I'm not easily scandalized, but I may have let out a little gasp today when I learned that Clippy, the hated-slash-beloved Microsoft Office mascot and unhelpful assistant, was not created on a Windows 95-running PC deep in the bowels of Microsoft. He was created on a Mac. Mon dieu!
This revelation is one of a few anecdotes in a short, charming video recently published on YouTube by Great Big Story, featuring an interview with Clippy creator Kevan Atteberry. Atteberry is now a children's book illustrator, but back in the '90s he ran a graphic design company and ended up designing characters for Microsoft's 1995 flop Microsoft Bob.
Clippy was one of some 20 characters Atteberry designed for Office after Bob flopped, many of them similarly based on everyday office objects. He first drew "hundreds of sketches" of the characters on paper, before creating digital versions of his drawings on a Mac. Clippy very well could've been passed up for an anthropomorphic pencil or a stapler, but apparently the paperclip resonated best with focus tests that Microsoft performed at Stanford University.
"There were people there that were not happy that Clippy kept making it through every level," Atteberry said.
He described doing design work for Microsoft as "a really great time" in his life, but it wasn't until a couple years later that Clippy would actually ship with the 1997 version of Microsoft Office. And that was when Atteberry found out that everybody hated Clippy. "Everywhere you turned, people just hated that paperclip," he said. "His functionality was just too basic and annoying for most people. I would never include Clippy in my portfolio because I was so embarrassed of him."
Atteberry's relationship with Clippy has a happy ending, though. After the anger peaked and Clippy stopped being part of the everyday Windows experience, he stopped being ashamed. "Honestly, Clippy has opened so many doors for me over the years. People are very receptive to it. And nobody hates Clippy now."
We've said it before, and we'll say it again now: Clippy did nothing wrong. Even if he was born on a Mac.