Some day, cordless computer peripherals will be so commonplace we won't feel the need to make note of their missing tethers.
Until then, we'll continue to be fascinated by these seemingly magical gadgets--look Ma, no cables!--although in reality they're no more arcane than the now-ubiquitous cordless phone.
Actually, it seems strange that cordless mice in particular aren't more common. They're only slightly more expensive than their corded brethren, and I've come to realize they're quite addictive. Like cordless phones, once you've become used to the comfort and freedom it's hard to go back.
The first time I laid hands on a cordless mouse was around eight years ago. It was an optical mouse, which meant it needed a special surface to track movement (unlike today's far cooler Microsoft IntelliMouse Optical and Apple's new Pro Mouse). It also used infrared technology to transmit the signal from the mouse to the receiver, the part that actually connected to the serial port. The comfort was unparalleled, but maintaining line-of-sight was a real pain, especially on a creatively cluttered desk like mine.
Still, the ghost of that mouse can be seen in Logitech's Cordless Mouseman Wheel and Wacom's Graphire tablet. Though the products serve two different purposes, they both offer a common feature: moving your mouse pointer without having to deal with that electric umbilical cord.
The Cordless Mouseman Wheel is the latest addition to Logitech's family of cordless mice, whose members have followed the same development strategy of taking the company's latest and greatest mouse and making it cordless. "Making it cordless" means you've got a receiver that connects to your bus port (or serial port, if you use the included adapter). Since Logitech's cordless mice use radio waves, there are no line-of-sight issues.
The latest and greatest mouse inducted into the cordless fold is, in this case, the Mouseman Wheel, and it's a winner. Not only is it sculpted to fit comfortably in your right hand but it has a nice heft. While not exactly bulky, it doesn't feel as fragile as the previous Cordless Wheel Mouse. Even the wheel seems more substantial: rolling it rewards you with a solid clicking sound, eliminating the vaguely squishy feeling of some wheel mice. The additional bonus is the thumb button, which like all the others is programmable through the included Logitech Mouseware. If you're like me, you'll undoubtedly find yourself accidentally clicking it for the first week or two, but afterwards, you'll probably miss it when using other mice.
The Graphire is the latest in Wacom's line of graphics tablets, which you can use with either a mouse or a stylus. Tablets have always been a favourite of artists and designers because the stylus, which feels like a real pen or pencil, provides a more natural tool for drawing. But since people share computers, graphics tablets sometimes frustrate the non-artists who also have to use them. And sometimes you just gotta have a mouse. There have been any number of solutions to this problem over the years, the most common being some kind of Y-cable. The Graphire, taking its lead from Wacom's Intuos, its older sibling, merely includes a mouse in the kit.
Not just any mouse, mind you. Since it uses the same technology as the stylus, there's no need for a cord or a ball; the tablet tracks the mouse's position as it glides smoothly across the surface. (Hey, no ball or rollers to clean!) Sometimes it's a little too smooth, though. For the first week or so, I had to readjust to the idea of a seemingly frictionless mouse--much like that old optical mouse.
Eventually I got used to it and it's kind of nice to have the best of both worlds. By getting the Graphire with a USB connection, I can also use the Cordless Mouseman Wheel if I'm in the mood. Who said too much choice was bad?