Kevan Atteberry, the man behind Microsoft Word’s virtual assistant, had no idea how big Clippy would be today, especially after the growing disdain for the anthropomorphic paperclip throughout the 1990s.
Kevan Atteberry, a children’s author and illustrator, was tasked in the 90s to create characters for the short-lived Microsoft Bob, a software that was designed to help people with their first ever computer experience. Although Microsoft Bob didn’t work out, many of the characters Atteberry designed were repurposed for Microsoft Office, one of those being the infamous paperclip himself, Clippy.
Clippy (or Clippit as he was originally known) was a Microsoft Word assistant, first appearing in versions 1997 through 2003. Clippy came in the form of an animated paper-clip with large soul-less beady eyes who would assist you while you’d type away by asking things like, “it looks like you’re writing a letter, would you like help?”
As a 90s kid, I have many memories of Clippy’s animated antics taking over my screen as I was trying to type up homework or school projects with my classmates. While I appreciated the assistance at first, it wasn’t long until myself, and many others, began to hate the thick-browed paperclip with his basic functions and notorious pop-ups. Eventually, Clippy was even removed from Office altogether when Microsoft Office XP debuted in May, 2001, and once again we were finally free to type to our life’s content without being interrupted every two minutes.
“The disdain for him was just incredible”, Kevan Atteberry explains in the YouTube video, “people just hated that paperclip.”
The hatred for Clippy was so prominent at the time that Atteberry was too embarrassed to include him in his portfolio, but now that’s an entirely different story. Over the years we’ve seen a revival of Clippy, with him being lovingly parodied in famous TV shows and even coming in the form of an ‘Ugly Christmas Sweater’ being made available by Microsoft themselves in 2022.
“I had no idea how big he was going to be,” exclaims Atteberry to Great Big Story, “if I could have seen into the future and realized I would have probably tried to get my contract written differently.”
In the short four and a half minute video, Atteberry’s appreciation for the public’s new love for Clippy definitely is infectious. With a ChatGPT AI-like Clippy soon coming to Windows 11 it’ll be interesting to see if these modern assistive tools will become as beloved as the infamous paperclip.