In the beginning the Macintosh had one mouse, with one button. Sure, things were simpler back then, but by having only a single button Apple kept them that way. The Mac didn’t have to start off with a one button mouse. Other computer platforms at the time included more than one button. But by including only a single button Apple modeled its mouse after a finger that could perform only a single task, point.
The “right-click” introduced on two button mice is like a secret snap of the fingers that reveals hidden possibilities. Initiated users who know about the snap probably know about the secret functionality it reveals, but the rest of us are left facing only the possibilities exposed by the application’s user interface. As long as Apple continues to ship one button mice, developers are forced to design applications that expose all of their functionality to one button users.
Apple began to break away from the simplicity of a pointing finger with the introduction of the Mighty Mouse. The Mighty Mouse’s hidden right-click and secret gestures invited developers to include hidden functionality in their own applications. The situation has continued to get worse as Apple has included more gestures into their pointing devices. Instead of a mouse with a single button today’s users are presented with “magical” mice and trackpads with hidden gestures, and indiscernible controls. It is even rumored that the next iOS devices will do away with the physical Home Button in favor of multi-touch gestures. Removing the buttons from devices, and introducing hidden gestures conceals a computers operation and usefulness from the user. Keeping the choices a user faces in plain sight without the need of a secret snap is one lesson from yesterday’s Mac that should not be forgotten.