Eek! A Dirty Mouse!

IT'S A PROBLEM THAT EVERY computer owner will face: a fouled-up mouse. Rolling one over a desk or a mouse pad can cause all sorts of filth to collect inside and gum up the works. Even a stationary trackball--basically, an inverted mouse--can have problems, since oil from a person's finger is enough to cause the ball to "skip" and affect the way a cursor moves on the computer screen. Peripherals maker Logitech Inc. in Fremont, Calif., thinks it has a goofproof solution.

The company's new TrackMan Marble pointing device replaces a trackball's internal mechanics with an optics-based setup. Light shines against a distinctively patterned ball and an optical sensor tracks the speed and direction the tiny dots move, translating it to the appropriate on-screen cursor movements. Logitech officials claim that the ball will never need cleaning, since the oil from human skin won't interfere with this light-based scheme. What's more, Logitech says several computer makers will be using the trackball's technology in forthcoming notebook computers. In October, retail versions of Trackman Marble will sell for about $99 at most computer stores.

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