These days there are plenty of ways to interact with computers including mice, touchpads, touchscreens, and pens (and keyboards, of course). But one option that’s largely fallen by the wayside is the trackball.

While a handful of companies continue to offer “trackball mouse” accessories that are basically mice with a rolling wheel in the side, there aren’t many decent standalone options.

The folks behind ploopy are hoping to change that. They’re taking pre-orders for a modern Trackball Kit, but the entire project is open source — so if you’d rather build your own you can find instructions at GitHub.

With a pre-order price of $200 CAD (about $150 US), the ploopy trackball isn’t exactly cheap. But it’s a heck of a lot more affordable than its inspiration — Microsoft’s Trackball Explorer was discontinued years ago and if you want to buy one now you’ll probably end up paying more than $500.

Or… if you have a lot of patience, access to a 3D printer, the ability to make or purchase a custom printed circuit board and… yeah, odds are only the most die-hard enthusiasts are going to assemble one of these from scratch.

But the truth is there are some die-hard enthusiasts out there who have never been as satisfied with mice, touchpads, or any other input device as they have the classic trackball design.

While the industry has largely moved on from trackballs, it’s kind of exciting to see an open source project aimed at keeping this style of device alive.

Personally I’ve never been a fan of trackballs — some folks swear by them, but I’ve never found them to be as comfortable to use as a mouse. Maybe I just didn’t take the time to learn my way around the trackball, but judging by the near-disappearance of the design, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

via Hacker News and GitHub


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7 replies on “Ploopy is an open-source trackball kit (pre-order one or build your own)”

  1. How many of you just did some research on trackballs after reading this article.

      1. I honestly had no idea how useful a trackball was until I saw this article and did a little digigng. I’m a professional video game dev and never used a mouse. I use powerful gaming laptops exclusively (aero 15 rtx2070) and prefer having my hands close to the keyboard at all times…but using a trackball is very tempting! I think I’m gonna order an elecom.

    1. I wasn’t previously aware of the Elecom brand Trackballs mentioned in two previous comments, so I took a look at their products thanks to this post.

  2. I have retired my Trackball Explorer of 18 years for ELECOM M-HT1DRBK. It’s much better then any other trackball I have tried.

  3. As much as I loved my Trackball Explorer back in the day (and I used it until it physically disintegrated), I can’t bring myself to buy a knock-off called “ploopy”!
    There’s a Japanese company called elecom that makes really good trackballs. I’ve got a M-DT1URBK and apart from being a little on the small side, it’s perfect for me.

  4. There was a period when I was suffering from hand pain from using a mouse, so I took the plunge on a trackball to see if that helped. I first used one of those Logitech Trackballs that was very mouse-like in its shape and had the ball on the left to be thumb-operated. It helped to alleviate my discomfort and, once I got used to the trackball, have preferred them ever since. I’ve since switched to a more traditional type Kensington and really need to get a new one somewhat soon. Laptop trackpads seem to work pretty well for me these days, though that depends on the machine and Linux distro as they can sometimes be overly sensitive.

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