59

Why did trackballs disappear? To start with, they didn't. They are still around and can be bought in many variations. For example, Kensington sells six kinds of trackball, and Logitech sells three. Only their time attempting to work as a general pointing device is gone. Nub. Low-tech, cheap, compact and reliable, but miserably imprecise. Did they ever ...


31

Trackballs are Alive and Well I have a Logitech M570 for my desktop computer. I have another one for my laptop. I got another one for my daughter. Every few years they break and I replace them. I find that trackballs are superior to mice in many ways and recommend them to plenty of people. But the average user just gets a mouse, IMHO simply because they ...


17

I'm attempting to build a Z80 homebrew computer to teach myself the basis of electronic design. I planned to start from something simple, like a ROM, some SRAM, a video chip and a Z80-PIO. So there's a Z80-PIO? Isn't that already the solution to be used? Not to mention, that adding another micro controller for a job the main CPU can do as well is neither ...


11

I got a job in the summer of 1965, programming a PDP-6 to put a model of a protein molecule on the display, as a stick figure. The molecule was 3D and the display was of course 2D, so I had to simulate depth. I used perspective, shading, and motion. The idea of the display was to allow a human crystallographer to evaluate the actions of another computer ...


9

Dirt is another issue. In a mouse, the hole where the ball is exposed is pointed down and stuff naturally falls out. On a trackball it naturally falls in. Goop, especially skin oils, gets stuck to the tracker wheels in either case, but general dirt, crumbs and fuzz is a bigger problem on trackballs. Arcade machines had the advantage that they sort of ...


8

As other have noted trackballs aren't dead ("disappeared"). But compared to other input methods trackballs are indeed much less popular or widespread as they once were. Cost, scale, competing products, path dependencies and consumer psychology are the reasons for this development Trackballs are great. They added a cool, effective, efficient way to move a ...


7

The dongle for the PaperClip word processor plugged into joystick port 1. It read bits 0 and 1 from the dongle and wrote bits 2, 3 and 4 to control it. Keyboard interference probably wasn't an issue with this use case.


7

PS/2 is a SPI protocol. Talking to stuff like your keyboard is literally what SPI peripherals are designed for. So the most obvious choice, if your micro has a SPI peripheral, is to use it. If you think that sounds too easy, wait until you start looking at the registers to set it up. It can be a lot harder than you think, if you're not used to following ...


7

The Apple II descends directly from the Apple I and other similar home-built micros of the era in its handling of the keyboard: there is an address from which you can query whether a new keystroke has been received. If it has been received, it is the appropriate code for whatever was pressed — if you pressed 'a' then it'll have an 'a' in it; if you pressed ...


7

Gaming I can't play FPS or flight simulators with a trackball because I cannot intuitively self-center them. The only games they're good for are bowling and Missile Command - because those are played on an arcade cabinet with you standing in front of it. It's a lot easier to stop a mouse on-target, then it is to stop a trackball - with a finger still on it,...


4

On the PDP1 at least they were used to play video games! Specifically SpaceWar, a predecessor to Asteroids (and every other top down game, really) https://www.masswerk.at/spacewar/


4

I have always heard them called "dial boxes".


4

One disadvantage is that they are hard to use for users that prefer using a mouse at high acceleration and with the wrist resting - of course using it with a fingertip like a mouse wheel is possible, but rather awkward (especially when the trackball is not made very precisely and tends to seize and jam a bit)....


3

The Inception 8 joysticks adapter uses a joystick port for two-way communication between C64 and Inception board. Basically, a program at the C64 would send a command sequence via the joystick port, switches the port to listen and receives the Inception board's reply. In most cases, the information communicated is the state of the joysticks connected to the ...


3

The state of the open-Apple, closed-Apple, and--on machines with the "shift key mod"--shift key can be read at any time, independently from any other keypress. Additionally, on the Apple //e, but not earlier models, it is possible to determine whether all non-modifier keys are released at any moment in time. Nothing in the hardware will record the state of ...


