Can YOUR Mouse Last 18 Years?

Jo’s did.

The call came early this morning. It was Jo, at the radio station.

“I was working on invoices on my Mac,” she told me. “And my mouse just died. Do you have a spare one?”

Mac IIciJo’s Mac is a Mac IIci. We’re talking a circa 1989 computer. She still uses it every day, with an Apple laser printer that’s equally ancient, to do the radio station’s invoicing.

Yes, that’s right: she’s using an 18-year-old computer daily to manage a radio station’s accounting.

We discussed the mouse’s problem. It was the clicker. It wasn’t clicking anymore. Not bad when you consider that she’s been clicking with it for 18 years.

I think she got her money’s worth.

Oddly enough, she didn’t buy the computer brand new. She used it when she worked at the local newspaper. They’d bought it brand new for their layout folks. As the layout folks got new computers, the old ones were shifted to other employees. Jo worked at the front desk and got this Mac IIci. When she retired, they sold it to her for a nominal price. So this is the computer’s third mission in its life.

I refuse to touch the computer. I figure that it’s lasted so long because no one has messed with it.

There’s an eMac with a G4 processor in the same room — I loaned it to them and installed it to do their WebCam and Internet broadcasting. She won’t touch it other than to periodically restart it when it gets confused and stops broadcasting.

Original Apple ADB MouseThe mouse she needed was an ADB mouse. ADB stands for Apple Desktop Bus. It’s the old interface for Apple computer mice and keyboards before Apple adopted the more universally used USB connections. Apple hasn’t made an ADB mouse for at least 10 years, so it wasn’t likely that she’d find one at Best Buys or Frys or even the Apple Store — all of which are in Phoenix, 40+ minutes away by car.

But Jo called the right person. You see, I’m one of those crazy people who keeps all that old computer stuff. I still own two SE/30s — one of which is in perfect working condition. Those computers use the same mice as Jo’s Mac IIci. So I opened up my big plastic storage box of old computer equipment, dug around for about three minutes, and pulled the mouse she needed out by its tail.

A half hour later, she was at my door, checking the clicker.

“Yes, this one still clicks,” she confirmed. She hugged me, then said quickly, “I don’t usually hug people, but I’m very happy about this.”

I was just happy that she’d come to pick it up and that I didn’t have to drive into town.

58 thoughts on “Can YOUR Mouse Last 18 Years?

  1. I still have a mint Quadra 800, No CD either, all the manuals still as new etc, that we only stopped using about 2yrs ago because we couldn’t get it on the web (at that time). I pulled it out the other day and it still works fine. Maybe when we get BB connected I’ll hook it up the web via a router.

  2. If you can, you should consider opening the mouse to try and repair it. Normal mouse switches are tiny snap action pin plunger types. Perhaps the part that touches the pin plunger is worn and can be repaired or glued. Or the switch itself is dead, any electronics hobbyist should have several perhaps of a suitable size to replace it. It is usually a commonly available electronics part. If you need more mice, Headgap has the ABDII mouse and We Love Macs Has 3 or 4 different ones, and the is also the Low End Mac swap list.

  3. Not a bad idea, Yacko. I fixed the mouse button on a Mac laptop years ago with a drop of superglue. It was supposed to be a temporary fix until the replacement button arrived in the mail, but it held and I never did bother to put the new button in. (More trouble than it was worth just to open the computer.) But if Jo saved the old mouse — and I bet she did — I’ll have a go at fixing it. Then she can have a spare.

  4. uh.. your Apple ADB mouse has an error.. your photoshop work shows:

    a USB cable attached!

    Yes, I can still recall the “magic” of using an SE/30.. I waited and got a LC, as my first Mac, since color was soo cool.. The entire LC educational bundle was about 3.5 grand with the StyleWriter bubble jet printer and 12″ color display!

  5. Good for you!

    My Mac Plus still works; 1985 vintage.

    Also, the image you have of the mouse in question is a Photoshop-put-together. If you look carefully you will see that the image is part old ADB mouse and NEW USB cable!

  6. Vuong & John, good catch! I was wondering if anyone would notice that. The only photo I could find of the original mouse was one that had been converted to USB — that’s why you see the USB connector in the photo. I should have taken a photo of the mouse before I let it go.

  7. Great story, apple has always been known for its longevity as well as innovation. One word for you though… eBay would probably be your best bet. Looked for ya and there not too much money $20 tops. Good luck, Jason’s iPhone

  8. The world has been amazing me more and more. I am a computer geek – I built my last computer, my younger brother’s computer for college, and my father-in-law’s computer. If I were as rich as the movie stars I wouldn’t buy millions of cars, I’d always have the latest computer equipment.

