Here is the information I've been compiling to answer your question.
All of the articles referenced below were dated prior to October 1993,
and reference systems that interface with a computer and involve a
thumbwheel, roller-style input, or similar device.
Before rating this answer, please let me know if you need any
additional information about these information sources. Just post a
Request for Clarification, and I will be happy to assist you further.
All the best,
CONSIDERATIONS IN USING A PERSONAL COMPUTER AS THE MAN/MACHINE
INTERFACE FOR PROGRAMMABLE CONTROLLERS.
Tower Conference Management Co, 1985, p 67-72
From: Proceedings of the Controls West Conference. Held as Part of the
International Industrial Controls Conference & Exhibition/Controls
West '85., Long Beach, CA, USA
...a man/machine interface (MMI) to a plant via programmable
controllers could be something as simple as a LED and thumbwheel or as
sophisticated as a computer with a CRT and printer for generating
reports, alarms, graphics, etc....we discuss the sophisticated MMI
using a personal computer.
MICROCOMPUTER-CONTROLLED MECHANICAL VENTILATION TRAINING SYSTEM
Noyes, N. T.
Assoc for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, 1984, p 63
From: Proceedings - AAMI 19th Annual Meeting: Abstracts on the
Application of Technology to Health Care., Washington, DC
A ventilator-test lung laboratory training system has
been...fabricated...to provide an educational tool with dynamic
feedback and patient-ventilator interaction... The total system
consists of an Apple II Plus Microcomputer as the controller for a
custom fabricated interface with solenoids, relays, and thumbwheel
switch inputs, positioned between an adult volume ventilator and a
training test lung. This dynamic 'patient' makes up the time-based,
programmable patient-ventilator management trainer. Self-help routines
are incorporated into the software design and are available for
EVALUATION OF INPUT DEVICES FOR 3-D COMPUTER DISPLAY WORKSTATIONS.
Beaton, Robert J.
Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical
Engineering, v 761, 1987, p 94-101
From: True Three-Dimensional Imaging Techniques and Display
Technologies., Los Angeles, CA
This paper reports several results from an on-going research program
designed to examine the utility of alternate input device technologies
for 3-dimensional (3-D) computer display workstations. In this paper,
operator performance levels on a 3-D cursor-positioning task were
compared using three input devices: (1) a trackball that allowed
unrestricted (i. e. , free-space) movements within the display space,
(2) a mouse that provided selectable two-axis (i. e. , plane)
movements, and (3) a set of thumbwheels that provided separate
controls for orthogonal single-axis (i. e. , vector) movements...
Results are discussed in terms of input device selection and general
design considerations for the user interface to 3-D computer
TRACKBALL-INTERFACING TECHNIQUES FOR MICROPROCESSORS.
Andrews, Edward W.
Byte, v 8, n 12, Dec, 1983, p 234-240, 242
The development of a variety of input/output devices is reported that
supplement the keyboard in providing convenient human-to-machine
interfacing. Besides joysticks and pushbuttons the trackball is
considered that gives accurate positioning of the cursor displayed on
the CRT, and at the same time provides outputs readily interfaced with
a microcomputer without elaborate and costly circuitry. General
trackball-interfacing techniques...are presented that can be adapted
easily to any home computer.
DESIGN OF A TRACKBALL CONTROLLER
Proceedings - Graphics Interface, 1984, p 257-264
This paper describes the...operation of a general-purpose graphics
input device that provides a trackball, three knobs, and twenty-five
lighted function buttons. The...device is considerably more
'intelligent' than those found in most commercially-available graphics
input devices. It transmits updates to the host only when necessary,
and there is considerable flexibility in defining what 'necessary'
FROM JOYSTICKS TO TABLETS
Microcomputing, v 8, n 9, Sep, 1984, p 44-48, 50
The operating principles of position entry devices (PED) are explored.
Various interfaces are developed for their interconnection to
microprocessor control circuitry. Joystick, paddle, trackball, mouse
and tablet are introduced and their various applications described...
Cursor control device use by persons with physical disabilities.
