What Is A Computer Mouse Pad?

When you sit down at your computer, you typically do a few things. If the computer isn’t on, you probably turn it on. Then, your hands reach out to rest on the two most used devices for your computer, the mouse and keyboard. As you slide your mouse around some of your hand might touch the pad beneath it. Have you ever considered what it is, exactly? The thought has come to me a few times, so I decided to take a look into mouse pads and wanted to share what I learned.

So what exactly is a computer mouse pad? A mouse pad is a protective surface where we place our computer mouse. It provides better comfort and accuracy with the mouse while enhancing the performance of the mouse itself. A mouse pad also helps protect the surface of the desk that the computer is placed on, and modern day pads are typically made of rubber composites.

There’s a bit more to mouse pads than just a small definition, however, and I intend to take a more in depth approach to explaining them in this article!


Important Terms to Know About Mouse Pads

Before we dive into looking at mouse pads however, there is some terminology that is worth mentioning here. This will give a better understanding of some keywords that are used when discussing mouse pads.

  • Mouse – An input device that controls a cursor or pointer on the monitor, allowing the user to navigate through folders and files on the computer. If you’d like to know more about computer mice, I wrote and article about them here.

  • Wrist Rest – A portion of a mouse pad that is designed to allow for the wrist to rest upon it.
  • Grip – Refers to the bottom end of a mouse pad. Generally intended to prevent the pad from sliding around on the table or desk it rests upon.
  • Hard Pad – Like its name implies, this is a type of mouse pad that is made of a firm material.
  • Soft Pad – The opposite of a hard pad, a soft pad is made of flexible rubber or fabric and is pliable to the touch.

You likely won’t use all of these terms in any discussion you have about mouse pads. However, it’s still worth knowing them all the same!

A Closer Look at Computer Mouse Pads

With the release of the modern day computer mouse in 1968, there quickly became a desire and demand for a surface to place the mouse on. A year later, in 1969, the mouse pad was invented to give better control and accuracy for the mouse itself, while protecting the surface of the desk itself.

An accurate description of a mouse pad was given in a 1979 Xerox Journal:

CRT Cursor Control Mechanism Pad

To assist the operation of a cathode ray tube pointer 10 wherein a metal ball is rolled on a hard surface, the disclosed pad may be utilized. A resilient, rubber-like material 12 is bonded or otherwise attached toa hard base material 14 which keeps the rubber-like material flat. The base has four rubber-like pads 16 on the opposite side from the resilient material to refrain the pad from sliding on the surface of a table, for instance.

– Xerox Disclosure Journal, Volume 4, Number 6, November/December 1979


Since its induction into the market in 1969, the mouse pad has understandably changed. Both the shape and materials used to for them have shifted over the years to accommodate a wide variety of different mice.

In the early 1980s, for instance, vinyl boards were more popular mouse pads because of their natural adhesive properties and sturdy design.

Once the metal ball in mechanical mice changed to a rubber ball, a fabric surface became the more popular material for a mouse pad.

Early optical mice required a specialized pad with optical pattern designs on the pad itself to assist with reflection of the LED on the bottom of the mouse. Though, modern day optical mice do not require specialized pads and generally work well on most surfaces outside of clear glass or plastic.


What Does a Mouse Pad Do

Although the design and materials of mouse pads have changed over the years, they’ve all been designed and created with two general functions in mind.

The main purpose of a mouse pad is to give the computer mouse a smooth surface to operate on. The materials used to create this smooth surface are designed to offer minimal drag on the mouse itself, thus minimizing wear and tear. As a result, a mouse pad typically increases the speed, usability, and accuracy of computer mice.

A secondary purpose for a mouse pad is to protect the surface of the desk or table. The pad itself acts as a buffer between the mouse and the desk, protecting the surface from drag and friction. The bottom side of the pad is designed to grip the surface to reduce sliding of the pad, keeping the mouse in one general location during use.

Different Kinds of Mouse Pads

There are several different kinds of mouse pads to fill a few niche roles. Typically, all mouse pads will do the same basic function, but a few have been designed to do a little something extra.

  • Wrist Support Pad – This is a type of mouse pad that’s specifically designed to provide support for your wrist. Generally this is done by having a pack of cotton or gel on one end of the mouse pad for your wrist to lay on. Sometimes this pack is attached to the pad by Velcro and can be removed, other time it’s manufactured as part of the mouse pad itself.
  • Hard Mouse Pad – This gets a specific mention over the typical mouse pads you might be used to seeing. The common pads are soft and flexible, but there are some mouse pads that are designed to be a hard surface. Generally these are made out of aluminum or plastic.
  • Gaming Pad – Mouse pads designed specifically for gaming can come in many shapes and sizes. Typically, the goal of these pads is to provide an extra smooth surface for your mouse to slide on. This improves accuracy and performance and is marketed specifically towards gaming enthusiasts.


On the Surface (Conclusion)

Mouse pads are a very robust addition to our computer that we typically don’t take much consideration of on a day to day basis. However, without mouse pads are experience using our computers would be heavily impacted. Not only would our on screen cursor be less accurate and jittery, but we could potentially be causing harm to the desk or table we’re using our computer mice on.

Hopefully you learned something new about mouse pads in this article. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below and I will do my best to respond to them directly!

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