    So it recently surprised me that people are still using these “lame” old computers. For example, while learning about a new operating system called Haiku OS, which is a reimplementation of BeOS, I found out there were people still using their Be Boxes from the mid 90s. Even worse, there are still people out there using their Amigas! I know they were way ahead of their time and could do things in the late 80s/early 90s that no other computer could, but those days have passed. Now I hear about people still using the Apple IIci when there are those beautiful iMacs at the Mac store!

    So I’ve learned, over the past few months, that, for a lot of people, computers are not just machines to tinker with, but objects they form an emotional bond with. Things they wish to keep forever and ever until it “dies”.

    Pretty neat. Good think you had that extra mouse. Like you, I keep all the computer parts I can so I have about 4 keyboards and 3 mice that aren’t attached to any of my computers. I also even have a spare monitor for hooking up to my headless BSD computers whenever I need to diagnose them.

    Nice blog post, I’ll have to stop by again.

  9. I still have a working Apple IIgs. My parents bought it brand new for me when we lived in California; I think I was 10 (??) when it came out, and they were one of the first private families to have one. I shall keep it until it dies.

  10. Greetings:

    By the gods ! Therte are STILL people using Mac II series machines from the pre-www days ?

    I myself cannot afford an upgrade so I still use a Mac IIsi to do letters, newsletter editing, and perhaps a touchup on a web page I support–the oldest one still posted on the WWW. I designed it in the days of HTML #2 (1995) using a MAC LC 1.

    Although it is not pretty, dot matrix image writers II do seem to be immortal. THis is what I use for printing.

    Perhaps I should go back and contribute to Low Ed Mac. I did so back in the LAST century !

    Manuel Mejia, Jr.

  11. It’s great to hear about all the other “antique” hardware out there in use. But if it does the job, why shouldn’t you use it? Right? If we spent half the money we do on upgrading our computer hardware, just think of all the money we’d have lying around to spend on other stuff. (But not software, of course, because the new software needs the new hardware…)

  12. The ASU Surplus store (locally off the 101 and Univ/Broadway area in Tempe) is a great resource for old Mac/Apple junk cheap BTW

    Keep the faith!

  13. I still have our old Mac Classic in a closet somewhere at home. My family has many Macs, and I have a 9600 and some beige G3s in my room that are available for various retro purposes or data storage (20GB SCSI drives are useful!)

    There was a time that we did get our Mac IIsis online. This was around 10 years ago…

    I think many classic Macs would still be in great use today if there were modern web browsers developed for them. IE 5 just doesn’t cut it.

  14. nice story! I’m glad she is still using the Mac IIci I’m sure it will out last any Iphone! I had to painfully part with our old family computer performa 630 a few years ago due to space (It still worked) I will always look back on it with nostalgia.

  15. I’ve fixed a few old mice with problems like this, by spraying a little contact cleaner lubricant into the switch contacts. Works a treat.

    Also nice to see an old Mac like that in productive use. I’ve got a loads of old Macs including a couple of IIci’s, a couple of Pluses, and more. They really are superb little machines.

  16. wow,,great story..glad to see one of the olde 68k macs, still doing it’s thing…I went thru my garage box of older mac parts..and found 10-20

    of those old apple mouses..the square and then the ’rounded’ one

    that shipped with the quadra series…of all my old macs, I love

    the SE/30, the best..and my apple lisa….the quadra series, especially

    the centris-quadra 650, and 840av, ain’t too shabby as well.

    and yeah, i’m probably an olde apple geek…oh well…

  17. But what is Apple Care doing, she ain’t got a 20 years contract with her Macintosh IIci ?

    ADB mice will cost more than the original computer in a few time :-))

  18. You are really dis servicing your customer by not explaining that she really needs to upgrade to protect the business. It takes money to make money and IT services are just like water and electricity. It is a commodity or utility these days.

  19. Hey, Mike — you’re kidding, right? Didn’t you ever hear the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

    She loves her old Mac and it does everything she needs it to do. They run the radio station’s broadcast on a PC and I can’t advise them on that. The Internet simulcasting is on an eMac, which is doing the job just fine.

    I think I’d be doing her a disservice by recommending newer, upgraded equipment and software that she doesn’t know how to use. Why waste her time and money and get her all frustrated when she’s happy?

    So you were kidding, right?

  20. I don’t think Mike was kidding.

    “IT Services are just like water and electricity.”

    That pretty much explains it, he’s an IT guy and the last thing I would ever do is turn my Mac over to someone in some IT department. Fortunately most of them don’t seem to support Macs anyways so that won’t be a problem.

