The man behind Microsoft's Clippy shares its backstory

Kevan Atteberry, the man behind Microsoft's much mocked anthropomorphic paperclip assistant, Clippy, never anticipated the notoriety his creation would achieve. A children's book writer and illustrator, Atteberry operated a graphic design company in the 1990s when he landed a contract with Microsoft.

In this Great Big Story video profile, we learn his task was to create characters for Microsoft Bob, a software designed to assist first-time computer users. The project failed, but the concept of assistive characters carried over to Microsoft Office, resulting in an exhaustive process that saw the creation of 260 designs narrowed down to 10 characters, including Clippy (aka Clippit).

Love it or hate it, Atteberry's simple paperclip stood out from the rest. Social psychologists at Stanford University even studied these characters to find out which was the most likable and trustworthy. Clippy ended up being the favorite and became the go-to helper in Microsoft Office.

The video also talks about how Clippy wasn't always popular. Many users found him annoying and wanted to turn him off. But, Atteberry looks back fondly on the experience, noting that Clippy has opened up many opportunities for him.(Neatorama)