I think that the new Apple Magic Trackpad is really nice. Multi-touch aside, the idea is, of course, not new. Long-time Mac users who still spend some time in the Old World will probably remember this:
(Image taken from here.)
That is the ALPS GlidePoint, an ADB trackpad produced by ALPS Electric in the mid-1990s. I happen to have in my archives the 26 May 1995 issue of MacUser UK magazine, which features a short review of the product, written by Tom Calthrop. Here are some bits and more information about the GlidePoint.
The GlidePoint will look familiar to those who use a PowerBook 500 series trackpad. It is a small device that plugs into the ADB port like a mouse or trackball, but enables the cursor to follow the finger’s movement across the trackpad’s surface while the trackpad itself remains stationary. […]
It measures 2.75 by 3.0 by 0.375 inches (69.8 by 76.2 by 9.5 mm) and works through a technique known as field distortion which uses two layers of electrical conductors arranged in a grid shape. When your finger touches the surface it distorts the electrical field at a point on the grid. The GlidePoint tracks your finger by following the changes in the electrical field across the grid. Even the smallest movement on the pad is translated to a precise cursor movement because the grid resolves at 400 dots per inch, which gives good control across both large and small monitors.
With the aid of the control panel you can rotate the GlidePoint to the most comfortable position. […] Other features of the control panel include a ‘tapping’ check box which enables the user to tap the pad in the way you would click a mouse button, a sensitivity control which you can set for big or small monitors and a cursor speed selector. Both the two buttons situated on the bottom and one at the top are programmable, which means that you can set buttons for cut and paste or zoom in, zoom out, for instance.
The 1995 price was 62 pounds, and was considered a tad expensive.
By the way, this is not the only GlidePoint model ALPS manufactured. From what I understood by my little Web research, ‘GlidePoint’ was more like a product line name. You can see a different GlidePoint trackpad in this photo, for example (among the assorted vintage awesomeness). Lastly, ALPS Electric is still in business and still produces, among a slew of other products, input devices like keyboards and trackpads. The GlidePoint name has remained, although it looks like they’re not producing standalone trackpads like this one anymore, only the trackpad technology that gets integrated in laptop computers (see this page).
If you’ve found an ADB GlidePoint trackpad, or bought it second-hand, or someone gave it to you and you only have the hardware without the drivers, they can be found at the Mac Driver Museum.