3

My first engineering job was to create a drop-in trackpad replacement for PowerBook trackballs. We had potential customers with thousands of PowerBooks for sales, inventory, anything that would use an iPad today. The trackballs were the least reliable part of the computer due to "DNS Failure": Doritos 'n' soda. Sadly, by the time I got the microcontroller ...


3

Sun called these "SunDials", these units had 8 dials. They also had an input device with 32 buttons, called "SunButtons". Here is a description of the SunDials device taken from section 9.4 of the SunOS 4.1 Release Manual: SunDials is an image-manipulation input device for Sun-3 and Sun-4 workstations, using an RS-232 serial interface. The desk-top ...


3

I worked on a medical imaging platform about 25 years ago that was based on Sun-3 workstations, which used them to manipulate the "window" and "level" of medical images (radiologist-speak for contrast and brightness). They are called rotary encoders. Some also have a switch that can be activated by pressing down on the knob. Old-style mechanical mice had ...


3

Short answer: Where these experimental devices No. They could be ordered as standard options. or special graphics applications, That was the intention. They where more like plotters or printers. In fact, DEC made good sales of them as 'graphics terminals' on mainframes. The mainframe did whatever calculations and the results were either transmitted ...


3

I'm using a trackball myself right now. I saw about 12 of them on sale at Best Buy last week. Three of my coworkers use them. I"m not sure where you get that they 'went away' but they haven't. I think it's great for desk space, for precision (I love to game with it over a mouse, which I have to pick up and move back all the time) and to reduce hand fatigue.


3

As the other answer said, trackballs are live and well. I use a track ball on my PC as well as Mac. I found a fantastic brand whose trackball lets it connect with 2 different computers. I will add that I find trackballs hard to use for games like fornight where you need to move your player fast. For this, I prefer a mouse. Other than that I will take ...


3

There was a system named Automatic Fingerprint Identification System that used PDP6, PDP8 and PDP11


3

PDP-5's as wells I just ran across the YouTube video The Incredible Machine (1968) that shows the screen and light pen being used to do interactive circuit design and simulation. GIF was made at about 02:44 in the video. Once again, this is an example of a specific interface application, rather than to "program and/or operate the computers routinely." ...


2

I used to work for DEC. One of my customers had a GT40 that in conjunction with an 11/70 to make plots for radiation treatments.


2

You asked "Where these experimental devices or special graphics applications, or were these used to program and/or operate the computers routinely?" I'm not sure this was answered directly? The PDP-6 display is a Type 340, and the PDP-1 display is the similar Type 30. The latter is "point plotting", i.e. there is a PDP-1 instruction to send the X, Y ...


2

They're known as jog wheels, and by a few different variations of that name. Then there are jog-and-shuttle controllers: these combine a central jog controller with an outer ring, the shuttle controller, which provides joystick-like rate control over (usually) the same axis. This concept is also far from being abandoned nowadays: the Contour ShuttleXpress ...


2

If you really want to do it the shift-register way, there are 9 bit shift registers available. If you do a search at digi-key for '9 bit shift register', then sort the resulting table by number of logic elements, you can see a few varieties on that theme. Alternately, you could use chain two 8 bit shift registers and ignore the other 7 bits of the second ...


1

One advantage of the mouse is that multiple features can be combined into a single device, which can be more ergonomic than nubs and trackballs, making them a more attractive choice. A typical mouse at least combines pointing and selection/activation (clicking) in a way that minimizes hand/finger motion. Many mice also include scroll wheels which allows the ...


1

There are several types of interaction between pointing devices and displayed information. The first three that come to mind are: Point and click Point and drag (moving, sizing) Point and paint (selecting multiple, adjacent objects (including selection of text)) All devices mentioned by the OP are good at point and click. The trackball is good at reaching ...


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