What is a Mousepad?

Kristi B. Roddey

A mousepad, sometimes written as mouse pad, is a rigid or flexible piece of material on which a computer mouse is moved. Often made with a padded foam backing, a mousepad assists users with comfort, speed and precision while using an external mouse. Computer users in England refer to the pads as "mouse mats."

Ergonomic mouse pads may be designed to provide wrist support.
Ergonomic mouse pads may be designed to provide wrist support.

The first mousepad is said to have been created by Jack Kelley back in 1969. The design and materials that mousepads are made from have come a long way since then. Mats today are typically made of rubber composites with a slightly texturized fabric bonded to the upper surface. A texturized surface is intentionally chosen because too smooth a surface can inhibit the precise control of the cursor controlled by the computer mouse. For this reason, glass, polished wood and metal are generally not functional materials for mousepad construction.

Inadequate wrist support may cause discomfort in the hand, wrist and arm.
Inadequate wrist support may cause discomfort in the hand, wrist and arm.

Most mousepads are rectangular and about 9.25 inches (about 23.5 cm) wide by 7.75 inches (about 19.5 cm) tall. They are, however, available in an infinite number of shapes and sizes and with a variety of special features. For example, heated mousepads, which include an embedded heating element, reduce repetitive motion stress and decrease instances of carpal tunnel syndrome among frequent computer users. Wrist support mousepads, on the other hand have a gel or foam padding to provide ergonomic support to the mouse user.

Pad surfaces have a tendency to collect dirt, which may be unsightly or if it's used with the older roller-style mouse can impair the mouse's precision. Regularly cleaning a mousepad can help this. To remove the accumulation of oil, dust and dirt, the mousepad can be gently washed with a damp washcloth and a bit of shampoo or mild detergent. The soap should be thoroughly rinsed out, patted dry and then air dried before being used again.

Formally known as "cursor control mechanism pads," mousepads are widely used by in homes and offices. Advancements in technology, including more common optical mouse, which uses light-emitting technology in place of the traditional mouse's rolling ball, may eliminate the need for a traditional mousepad. Even so, many computer users opt to keep their traditional mousepad for added comfort and to protect the surface of their workstation.

Since mousepads are inexpensive and used by many people on a daily basis, businesses use them as promotional items, tailoring them with their logo and offering them to potential consumers for free. Those who have accumulated many of these promotional pads, or just old pads, can find alternate uses for them. Several can be grouped together to form a table top place mat, while others might serve as shelf protectors, wrist supports for computer keyboards, and drink coasters.

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