Engelbart/SRI mouse smashes record price for a computer mouse
One of the first computer mouses and a coding keyset created by computer pioneer Douglas Engelbart have sold for US$178,936 at auction. Like the two previous such Engelbart mouses that have gone to auction, the mouse was sold at RRAuction in Boston, though the value is finally beginning to reflect the historical status of the pioneering device.
The early input devices are very similar to those used in Engelbart’s ground-breaking 1968 "Mother of All Demos", in which Engelbart publicly debuted the mouse, as well as hypertext, object addressing, dynamic file linking, shared-screen collaboration and so many more technological enablers.
Steve Jobs licensed the use of the mouse for $40,000, incorporating it into Apple’s WYSIWYG user interface and the rest is history, with derivatives of the mouse pointing/cursor concept having since sold in the billions.
The first Engelbart mouse that went to auction sold for $34,479 in December 2020, just over 52 years after that famous demonstration, and seven years after Engelbart passed away, and we have regularly revisited the historical gravitas of the device in articles. Leading up to that first auction of one of the original Engelbart mouses, David Szondy wrote of the estimated $800 price as a “huge bargain.”
Even though it fetched 40 times its estimate and set a world record price for a computer mouse, the rarity and historical gravitas of the first batch of mouses developed by Engelbart’s team at Stanford Research Institute (SRI), now SRI International, will never diminish.
The value of an object at auction is invariably difficult to predict, though the key variables in the equation are invariably supply, demand and provenance. The mouse was one of the key enablers of the computer revolution, the best known legacy of Engelbart, and there are very few still in private hands. If there is ever another original that reaches auction, the price can be expected to be considerably higher.
A subsequent auction of a skeleton of one of Engelbart’s early mouses fetched $45,935 at RRAuction in March 2022.