[TUHS] Depraz/Logitech Digimouse manual

ron minnich rminnich at gmail.com
Sat Aug 7 04:33:14 AEST 2021

The story of the mice, one of which I gave to John:

I ran a program called FAST-OS for LANL/Sandia for 6  years starting
2005. Think of it as "Plan 9 on petaflop supercomputers" -- it may
seem strange now, but in that era when some top end systems ran custom
kernels, there was a strong case to be made that plan 9 was a good
choice. By 2011, of course, the Linux tsunami had swept all before it,
which is why you no longer hear about custom HPC kernels so much --
though in some places they still reign. In any event, this program
gave me 6 years to work with "the Unix room", or what was left of it.
I had been in the Unix Room in 1978, and even met Dennis, so this
prospect was quite a treat.

We funded Charles Forsyth to write the amd64 compilers for Plan 9,
which if you used early Go you ran into (6c 6a 6l); we also funded the
amd64 port of Plan 9 (a.k.a. k10) as well as the port to Blue Gene.
That amd64 port is still out and about. You can find the Blue Gene
kernel on github.

I had lots of fun spending time in the Unix room while working with
the late Jim McKie, and others. I saw the tail end of the traditions.
They had cookie day once a week, if memory serves, on Thursday at 3. I
got to see the backwards-running clock, Ken's chess trophies, his
pilot's license, pictures of Peter everywhere, a "Reagan's view of the
world" map, the American Legion award for Telstar (which was rescued
from a dumpster!), and so on. The "Unix room" was more than one room,
all built on a raised floor, as I assume it was former old school
machine room space. If memory serves, it filled the entire width of
the end of the top floor of the building it was in (4th floor?) --
maybe 50 ft x 50 ft -- maybe a bit more. There was a room with desks,
and a similar-sized room with servers, and a smaller room containing a
lab-style sink, a very professional cappucinno machine, decades of old
proceedings, and a sofa. I fixed the heavy-duty coffee grinder one
year; for some reason the Italian company that produced it had seen
fit to switch BOTH hot and neutral, and the fix was to only switch
hot, as the neutral switch had failed; I guess in the EU, with 220v,
things are done differently.

It was fun being there. A few years later the whole room, and all its
history, was trashed, and replaced with what Jim called a "middle
management wxx dream" (Jim was never at a loss for words); Jim found
some yellow Police crime scene tape and placed it in front of the
doors to the new space. It was redubbed "the innovation space" or some
such, and looked kind of like an ikea showroom. Much was lost. I tried
to find a way to save the contents of the room; I had this dream of
recreating it at Google, much as John Wanamaker's office was preserved
in Philadelphia for so many decades, but I was too late. I have no
idea where the contents are now. Maybe next to the Ark.

One day in 2008 or so jmk took me for a tour of the buildings, and we
at one point ended up high in the top floor of what I think was
Building One (since torn down?), in what used to be Lab Supply. Nobody
was there, and not much supply was there either. Finally somebody
wandered in, and Jim asked where everyone was. "Oh, they closed lab
supply, maybe 4 years ago?"

Bell Labs had seen hard times since the Lucent split, and it was clear
it had not quite recovered, and Lab Supply was just one sign of it. I
think the saddest thing was seeing the visitor center, which I first
saw in 1976. In 1976, it was the seat of the Bell System Empire, and
it was huge. There was a map of the US with a light lit for every
switching office in the Bell Labs system. There was all kinds of Bell
Labs history in the visitor center museum.

The museum had shrunk to a much smaller area, and felt like a closet.
The original transistor was still there in 2010, but little else.The
library was, similarly, changed: it was dark and empty, I was told.
Money was saved. At that time, Bell Labs felt large, strangely quiet,
and emptied of people. It made me think of post-sack Rome, ca. 600,
when its population was estimated to be 500. I have not been back
since 2011 so maybe things are very different. It would be nice if so.

