The trackball was invented in 1946 by Ralph Benjamin for use in a military radar system and has had a small but loyal following amongst computer users who shun the conventional mouse. However, acquiring a nice trackball can be a difficult proposition, it is a small and underserved market populated with cheap plastic offerings utilising undersized spheres.
Many years ago I came across a nice industrial grade trackball. As expected it used an old serial protocol to communicate and thus began a project to re-engineer it to function with modern hardware.
For tracking the ball I settled on using the guts from a laser mouse. Laser mice are a welcome step up from regular optical models and track accurately at high DPI on almost any surface type, this includes shiny oversized black spheres. For the scroll wheel I salvaged a flywheel from an old HiFi tuner, it is nice and weighty with excellent bearings. The buttons were carved from Ebony and linked to lever type microswitches using brass rod.
I decided to put some luthiery into the the case using Western Red Cedar with Cocobolo bindings for the top. The finish is French Polished shellac. And yes, that is a detachable mahogany palm rest, bet your Logitech doesn’t come with one of those.
The result is quite striking, I really like the smooth action of the scroll wheel and you are far less likely to spill beer all over your keyboard than are when using a mouse.
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