Implications for hardware and software design
Casali, Sherry Perdue
From: Proceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Human Factors
Society. Part 1 (of 2), Oct 12-16 1992, Atlanta, GA
Computer technology has the potential to offer individuals with
physical limitations greater levels of independence... Choosing a
cursor control device is particularly important given the growing
popularity of direct-manipulation style interfaces. Twenty persons
with impaired hand and arm function...and 10 nondisabled persons
performed a target acquisition task with five cursor control devices:
a mouse, trackball, cursor keys, joystick, and tablet. Even persons
with profound impairment were able to compensate for their disability
and operate each device by using minor device modifications... the
rank ordering of the five devices with respect to target acquisition
time was the same. The mouse, trackball, and tablet provided better
performance than the keys, which provided better performance than the
Packaging of pointing device for note-book PC with 84/89 keys
Yamada, Satoru (IBM Japan)
From: Proceedings of the 14th IEEE/CHMT Japan International
Electronics Manufacturing Technology (IEMT) Symposium, Jun 9-11 1993
As importance of graphical user interface has increased, there has
been a demand to integrate a pointing device into a notebook PC... In
order to determine what kind of pointing device is suitable for a
notebook PC, two candidate pointing devices were compared. One was a
small trackball and the other was a new pointing device, that is,
TRACKPOINT II... the inventive TRACKPOINT II was selected for the
notebook PC because of its superiority of packaging and usability...
CREWSTATION CONFIGURATION DESIGN FOR GAS PLASMA/TOUCH SURFACE PANEL
INTERFACE WITH AIRCRAFT TACTICAL COMPUTER SYSTEMS.
McKannon, Thomas M
From: Proceedings of the Human Factors Society, v 1, 1984, p 509
The authors investigated optimization of display configuration for
information processing at the non-acoustic sensor operator crewstation
of the U. S. Navy long range maritime patrol airplane (P-3). The scope
of the investigation was limited to three candidate configurations...
Each configuration consisted of four displays and one cursor
control... Data entry was via trackball cursor control and touch
overlay on the ICP displays.
[I'm including this one, even though I'm not certain the reference to
a "roller" is the type of technology you had in mind]
TAPE TIMING CIR
Electronics & Wireless World, v 90, n 1585, Nov, 1984, p 77-79
This circuit was designed as part of a digital tape clock/counter and
can provide the correct 'clock' and 'up/down' signals for several
counter ICs currently on the market. It is...independent of the tape
recorder's own circuitry and the only modification is purely
mechancal, when the 'interface' roller, timing disc and two opto
switches are attached to the deck near the tape path.
Again, if there are any question, just let me know.
Best of luck in your efforts.
search strategy: Searched several limited-access databases for:
interfac* and (thumbwheel OR trackball OR roller OR jog)
Clarification of Answer by
13 May 2004 12:15 PDT
Here are two more references that seem to hit the nail on the head --
devices that communicate electronically, using a rotary-type device as
If these are off-base for any reason, then I'll be happy to continue
searching. Just let me know, and provide any additional details you
can to help me focus my research and find you exactly what you
All the best,
[this describes a remote control communicating with a VCR, and using a
thumbwheel as a control device]
U.S. News & World Report
November 25, 1991
...Easy-to-use remotes. Remote controls studded with 50, 60, even 90
buttons invite confusion. JVC, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Sony and others
are responding sympathetically to the electronically challenged with
VCRs whose remotes are limited to on-off, volume and channel
selection. For consumers who despair of ever correctly programming
their VCRs, Panasonic's $ 50 PV-PG100 LCD Program Director,
uncluttered by buttons, has thumbwheels to program in the time, day
and channel, showing quarter-inch numbers on a liquid crystal display
(the ''LCD" in the model number). Pressing a ''trans" button transmits
the information to the VCR. It works with all Panasonic VCRs made
since 1987 and many models from Quasar, Magnavox and Sylvania made
[These Kidd Alert safety devices communicate with one another, and
again, use a thumbwheel to set parameters]
The Boston Globe
April 5, 1991
Maine inventor helps to keep track of kids
...He developed Kidd Alert a year ago after a scare when his children
disappeared in a department store while their mother was shopping for
...McKay's invention seems to be the first mobile electronic link. It
monitors a "safety zone" of 80 to 100 feet...
...Kidd Alert, which will sell for $ 129, consists of two plastic
clip-on boxes the size of a cigarette pack. The parent wears one, the
child the other.
Each contains a tiny circuit board and a 9-volt battery, the heaviest
part of the device. A thumbwheel on the parent's pack adjusts the
distance at which the alarm is activated. The child's unit has no
...A green monitor light shows the parent that the device is on. If
the battery dies or the child throws away the unit, the alarm
Again, if there's anything you need beyond the material I've provided,
just let me know.