As part of this tour, Jim gave me 3 depraz mice. I took one, gutted
it, (sorry!), and filled its guts with a USB mouse innards, and gave
it back to Jim. He then had a Depraz USB mouse. jmk's mouse did not
have any lead in it, as John's did, however. The second I gave to
someone at Google who had worked at the labs back in the day. The
third mouse I gave to John, and he made it live again, which is cool.

In spite of their reputation, I found Depraz mice hard to use. I have
gone through all kinds of mice, and am on an evoluent, and as far as
Depraz go, I guess "you had to be there". I don't recall if jmk used
his "usb depraz" or it ended up on a shelf. Sadly, I can no longer ask

I'll be interested to see what John thinks of the Depraz.


On Fri, Aug 6, 2021 at 9:52 AM John Floren <john at jfloren.net> wrote:
> Ah, right. I opened the mouse because one of the encoders didn't seem to be working (it worked fine again this morning, who knows...) and discovered that there was something duct taped inside the plastic shell:
> http://jfloren.net/content/depraz/inside.jpg
> Peeling back the tape, I saw what I first took to be chunks of flattened beer cans:
> http://jfloren.net/content/depraz/reveal.jpg
> A closer look showed that they were the wrappers which cover the corks of wine bottles. Up into the 1980s, these were made out of lead, and by flattening five of them, a previous owner of the mouse was able to add quite a bit of extra weight to it:
> http://jfloren.net/content/depraz/wrapper.jpg
> john
> ‐‐‐‐‐‐‐ Original Message ‐‐‐‐‐‐‐
> On Friday, August 6th, 2021 at 9:34 AM, ron minnich <rminnich at gmail.com> wrote:
> > john, don't forget to mention the beer can
> >
> > On Fri, Aug 6, 2021 at 9:29 AM John Floren john at jfloren.net wrote:
> >
> > > I stuck an Arduino on it and with surprisingly little code I have it acting like a 3-button USB mouse.
> > >
> > > The only problem is that the pointer doesn't move smoothly. It does OK left-to-right, and can move down pretty well, but going up is a problem. I think pushing the mouse forward tends to move the ball away from the Y-axis wheel, and the old spring on the tensioner just doesn't have the gumption to hold that heavy ball bearing in any more.
> > >
> > > john
> > >
> > > ‐‐‐‐‐‐‐ Original Message ‐‐‐‐‐‐‐
> > >
> > > On Wednesday, August 4th, 2021 at 9:12 PM, ron minnich rminnich at gmail.com wrote:
> > >
> > > > John, you can see that "stick a bird on it" -> "stick an arduino on
> > > >
> > > > it" -> "stick a pi on it" has gone as you once predicted :-)
> > > >
> > > > On Wed, Aug 4, 2021 at 8:59 PM John Floren john at jfloren.net wrote:
> > > >
> > > > > ‐‐‐‐‐‐‐ Original Message ‐‐‐‐‐‐‐
> > > > >
> > > > > On Wednesday, August 4th, 2021 at 6:12 PM, Henry Bent henry.r.bent at gmail.com wrote:
> > > > >
> > > > > > On Wed, 4 Aug 2021 at 20:52, John Floren john at jfloren.net wrote:
> > > > > >
> > > > > > > Having just been given a Depraz mouse, I thought it would be fun to get it working on my modern computer. Since the DE9 connector is male rather than female as you usually see with serial mice, and given its age, I speculate that it might have a custom protocol; in any rate, plugging it into a USB-serial converter and and firing up picocom has given me nothing.
> > > > > > >
> > > > > > > Does anyone have a copy of a manual for it, or more information on how to interface with it? If I knew how it was wired and what the protocol looked like, I expect I could make an adapter pretty trivially using a microcontroller.
> > > > > >
> > > > > > This might be of some help?
> > > > > >
> > > > > > https://www.vcfed.org/forum/forum/technical-support/vintage-computer-hardware/74403-whitechapel-mg-1-depraz-mouse-grey-pinout#post904391
> > > > > >
> > > > > > -Henry
> > > > >
> > > > > This looks great, thank you!
> > > > >
> > > > > john

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