To save up space on the keyboard portion of the layout, some laptops have the red button as a mouse controller called TrackPoint. This button enables complete mouse control without the need for a touchpad. While it may not be as popular as the touchpad, the pointing stick has been a staple of laptop design for over two decades. In this blog post, we’ll explore the history and functionality of the red button in the middle of your laptop keyboard.
Continue reading if you want to learn all there is to know about this tiny little red button on laptop keyboards.
Let’s get going!
History of Trackpoints?
Based on a study that showed it takes a typist 0.75 seconds to switch from the keyboard to the mouse, and a corresponding amount of time to switch back, Ted Selker, a researcher at PARC, worked on a pointing stick in 1984. Selker created a model of a tool that would shorten this period of time. Selker improved his invention just three years later when employed by IBM. TrackPoint was first proposed in the 1990s, and it was legally copyrighted in the late 1990s, after which the function gained considerable notoriety.
The pointing stick was first exclusively seen on IBM computers, but when other computer manufacturers started to appear all over the place, many of them entered into agreements with IBM to utilize different designs that belonged to the corporation.
The nub mouse controllers were widely used on laptops by the early 2000s, including those produced by HP, Toshiba, Sony, Samsung, Gateway, and many more manufacturers.
The pointing stick was used by several new computer businesses. Even now, Lenovo still offers versions of this little gadget.
With the advancement of touch technology, many designers began to abandon the pointing stick.
You probably already know about touchpads on laptops since they replaced mouse controls as the industry standard for laptops.
The battle between TrackPoints and trackpads reached its peak around 2007.
Even study articles disputing which was superior have been published.
TrackPoints started to lose popularity at that point, and trackpads have since become commonplace.
Since Lenovo’s revamp of the TrackPoint in 2014, it is seldom ever seen on laptops built by anybody else.
Why Does a Laptop Keyboard Red Button in the Center?
The button has many names.
It is referred to as a nub, TrackPoint, or pointing stick.
Although there are more slang terms, they are the most common names. The button is designed to function like a laptop mouse. The idea is straightforward, and it has been widely used on computers for a long time. Trackpoints are less common than ever now, yet they are still there.
The nub resembles a joystick a lot. The pointer on your screen will move in the directions you push it in as necessary.
Compared to a trackpad, some individuals enjoy this form of control, while many others don’t. It is designed for the nub to respond to pressure rather well. It follows that you can (at least theoretically) press it softly to just barely move the mouse. The mouse will travel more quickly if you exert greater pressure.
In a moment, we can discuss how it really works. The majority of the time, using a pointing stick is similar to using any other mouse control. Although the overall execution requires some effort, it is straightforward to learn. The TrackPoint may be configured to provide you with the control functions you desire, much like other mouse interfaces. To enable or disable trackpad scrolling from the track point, use properties.
This makes it scroll displays rather than move the mouse pointer, and this is a common use for the gadget.
It gives the laptop complete control.
Additionally, you may configure it to act as a mouse button or a zoom functionality. The custom control options for laptops with this device installed may be found in your software. You should seek mouse properties in your computer’s settings and check for a listing for TrackPoint under that choice. Where you can change how it works is there.
Additionally, you may modify the sensitivity and other characteristics.
Variations of Trackpoints
Typically, pointing sticks feature a changeable rubber top, or nub, which might be shaped like an “eraser head” or have another texture.
On other devices, including ThinkPads, you may also find the cap in colors other than red. On certain Dell models, for instance, it may be grey, pink, black, or blue; on some HP/Compaq laptops, it might be blue; and on the majority of Toshiba laptops made before the year 2000, it might be green or grey.
Dell trackpoint cap for Latitude E7440
Depending on the laptop model and the seller, button configurations might change. The center mouse button on ThinkPads is quite noticeable, although other models lack any physical buttons at all. Toshiba uses arcs that are concentric.
A gadget known as the “J-Mouse” was sold with a handful of laptop computers by Zenith Data Systems in the early 1990s; it basically employed a modified key switch beneath the J key to enabling the J keycap to be used as a pointing stick.
These or similar devices may also be found on gaming consoles as an alternative to a D-pad or analog stick, in addition to being located between the G, H, and B keys on a QWERTY keyboard. The pointing stick was situated next to the display on certain Toshiba Libretto small notebooks. The place where a scroll wheel is currently typical was where IBM marketed a mouse with a pointing stick.
a pointing stick on a Toshiba laptop from the mid-1990s. The bottom button is used for right-clicking, while the top button is used for left-clicking, and the two buttons below the keyboard function as a computer mouse.
