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Gavin Greig [userpic]

The Trackball of Youth

April 18th, 2013 (10:46 pm)
current location: KY16 8SX

A Harvard University human motor systems test that attempts to guess your age knocked 16 years off me today!

The test is based on how quickly you can click on dots on the screen – it’s a bit like that eye-test where spots of light are shone on the inside of a hemisphere and you have to react to them. I wouldn’t say my reactions are particularly good, so why did I do so well?

I think it’s because I was using a trackball. The basic assumption of the test is that you’re using either a mouse or a trackpad, although it does provide an “other” option as part of a survey after the test’s completed.

I switched from mice to trackballs a number of years ago – not sure how many, but long enough to have had to replace one. People visiting my desk hate using the trackball (so much so that I have a “guest mouse” for when people come by), and adjusting to it was hard. In fact, for the first week, it was physically painful as I got accustomed to an entirely new set of movements. After that first week though, it was full speed ahead and I’ve never looked back. A trackball’s quicker and more accurate than a mouse, and my burgeoning RSI from dragging a mouse around went away.

My trackballs are thumb-driven ones from Logitech; for some reason finger trackballs seem to be more popular, but I wouldn’t have thought they can be so quick and efficient and surely must suffer from some of the problems of mice. The thumb’s a “spare” digit from a mousing point of view, but it’s great for driving a trackball; strong, and capable of fast, sharp and quite precise movements.

If you don’t believe me, give the test a go and see how you do!


Posted by: a_cubed (a_cubed)
Posted at: April 18th, 2013 11:58 pm (UTC)

I'm using a wireless mouse and they knocked 15 years off my age. I suspect the variability is far more to do with computer usage experience (particularly things where accurate pointer usage is important) than age per se, even though they include computer usage in the background data.

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: April 19th, 2013 05:49 am (UTC)
Crazy or smart?

Ooh, that might be it. It's certainly a very similar discrepancy, isn't it?

That'll teach me the folly of attempting to draw scientific conclusions on the basis of one data point. Now we've got two we can be entirely confident ;-)

Posted by: Andrew Patterson (qidane)
Posted at: April 19th, 2013 03:06 pm (UTC)

10 years younger for me, using my apple magic trackpad.

Posted by: Steve Pugh (very_true_thing)
Posted at: April 20th, 2013 07:50 am (UTC)

8 years younger, using an ordinary mouse.

Spotting that on some rounds the red dot moved round the circle in a predictable pattern helped...

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: April 20th, 2013 08:22 am (UTC)

Heavy computer users (most of the people I know) seem to be consistently scoring lower, so maybe that's a fair part of it. That would certainly make sense. Didn't spot the pattern myself - tempted to go back and try it again now, but I'd better resist!

Posted by: myceliumme (myceliumme)
Posted at: April 20th, 2013 11:38 am (UTC)

It's quite nice to be told I'm 34 (13 years younger than I really am).

I use a Wacom Intuos 4 graphics tablet - graphics tablets have saved me from wrist and shoulder strain for at least a decade. I used to have a guest mouse but now it's in Worcester, and visitors to my desk (very, very few) just have to suffer. Muahahaha

Posted by: meepfrog (meepfrog)
Posted at: May 1st, 2013 02:27 pm (UTC)

I was 11 years younger. I had a theory about computer game playing, that mght have been shattered by my father showing as 30 yrs younger :P

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: May 1st, 2013 03:06 pm (UTC)

Go your father! He's got us all beat, and by a large margin.

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