I don’t know where to begin. The Mac pioneered modern computing with the mouse pointing device. Love it or hate it, the mouse is ubiquitous and we all know how to use it.
The 21st century brought us the iPhone and multi-touch technology to control a computer with mere finger tips. To get all retro and geeky for a moment, there is a way to control your Mac without keyboard, without mouse, without touch pad or touch mouse. But why?
Kids Will Be Kids
Over the holiday weekend my wife and I visited our neighbors down the street. They’re Mac users. They have teenagers. Kids will be kids, right?
As the evening progressed I noticed one of the teenagers hunkered down in a corner of the family room, in front of the family iMac.
Instead of the Mac’s mouse and keyboard, he was slouched in the chair cradling a joystick gamepad device of some kind.
It was big. It was ugly. It was black. It was loaded with buttons. Sacrilege was the first thought that came to my mind. The second was, what’s he playing?
It turns out, he wasn’t playing a game at all.
ControllerMate Controls Your Mac’s Controls
What he was using to control his Mac was some kind of crazy device from the PC world, a hybrid-looking gamepad-cum-joystick controller—without the game. I asked him how he got that device to work with his Mac.
Without looking up or even acknowledging my existence (he is a teenager, right?), he said, “ControllerMate.”
ControllerMate is software which lets your Mac talk to other devices; specifically HID controllers such as joysticks, gamepads, and other controllers, most of which never ever see a Mac on the other end.
While it certainly piqued my interest to see such a gawdy gawd awful device connected to the pristine environment of a 24-inch svelte aluminum iMac, I admit that ControllerMate isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a geek’s tool and a geek’s toy.
But I had to try it out myself.
Mouse Mutants From Bizarroland
Installation was easy (as is uninstallation). Point and click with your mouse. What you get in return is anything but easy but it is point and click.
ControllerMate controls joysticks, gamepads, throttles, keypads, even keyboards and mice, but it’s totally programmable. Totally. Instead of selecting a function and mapping it to a control on the device, ControllerMate gives you little building blocks of functionality to configure a particular device.
You can even redefine the behavior of your Mac’s mouse and keyboard, but that’s not the purpose. The idea is to have ControllerMate control all those crazy devices that kids (geeky teenagers who watch Big Bang Theory on television but don’t laugh) have for their PCs.
Build It Yourself
There are 50 different building blocks that can be strung together and mapped to a device’s button or controller or pad or whatever. The virtual devices include Mouse, Tablet, and Joystick. Blocks include Source, Math, Calculation, Logic, Output, and more.
Literally, with ControllerMate you get to program a device to run on your Mac, either as a game controller, or as a device to replace keyboard and mouse.
But why? Because they can, isn’t the answer that gels with me, but it’s closer to accurate. My neighbor’s son wasn’t playing some crazy game. He was using some crazy controller to run his Mac, doing the pointing and clicking and typing (somewhat) using the device from Bizzaroland.
I gave ControllerMate a try on my Mac. I want my two hours back. Yes, I got it to do some things to a borrowed joystick, but I admit there’s a generation gap at play here. Game controllers, game pads, throttles, and joysticks are vestiges of the past. Look at the Wii. Elegance in motion. Look at games on the iPod touch and iPhone. Elegance in motion. ControllerMate gave me a headache.