A modern mouse for the Commodore Amiga

5 minute read Published: 2023-03-31

This article is about a Kickstarter campaign that I have supported, that has reached (and exceeded) the funding goal and finally I received the prize :-)

The product object of the crowdfunding is a computer mouse; a bit special, though, as it's also compatible with the Commodore 64, the Commodore Amiga and the Atari personal computers.

The shape and color of this mouse are as close as possible to the classic Amiga "Tank mouse".

The original Amiga Tank mouse (source: https://amiga.console.cc)
The new Amiga Tank mouse

The Commodore Amiga (Wikipedia link) is a personal computer of the 16bit era (mid-Nineties) and to my knowledge one of last big projects featuring a custom architecture for general computing. The Commodore company eventually succumbed to a bad management and to the standardized IBM-PC architecture that in those years was improving by leaps and bounds. Custom architectures in mass consumer products only survived in very specific cases, like game consoles (think of the Playstation or Nintendo). Since then, the Amiga hardware platform is cultivated by a community of die-hard fans that to this day are keeping the memory alive, helping each other with hardware repairs, developing new software.

Besides the shape, the new Tank mouse has very little to share with the original one: it's optical (has no ball), has a touch scrolling surface between the two buttons and has three different connection modes: 2,4 Ghz wireless (through a USB adapter), Bluetooth and a DB9 serial ports (through a USB-to-DB9 adapter). This last option was a "stretch goal" of the campaign and allows connecting this mouse to either an Amiga, an Atari or a Commodore 64.

The serial DB9 adapter

I think this mouse can win the prize for the most supported number of platforms :)

Why only the Amiga iconic Boing Ball has colours? :-)

So, how does it feel using it? The size is adequate and comparable to a modern mouse (I guess humans hands size didn't change a lot in the last 30 years). It's considerably lighter (85 grams with batteries compared to 130 grams of my current M720) and this requires a bit of adaptation - I like heavy and stable mouses.

Size compared to a Logitech M720

The scrolling surface works but it suffers from a bit of lag when starting a gesture and it looks imprecise. This is a bit annoying especially when zooming in/out, I find myself repeating the scroll gesture because the mouse didn't register it or zooming in/out more steps than I want (this drives me nuts). Worth noting that I have tested this mouse on Linux so the abysmal driver situation here might as well have a factor, can't really tell right now but I'll try to investigate. Using a mouse is definitively like wearing shoes, as soon as you switch to new ones you notice all these papercuts.

The only notable missing feature - by design - is a middle clickable third button which I realize only now how much I use (closing browser tabs, opening links, pasting text) :-) The third mouse button click can be emulated in Linux/Xorg with the Emulate3Buttons option or in Wayland/Sway with the middle_emulation sway-input property (man 5 sway-input).

Minor wrinkle in the assembly: the USB adapter cradle inside the mouse is not perfectly shaped, so if I shake the mouse I can hear the adapter rattling inside. The packaging box is really cool.

Bottom view and cool box

To be seen how much the battery lasts (needs 2x AAA batteries). For comparison, my Logitech M720 single AA battery lasts for longer than I can remember (like 1 year or more).

The Bluetooth connection is aggressively dropped after just about 20 seconds of inactivity, I guess this helps saving the batteries and I'm unsure if there is knob to fine tune this in Linux. The reconnection is not instant, sometimes it takes 2 or 3 retries (verified by reading the system logs); waiting for a few seconds before the mouse reacts is surprinsingly annoying. Again: could be something related to Linux, so noted to investigate.

The wireless connection works better, though moving the mouse after using the keyboard shows a tiny but noticeable lag.

To close this quick overview, I'd say that it is quite a good product (for being a crowdfunded project entirely developed by one person) and I am overall happy to have supported the project.