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How does a mouse work?

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Answered 2011-04-27 15:48:37
Mechanical MouseA mechanical mouse is a very simple device. There are two wheels which are in contact with the ball. They are set up at a 90º angle from each other so that one detects forward / backward movement and the other detects left / right movement. Optical MouseThe first Optical mouse was made by Agilent Technologies and marketed in late 1999, the optical mouse uses a miniature camera to take thousands of pictures every second.

Unlike previous devises, the optical mouse is able to work on just about any surface and without the need for a mouse pad, most optical mice use a small, red light-emitting diode (LED) that bounces light off that surface onto a complimentary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) sensor. Recent innovations are laser-based optical mice that detect more surface details than comparable LED technology. This results in the ability to use a laser-based optical mouse on even more surfaces than an LED mouse.

Here's how the sensor and other parts of an optical mouse work together:

* The CMOS sensor sends each image to a digital signal processor (DSP) for analysis.

* The DSP detects patterns in the images and examines how the patterns have moved since the previous image.

* Based on the change in patterns over a sequence of images, the DSP determines how far the mouse has moved and sends the corresponding coordinates to the computer.

* The computer moves the cursor on the screen based on the coordinates received from the mouse. This happens hundreds of times each second, making the cursor appear to move very smoothly.

The optical mouse has several benefits over a track-ball mouse:

* No moving parts means less wear and a lower chance of failure.

* There's no way for dirt to get inside the mouse and interfere with the tracking sensors.

* Increased tracking resolution means a smoother response.

* They don't require a special surface, such as a mouse pad.


Several factors affect the accuracy of an optical mouse. One of the most important aspects is pixel resolution. This is the number of pixels per inch that the optical sensor and focusing lens "see" when you move the mouse. Resolution is expressed as dots per inch or DPI. The higher the resolution, the more sensitive the mouse and the less you need to move it to obtain a response.

Most mice have a resolution of 400 or 800 dpi. However, the mouse designed for playing electronic games can offer as much as 1600 dpi resolution. Some gaming mice also allow you to decrease the dpi as you go to make the mouse less sensitive in situations when you need to make smaller, slower movements.

Historically, corded mice have been more responsive than wireless mice. With the advent of improvements in wireless technologies and optical sensors this is no longer the case. Some other factors that affect quality include:

* Size of the optical sensor -- larger is generally better, assuming the other mouse components can handle the larger size. Sizes range from 16 x 16 pixels to 30 x 30 pixels.

* Refresh rate -- it is how often the sensor samples images as you move the mouse. Faster is generally better, assuming the other mouse components can process them. Rates range from 1500 to 6000 samples per second.

* Image processing rate -- is a combination of the size of the optical sensor and the refresh rate. Again, faster is better and rates range from 0.486 to 5.8 megapixels per second.

* Maximum speed -- is the maximum speed that you can move the mouse and obtain accurate tracking. Faster is better and rates range from 16 to 40 inches per second.

Wireless Mice Most wireless mice use radio frequency (RF) technology to communicate information to your computer. Being radio-based, RF devices require two main components: a transmitter and a receiver. Here's how it works:

* The transmitter is housed in the mouse. It sends an electromagnetic (radio) signal that encodes the information about the mouse's movements and the buttons you click.

* The receiver, which is connected to your computer, accepts the signal, decodes it and passes it on to the mouse driver software and your computer's operating system.

* The receiver can be a separate device that plugs into your computer, a special card that you place in an expansion slot, or a built-in component.

Many electronic devices use radio frequencies to communicate. Examples include cellular phones, wireless networks, and garage door openers. To communicate without conflicts, different types of devices have been assigned different frequencies. Newer cell phones use a frequency of 900 megahertz, garage door openers operate at a frequency of 40 megahertz, and 802.11b/g wireless networks operate at 2.4 gigahertz. Megahertz (MHz) means "one million cycles per second," so "900 megahertz" means that there are 900 million electromagnetic waves per second. Gigahertz (GHz) means "one billion cycles per second." To learn more about RF and frequencies, see How the Radio Spectrum Works.


Unlike infrared technology, which is commonly used for short-range wireless communications such as television remote controls, RF devices do not need a clear line of sight between the transmitter (mouse) and receiver. Just like other types of devices that use radio waves to communicate, a wireless mouse signal can pass through barriers such as a desk or your monitor.

RF technology provides a number of additional benefits for wireless mice. These include:

* RF transmitters require low power and can run on batteries

* RF components are inexpensive

* RF components are light weight

As with most mice on the market today, wireless mice use optical sensor technology rather than the earlier track-ball system. Optical technology improves accuracy and lets you use the wireless mouse on almost any surface -- an important feature when you're not tied to your computer by a cord.

Pairing and Security

In order for the transmitter in the mouse to communicate with its receiver, they must be paired. This means that both devices are operating at the same frequency on the same channel using a common identification code. A channel is simply a specific frequency and code. The purpose of pairing is to filter out interference from other sources and RF devices.

Pairing methods vary, depending on the mouse manufacturer. Some devices come pre-paired. Others use methods such as a pairing sequence that occurs automatically, when you push specific buttons, or when you turn a dial on the receiver and/or mouse.

To protect the information your mouse transmits to the receiver, most wireless mice include an encryption scheme to encode data into an unreadable format. Some devices also use a frequency hopping method, which causes the mouse and receiver to automatically change frequencies using a predetermined pattern. This provides additional protection from interference and eavesdropping.

Blue tooth mouse

One of the RF technologies that wireless mice commonly use is Bluetooth. Bluetooth technology wirelessly connects peripherals such as printers, headsets, keyboards and mice to Bluetooth-enabled devices such as computers and personal digital assistants (PDAs). Because a Bluetooth receiver can accommodate multiple Bluetooth peripherals at one time, Bluetooth is also known as a personal area network (PAN). Bluetooth devices have a range of about 33 feet (10 meters).

Bluetooth operates in the 2.4 GHz range using RF technology. It avoids interference among multiple Bluetooth peripherals through a technique called spread-spectrum frequency hopping. WiFi devices such as 802.11b/g wireless networks also operate in the 2.4 GHz range, as do some cordless telephonescordless telephones and microwave ovens. Version 1.2 of Bluetooth provides adaptive frequency hopping (AFH), which is an enhanced frequency-hopping technology designed to avoid interference with other 2.4 GHz communications.

RF Mouse

Another common type of wireless mouse is an RF device that operates at 27 MHz and has a range of about 6 feet (2 meters). More recently, 2.4 GHz RF mice have been introduced to the market with the advantage of a longer range -- about 33 feet (10 meters) and faster transmissions with less interference. Multiple RF mice in one room can result in cross-talk, which means that the receiver inadvertently picks up the transmissions from the wrong mouse. Pairing and multiple channels help to avoid this problem.

Typically, the RF receiver plugs into a USB port and does not accept any peripherals other than the mouse (and perhaps a keyboard, if sold with the mouse). Some portable models designed for use with notebook computers come with a compact receiver that can be stored in a slot inside the mouse when not in use.

Citations* Information taken from

*Agilent Technologies

how does mouse works

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