Some Ultrabook tablet hybrids, such as the Sony Duo 11, ThinkPad Tablet, and Samsung Ativ Q, feature optical pointing sticks as well.
The pointing stick is located on the Gateway 2000 Liberty laptop’s right side of the keyboard, above the enter key.
The New Nintendo 3DS introduced the C-Stick, a supplementary analog stick that functions like a pointing stick.
What is the TrackPoint’s Mechanism?
The TrackPoint was once an analog controller. It functioned similarly to a joystick or a variety of other similar devices. Pressure sensors on the nub show how far the centerpiece has been moved in a certain direction when you press on it.
That pressure’s intensity is converted into an electronic signal that the computer can understand. The outcome is converted into the mouse movement you see. Early TrackPoints included a rubber topping that resembled an eraser in consistency. Controlling it was made simpler by the gentleness and robust tactile reactions of the object.
The caps for the TrackPoint changed over time. Modern pointing sticks often include a plastic cap with a rough surface that makes them grip well to your finger and enhance control. TrackPoint functionality has also been improved. 2014 saw the redesign and patenting of TrackPoint by Lenovo, the company that is currently the owner of IBM. They developed a digital control system for the TrackPoint in place of the analog controls. In the end, this indicates that the new version has better control.
Additionally, it integrates with software controllers more effectively, providing you with more choices and settings than before. The TrackPoint can more effectively make use of a design element called “negative inertia” thanks to the digital input.
In physics, inertia is an object’s built-in resistance to change.
A full refrigerator is difficult to remove from its cubby so that you can sweep with it. Things tend to go along a bit more smoothly once it does move. That describes the idea of inertia. Using the TrackPoint to control your mouse cursor has the opposite effect of using the digital negative inertia. When you initially apply an input, the cursor travels the quickest and most easily; but, after it begins to move, it becomes more resistant to modification.
The pointer may be swiftly moved about the screen as a result. It becomes slower and less responsive as it approaches your destination, making it simpler to place the cursor exactly where you want it to be.
Modern TrackPoints are simpler to use than ever thanks to a variety of different digital capabilities that operate in the background.
Lenovo has shown its commitment to preserving the authenticity of the experience despite the alterations.
The first modifications to the TrackPoint drew criticism from enthusiasts.
Lenovo undid the modifications and hasn’t done so since.
Are New Laptops Still Equipped with the red button on the keyboard?
We have covered all the details of how pointing sticks operate, what they perform, and their purpose.
What are they capable of today? You may assume that they are more well-liked given the technical advancements. Actually, they play a more specialized function in contemporary computer peripherals.
To begin with, pointing sticks are quite uncommon on laptops produced by companies other than Lenovo. A portion of it is due to the device’s waning popularity. It partly results from Lenovo’s desire to dominate the specialized market of TrackPoint enthusiasts. Whatever the motivation, TrackPoints are a popular feature on Lenovo Thinkpads and rare elsewhere.
However, there is a whole distinct kind of pointing stick that isn’t always connected to computers. Extended peripherals are the finishing touch for computer add-ons. The external keyboards are the simplest to comprehend. For those who like the pointing stick, a Lenovo keyboard that plugs into a desktop PC is available (or any PC for that matter).
The mouse buttons are on the bottom of the keyboard, and the nub is in the center. Because of this, the experience is almost exactly what you would anticipate from a Thinkpad laptop. The TrackPoint nub may also be added to other extended peripherals.
People who favor it will vouch for TrackPoint’s effectiveness and tweak it to execute operations their way. These add-ons may cause these devices to sporadically appear on workstations and PCs where you least expect them. For the time being, TrackPoints are expected to continue existing for a very long time. They won’t completely vanish unless the specialized market quits wanting them.
Does a TrackPoint Improve a Computer’s Performance?
The quick response is no.
Even while pointing sticks have a committed fan following, they do not constitute a market that can increase the worth of a computer built around this basic accessory. To begin with, the vast majority of computers that have this capability are quite antiquated. They are old, and not many people keep old computers. The second issue is that those who desire a TrackPoint may still purchase one for a new computer.
They have few choices. There’s no need to spend more for a computer just because it includes a nub mouse controller when new laptops and add-ons may provide this capability. You have just discovered an antique computer if you find one with this little function. Just that.