Do you use the mouse wheel to save time while scrolling through a web page, Word document or Excel sheet? If so, you can thank the Excel users from the early 1990s. The scroll wheel is one of many features created by Eric Michelman, who was an Excel Program Manager at Microsoft, where he worked from 1991 to 2002. Eric also designed other time-savers, including Pivot Tables (thanks!), database features, multi-user worksheets, and Page Break Preview.
"Back in 1993, as I was watching many Excel users do their work, I noticed the difficulty they had moving around large spreadsheets. Finding and jumping to different sections was often difficult. I had the idea that perhaps a richer input device would help."
You can read Eric's full account of the development of the scroll wheel, to learn how it evolved from a joystick designed for zooming in Excel (shown at the end of this article), to a scrolling wheel. There's also a brief reference to the scroll wheel development on the Microsoft site, that confirms Eric's description of the events.
"Eric Michelman wired a joystick to the zoom setting in Excel to make it easier to navigate large spreadsheets. He called it the ZoomLever. He demoed it at one of our team meetings and asked if anyone had any ideas for what we could use instead of the joystick. I had just bought a new VCR that had a remote with a wheel on it, and I brought it in the next day to show him. Eric asked if he could borrow it, showed it to the hardware guys, and soon we were playing with IntelliMouse prototypes with wheels on them."