pointer finger, was this standard or just something people had set up on that machine?

      It's always been there, AFAIK, when hovering over links.

    I made mine a dinosaur once, though it didn't do the job to well :/

      Oh man, I loved the little dinosaur guy. I just checked but he's not in Windows 8. Worse OS ever.

      I found a spinning TARDIS, which was awesome but impractical. Still used it for almost a year though.

    I remember back in the Windows 95 days I downloaded a "Late Show with David Letterman" theme. I think it was Davids hand. Wasn't that good to use.

    I always just thought it was the best angle to maintain visibility of what you were clicking on while also being a clear indicator of where the click would occur. Which I guess is the same reasoning but with different motivations (usability vs. technical limitations). What I want to know though is why the text pointer is an "I" and why it's so hard to figure out where your caret (aka. Flashing text cursor) is actually going to end up.

    Last edited 24/02/14 8:02 pm

    I dunno about yours but my cursor is the Master Sword ^_^

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