The Legendary Mouse that Sparked Steve Jobs’ Vision Fetches £147,000 at Auction

The Legendary Mouse that Sparked Steve Jobs’ Vision Fetches £147,000 at Auction

Table of Content

In this article, we’ll examine the recent sale of a groundbreaking computer mouse and coding keyset designed by Douglas Engelbart, which significantly influenced Steve Jobs and the evolution of personal computing.

Key Takeaways:

  • Steve Jobs-inspired computer mouse sold for £147,000 at auction
  • The mouse was designed by computing pioneer Douglas Engelbart
  • The device played a pivotal role in the development of modern personal computing

A Historical Treasure Fetches a Hefty Sum

An extraordinary computer mouse that played a key role in inspiring Apple co-founder Steve Jobs recently fetched a staggering £147,000 at an auction. 

Designed by computing legend and controller system pioneer, Douglas Engelbart, the mouse and coding keyset exceeded their estimated value by almost twelvefold at the Boston-based RR Auction.

The Genesis of a Revolutionary Input Device

This rare, early version of the three-button computer mouse, crafted by Engelbart, utilized two metal discs corresponding to the X and Y axes on the bottom to pinpoint the cursor’s position, unlike the ball or optical light that later became standard. 

The coding keyset featured five keys, allowing 31 key-press combinations for typing and entering commands.

The ‘Mother of All Demos’ and Its Lasting Impact

These early input devices were similar to those presented in Engelbart’s historic 1968 ‘Mother of All Demos.’ 

This live demonstration showcased a comprehensive computer hardware and software system, unveiling many fundamental aspects of modern personal computing for the first time. 

Although it took over a decade for Engelbart’s concepts to enter the mainstream, their eventual adoption by Steve Jobs contributed significantly to their widespread influence.

Engelbart’s Team Continues the Legacy at Xerox PARC

In the early 1970s, many of Engelbart’s original team members joined Xerox PARC, where they persisted in researching human-computer interaction and refining the mouse. 

During a 1979 tour of the research facility, Steve Jobs was captivated by the mouse and the graphical user interface (GUI) in action.

The Birth of Apple’s Iconic Mouse

Determined to simplify and integrate these user-friendly features into Apple’s computers, Jobs sought to transform the costly (£245), three-button Xerox mice into an affordable (£12), single-button model. 

Apple subsequently licensed Engelbart’s mouse patent from SRI for around £33,000 and enlisted design firm IDEO to popularize the mouse.

Apple’s rollerball-based mouse debuted with the high-priced Lisa computer in 1983 and gained widespread fame and popularity following the release of the more affordable Macintosh in 1984.

A Crucial Piece of Computing History

Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction, lauded Engelbart’s invention, stating that it had “in part, changed the course of modern life.” 

Indeed, this device and its subsequent iterations played a vital role in shaping the history of computer technology.


Written by

Alexander Sterling

Alexander Sterling

Alexander Sterling is a renowned financial writer with over 10 years in the finance sector. With a strong economics background, he simplifies complex financial topics for a wide audience. Alexander contributes to top financial platforms and is working on his first book to promote financial independence.

Reviewed By



Judith Harvey is a seasoned finance editor with over two decades of experience in the financial journalism industry. Her analytical skills and keen insight into market trends quickly made her a sought-after expert in financial reporting.