How far does a mouse cursor travel in a year?

Your mouse cursor does a pretty good amount of moving. It darts from buttons to text boxes to links, always sending you to the next thing you want to look at. Those movements are all pretty small – only a couple inches across the front of your monitor… and yet one could easily see them adding up to pretty good distances over time. So, how far does a mouse cursor travel in a year? That’s a question that desperately needs answering.

Mouse Cursor

Remember back in Windows 98 days, when it was cool to change your mouse cursors and your sound settings?

I actually set out to answer this question back in high school and I determined that a few really basic calculations could yield an answer. If I kept track of the mouse pointer’s X, Y coordinates in pixels on my screen every millisecond, I could use the Pythagorean theorem to determine how far it had traveled since its position one millisecond ago. Of course, that gave me a distance in pixels rather than inches… a challenge which was easily overcome by measuring my monitor’s width and height and calculating the number of pixels per inch in each direction. Then, all I had to do was add things up over time!

In case you’re interested, here’s the code I wrote, in an old game programming language called Blitz Basic, which I apparently thought was the bee’s knees at the time. Disclaimer: I wrote this code in my teens and it’s terrible. In fact, I cleaned up four or five things before I could even bring myself to post it on the web… and it’s still terrible.

OK. So, I’ve got a program to answer my question. How far does a mouse cursor move in a year, then?

Well, I’ve never tracked the cursor on a particular computer for a year… yet. But I have been tracking the cursor on my work computer for a few days, and have a pretty solid average to go on.

Recently, my mouse has been moving somewhere around 2393 feet, 7 inches per day. That’s just shy of half a mile. Assuming I work 245 days in a given year (52 * 5, minus some PTO), that’s around 120 miles that my mouse would travel in a given year.

If all those little mouse movements were put in a straight line going the same direction, my mouse could leave the office and be chilling at the beach by next January!

Miscellaneous Extras:

  1. Apparently, when you hit ctrl-alt-del, your computer is taken to some other dimension mouse coordinates-wise. Like, the ctrl-alt-delete screen’s pixel coordinates are miles away from your regular desktop in physical terms. I do not know why this is, but I did have to protect for it in my code (or, at least, I did when I came back to it as an adult).
  2. You can download a pre-built version of the program from Dropbox here, if you want to. Edit the .ini file to specify your screen width and height. And be warned: this will create a little black window at the top right of your desktop that can’t be killed without terminating the Windows process. I take no responsibility for what this program might do to your computer – download it and use it at your own risk.

2 Responses

  1. Sam January 5, 2016 / 4:09 pm

    Hey Dayne, this is amazing! Sharing this on our @CrucialMemory social media pages with a link to your blog. Great job :)

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