A New (To Me) Microsoft Trackball Explorer

apastuszak

21 Nov 2020, 05:47

I rediscovered trackballs at the beginning of the pandemic. Back in 2000, I used to owned the coveted Microsoft Trackball Explorer. For some reason I retired it, and I was unable to find it.

I went on a quest to find a new one.

And, I found out they're incredibly expensive on the used market. A broken one usually sells for $100, and a NIB or a refurbished one can go for as high as $300. More than I willing to spend.

I am fortunate that I am still employed in the pandemic, and with the lack of commuting fot myself and my wife, each month had a bit of extra disposable income. I bought about a half dozen trackballs. I kept some. I returned some. I settled on the Kensington Slimblade.

But I kept trying to find a reasonably priced MSTE, and nothing came up. I found out the average repair service for the MSTE was $50.00. So I set a budget of $50.00 for the trackball, and $50.00 for repair. I would buy it one month, and get it fixed the next month.

I had eBay searches set up. And Craigslist searches. Nothing reasonably priced.

Then for yucks I tried offerup.com. There was one trackball up. And the seller wanted $100. But the lising had also been up for quite a while. I decided to try a lowball offer. I offered $60 for it. And the offer was ignored. It expired after a week. 2 days after that, the seller pings me and says she missed my offer. Offer $60.00 again and she'll accept.

I hopped right on it.

2 days later the seller pings me and tells me the lines at the post office near her are REALLY LONG, and she doesn't feel safe standing in line because of the pandemic. She wanted to know if she could ship it UPS ground. I asked her to give me a shipping quote. She told me it would another $6.00. There's a pandemic, and I am not an @ss. So I paid the money.

I expected the trackball to arrive in poor shape. At a minimum I thought it would need new bearings. My some buttons would have issues. I figured I'd throw it on a shelf and send it off to be refurbished with the new year.

And it arrived on Wednesday. It was a little dirty. But it all worked. All the buttons are fine. Even the bearings are in good shape. I wiped it down with some alcohol and immediately put it into service.

It's still a little dirty. But it works. It sits proudly next to my Model M now as my daily driver.

I wish Microsoft would re-release this trackball. In my opinion, I believe it's the best trackball ever made.

Image

Archie

21 Nov 2020, 13:07

Congratulations! :)

IMHO, it's one of most convenient trackballs (except for strange Microsoft's decision to put its right button on the left side - but it's easy to reassign in software), and even today it's still quite usable.

Steel bearings wear quickly, but after putting ceramic or ruby ones instead, it will work fine for quite long time. BTW, be aware that quality of plastic is very low: after time, it become extremely brittle. If you'll need to disassemble it - be very careful, and prepare some glue to fix the parts that will break (like screw holes, etc).

apastuszak

21 Nov 2020, 15:06

When the bearings eventually wear out, I think I will ship it out to one of the eBay repair services for an overhaul.

Having the left and right button on the same side is one of the features I really like.

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Dingster

02 Dec 2020, 20:07

Great find at a great price. Congrats!
Want to try one of these one day but they're so incredibly hard to find, haven't ever seen one.

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hellothere

02 Dec 2020, 20:54

Dunno if you've seen this https://www.ploopy.co. It's about $108 US if you assemble yourself.

I recently purchased an Elecom Huge for less than half price through Amazon Warehouse. I've gotta say, that old Microsoft Trackball design is a lot better than the Huge. Buttons are off by a couple centimeters and that makes a difference.

apastuszak

02 Dec 2020, 21:34

hellothere wrote:
02 Dec 2020, 20:54
Dunno if you've seen this https://www.ploopy.co. It's about $108 US if you assemble yourself.

I recently purchased an Elecom Huge for less than half price through Amazon Warehouse. I've gotta say, that old Microsoft Trackball design is a lot better than the Huge. Buttons are off by a couple centimeters and that makes a difference.
I bought an Elecon Huge from an Amazon warehouse deal also. Was not a fan. I returned it.

Archie

03 Dec 2020, 11:53

Among Elecom products, Deft Pro is quite close to the MTE in design and controls (buttons, wheel) placement.

apastuszak

03 Dec 2020, 22:15

The only thing I want on the left side is the left click, right click and scroll wheel. Nothing else does that besides the MSTE.

All the patents on the MSTE expired earlier this year. I hope someone makes a clone. I know the Ploopy is out there. But for the price of a Ploopy, I can get a used MSTE.

Archie

03 Dec 2020, 22:40

apastuszak wrote:
03 Dec 2020, 22:15
The only thing I want on the left side is the left click, right click and scroll wheel. Nothing else does that besides the MSTE.
Any vendor software, including Elecom one, allow to reassign the buttons as desired...

apastuszak

Yesterday, 03:46

Archie wrote:
03 Dec 2020, 22:40
apastuszak wrote:
03 Dec 2020, 22:15
The only thing I want on the left side is the left click, right click and scroll wheel. Nothing else does that besides the MSTE.
Any vendor software, including Elecom one, allow to reassign the buttons as desired...
You can. But most trackballs have a solid bottom button and two side-by-side top buttons. At least the Elecom Huge and the Kensington Orbit Fuson do (I was bored during lockdown. I bought a LOT of trackballs.) That doesn't work for me. I tried mapping both top buttons to left click, and it just didn't work for me.

The other problem is, I use the trackball on my work laptop, and I don't have rights to install any software.

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