I am told that all Macs come with a three button mouse. I’m not sure I believe that, but it is what I’m told. But to me the three button mouse on a Mac represents one of interesting cultural features of Mac users. Years go, when I was arguing with my friend Mike about which was better, Windows or Macs (Linux was not really an option at the time), he kept insisting that Macs were better for all sots of reasons. After he listed a long list of made up (I assume) reasons that Macs were better, I said to him: “Mike I’ve got three words for you that make all that irrelevant. ‘Three button mouse.’ A Mac doesn’t even have two buttons. I love right clicking on things. I love middle clicking on things. I love using all sorts of combinations of clicking on things” I simply prefer the system with the three button mouse. (This was the days when the “context sensitive” right click had been added to a piece of software i was using a lot for my research: Quatro Pro. Remember that lovely spreadsheet?)
Mike’s answer was, of course, “Macs have a three button mice.”
“Ah, No they don’t mike . They have one button mice.”
“Sure, they come with a one button mouse, but you can get a three button mouse”
“Like on your machine?”
“Well no, I don’t have one.”
“Oh, like Ian’s laptop over there on his desk?” craning my neck to see…
“Ah, no, he doesn’t have one”
“OK, Mike. I see your point… I guess. Gotta go to a meeting now, bye,” and I furtively left our lab and headed across the street.
Across the street was a major endocrinology research lab that had switched over to Mac’s a couple of years earlier, so there would be a dozen Macs of all ages and types in there. There was a newer genetics research lab that had just set up and all the people in that lab were using Macs. Those would be mostly new. And in our very own Stone Age Lab were a half dozen macs mainly used for graphic production, DTP, and word processing.
So I went over to the building with all the labs, and I stopped into the Endocrinology lab.
“Hey, Mary, do you use a Mac?”
“Yup, I love my mac,” eyes brightening.
“Three button mouse on that baby?”
“No, but I hear you can get them.”
And as this conversation is happening, I’m walking around in the lab looking at all the Macs. A one button mouse here, a one button mouse, no three button mice anywhere.
I repeated the procedure in each of the other two labs, in the graduate student’s offices, and in two professor’s offices. Macs everywhere, one button on each mouse on each Mac. I probably looked at 35 computers.
One could argue that if no Mac users have three button mice than somehow Mac users simply don’t need a three button mouse. But that is not what I was told. When I snarkily told Mike that I preferred a three button mouse so I could right click and middle click, he did not tell me that I didn’t need to do those things, that those were bad things, that one did not “need” to do these things on a Mac somehow. Rather, he simply told me that the three button mouse was a feature of the Mac. A feature that, apparently, does not actually, in real life, exist any more than, say, a Unicorn or a Windows Machine that has not been rebooted some time in the last week.
Where I come from, we call that a delusion. And it is pretty typical of Mac Lovers, to be delusional about their operating system and their hardware. But they should not feel bad. It is also typical of Windows users. They think their system is great, that it works fine, and that they have not been assimilated into the Microsoft Borg. At least Mac users have a good operating system (these days) and are not delusional when they think about it.
So, the “Three Button Mouse Phenomenon” (or the TBM for short) is named for the particular delusion among Mac users back in the 1980s, before TBM’s were standard on Macs (as I am now told that they are), but it applies to all computer users in relation to their feelings regarding their precious operating system.
It does not, obviously, apply to Linux users. Linux users are not delusional. Ever.