90s Microsoft Nostalgia: Clippy

90s Microsoft Nostalgia: Clippy

 

Is there any figure of the 1990s more reviled and beloved than Clippy? You either love Clippy or you hate him with the fiery heat of a million suns. I hadn't thought of Clippy in years, until I ran across this great post on the BlogHer network. 
 
A woman and her son are saddened to find that their newest version of Office does not contain Clippy. They are able to track down the designer, and send him some fan mail. He agrees to a blog interview, and I was completely blown away. I was always a Clippy hater, but I had never really paid any thought to his designer.

 
Turns out Clippy was the creation of a real live human being, with thoughts and feelings just like you and me. Kevan Atteberry is a designer and illustrator living in Seattle who doodles monsters in his free time. And he has a remarkably good sense of humor about his most famous creation, the paperclip who just wants to help.
 
Clippy was one of the few bits of debris that washed up after the catastrophic shipwreck that was Microsoft Bob. (Another bit of shipwreck was the Comic Sans font face, so obviously nothing good ever came of Bob.) Bob was going to be a revolutionary way to interact with your computer, but all it did was annoy and frustrate people. Bob took the metaphor of the desktop too far, way beyond the point of being useful.
 
And in its wake, it left behind Clippy.
 
The author of the blog post loves Clippy because she feels like he keeps her company as she bangs away at the keyboard all alone at home. I can empathize because I'm in the same situation. And although it's tempting to look down on Clippy-lovers as technological newbs, one of my Clippy-loving friends is an IT manager who went out of his way to download a Clippy analog after Clippy was purged from Microsoft products in the early 2000s.
 
I can't even really put my finger on why Clippy rubbed me the wrong way. After all, I got suckered into installing and playing with a MOPY fish for about eight months during Clippy's heyday. And MOPY fish was basically just a Clippy that needed to be fed and cared for (by printing documents). 
 
Looking back on it now, Clippy wasn't really all that bad. I think part of Clippy's problem is that he bore the brunt of the misdirected rage of a million unhappy office workers. Sure you might hate your boss, but it was a lot easier to hate Clippy!