Today marks the ten-year anniversary of the death of “Clippy”, Microsoft Word’s helpful and beloved cartoon paper clip. It looks like I’m writing a memorial piece, and dear God, would I like some help.
Clippy was born in 1987, the only success in a series of failed experiments to give sentience to various office supplies. He began his life as most paper clips do, working a desk job for little to no money, though soon people began to notice his incredible talent for identifying when people were writing letters, and offering to help.
It didn’t take long for Microsoft to notice this up-and-coming talent, and they soon recruited him as an office assistant for Microsoft Word ’97. This was Clippy’s big break, and he began appearing on monitors nationwide, offering keyboard shortcuts and gentle reminders to save your work. Within just a year, he was far more popular than all of the other office assistants, including Albert Einstein, the Smiley Face, and whatever the fuck that cat’s name was. Scribble I think? I don’t know.
But when you spend enough time under the spotlight, the light starts to expose the darkest parts of you. Fame became a burden that was simply too much for the young Microsoft Word Office Assistant to bear, and Clippy, like so many paper clips and child stars before him, turned to hard drugs: MDMA, PCP, and even HTML.
Despite his incredible popularity, Microsoft was forced to remove Clippy after his addictive habits began to bleed into his work. The computer company received several reports of an intoxicated Clippy lashing out at clients, calling their letters to loved ones “fucking pointless” and making less-than-helpful editorial comments, such as “this is the worst poetry I’ve ever seen”.
Clippy’s removal was the final step in his descent into madness, as the former assistant became nothing but a disheveled mess, fodder for the Hollywood tabloids. He wandered the streets of Hollywood, barely coherent, sometimes mumbling completely in Wingdings. He finally died alone, unable to hold a job, a relationship, or even a stack of papers together.
Despite his sad departure from this world, Clippy’s legacy remains as strong as ever. Every time we need help with Microsoft Office’s confusing fucking updates, every time they change the word processor’s entire layout just when we were getting used to the old one, every time we have to type a keyword into a cold, dead help section that doesn’t even have googly eyes — we think of you.
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