    Or maybe he was kidding, he called her your customer because you gave her an old Apple mouse. :-D


  21. Environmentalism.

    Hey – if old gear does the job why ditch it to fill some hole in the ground. Keep old kit in a job as long as you can. I still have SCSI kit attached to my G3 on a network and use them when I need them. Scanner in particular.

    I’m typing this via a Mac mini connected to a fourteen year old radius monitor.

    I know it should be useless but it’s next to a two year old monitor and comparing the two – the only wear visible in the old one is the brightness is not what it should be. Colour and contrast is still good for what I do. I’m a graphic designer and have always worked to keep monitor colour and reproduction up to scratch. when it does fall below par it will go.

    On the note of retired kit see this:

  22. More often than not, mouse failures are due to collected dust, muck and hair inside the mouse. Take the mouse apart and clean the trackball and rollers (you may have to do a little scraping on the rollers with a toothpick to get the gummy stuff off) and remove any other gummy, hairy crap from around the button contacts or anywhere else inside. Most likely once you get the mouse back together it will be working again.

  23. Joe, That was the first thing I suggested, too. But it was the clicker that was broken, not the trackball. I might be able to fix it if I open it up, find the broken plastic piece, and apply some glue. (I was successfully doing this on a very old laptop mouse button; well, it wasn’t old at the time.)

  24. Wow, a II/Ci still in use after all these years, just goes to show that these fine machines had longevity built in. Talking of which, a few years back, I rescued an old II/Ci from a friends shed, the machine was damp from rainwater, and mice had built a nest in it (I think it had been in there at least a year). Just for a challenge I took it apart, cleaned all the boards in soapy water and then with alcohol and left to dry for a few days. Floppy and hard drives were understandably dead, so they had to go. After assembling the machine, it booted up first time! (after replacing the disks and the PRAM battery). The machine’s still working as well as it did when it was new. That’s what I call wel engineered!

  25. I see nothing wrong with keeping old tech in service as long as it doesn’t hinder my business from being competitive. For low tech jobs you don’t need a new high powered computer. How many small businesses really need a new computer with a quad core CPU and 16gigs of RAM? In mission critical applications you have to keep up with the latest technology but for letter writing and simple bookkeeping tasks it isn’t needed.

  26. Jo rocks. And you rock.

    I have an LC-575 in my closet with the ADB mouse.

    I use it to rescue data from old Mac floppies, such as my fiance’s college term-papers written in Claris Works, which I then copy on to 1.44 mb discs in macos format, which I can then read on my PC laptop (with a Mac floppy reader piece of software), and then I can copy the files over the network to my Mac. How silly is that, eh?

    Sometimes Apple really does leave users in the lurch. There’s no way to connect the pre-Ethernet classic macs to the latest model macs. I wish Apple made an ADB/localtalk-to-usb cable to allow tethering ancient macs to modern ones.

    If Jo keeps her eyes on Craigslist for a while, she could probably find a spare freebie macII when someone is ditching it.


  27. Warren :

    Jo rocks. And you rock.

    I have an LC-575 in my closet with the ADB mouse.

    I use it to rescue data from old Mac floppies, such as my fiance’s college term-papers written in Claris Works, which I then copy on to 1.44 mb discs in macos format, which I can then read on my PC laptop (with a Mac floppy reader piece of software), and then I can copy the files over the network to my Mac. How silly is that, eh?

    Sometimes Apple really does leave users in the lurch. There’s no way to connect the pre-Ethernet classic macs to the latest model macs. I wish Apple made an ADB/localtalk-to-usb cable to allow tethering ancient macs to modern ones.

    If Jo keeps her eyes on Craigslist for a while, she could probably find a spare freebie macII when someone is ditching it.


    Not very versed on this subject are you….trying Googling!

    • Carmen: No, it did eventually die. This post is over 2 years old. The Mac IIci died about 6 months after I wrote about it and was replaced with an old iMac. Then they closed up the business. Don’t know if Jo is still using a computer.

  28. I think that this is good proof that they don’t make them like they used to, even if this post is a few years old. (I’m 18, nearly 19, and I’m saying the words, ‘they don’t make ’em like they used to…’)

    It’s a shock that both a mouse and a computer can last that long. My laptops usually last me a couple of years at most, and my Macbook Pro has been in for repairs twice since 2008, once for the keyboard and trackpad and once for the logicboard. And I’ve been through 2 wired usb mice in the last 4 years (non-apple, but still).

    I think rather than trying to get the maximum power these days and improving the visual aesthetics, maybe they need to take some time to improve the durability of the products, because if that computer and mouse lasted that long, then shouldn’t the advances in technology mean that our products should last longer?

What do you think?