Some twenty-five years before Mousenet starts, mice “wouldn’t have recognized a computer if it bit them in the foot.” I suspect they were always smart, but until they acquired language, who could tell? The breakthrough came in Silicon Valley, California, when hundreds of computer companies were just starting up:
“These companies were different. The people who worked there were young guys who wore jeans instead of suits, and often ate food at their desks. Some of them didn’t mind the fact that their leftover food attracted mice. Some of them even let the mice watch them work, day after day, week after week, month after month.
“And that’s all it took. After months of watching, the mouse minds sprang to life, recognizing first one word on a screen, then another, then more, until in time these first mice learned to read and write well enough to use computers themselves. They taught their friends, who taught their friends, and soon mice throughout the world had their own version of the Internet, carefully protected by passwords from prying human eyes. Now mice could e-mail each other, and write their opinions in mouse blogs, and post news about themselves on MouseBook, and check facts in Whiskerpedia, and take on-line course on nutrition and safety and human behavior and world events.”
But using human computers was a pain, and the hunt was on for a computer their size. . .