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mouse pad

A fabric-covered rubber pad roughly 9" square that provides a smooth surface for rolling a mouse. Since the advent of optical mice, mouse pads are no longer as essential as they were in the past. However, mouse pads often include wrist rests that people find comfortable. See optical mouse.

Precise Mousing Surface
This 3M mouse pad is more efficient than the ubiquitous rubber pad. Less than 1/16" thick, its microstructured surface contains peaks and valleys (top left) that make the mouse roll smoother and more precisely. (Image courtesy of 3M.)

optical mouse

A mouse that uses light to detect movement. Introduced in the late 1990s, optical mice superseded mechanical mice because their sealed bottom surfaces have no mechanical parts to absorb dust and dirt. They work by emitting light from an LED or laser, and a CMOS sensor detects the light reflections as the mouse is moved.

Early optical mice required a special mouse pad, but modern devices can be rolled over traditional pads, as well as over almost any surface other than glass or mirror. Laser-driven mice are even more tolerant of their surface than LED mice. Contrast with mechanical mouse.

Open Vs. Sealed
The rubber ball in the mechanical mouse causes dirt to collect inside. It must be removed, and the internal contacts must be cleaned periodically. Optical mice eliminated this requirement because their undersides are sealed. The arrow on this optical mouse points to the 848 nm laser.

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