PROTIP: Press 'i' to view the image gallery, 'v' to view the video gallery, or 'r' to view a random entry.
Clippit, better known as Clippy, is the default animated character in the English Windows version of Microsoft Office Assistant, an interactive user’s guide that came pre-installed with Microsoft Office bundles from 1997-2003. Due to its impractical and intrusive nature, Clippy quickly became a subject of mockery among Office users, inspiring a series of satirical images and parodies addressing its overall incompetence.
Clippy, a paperclip with googly eyes and expressive eyebrows, was designed by Kevan J. Atteberry to serve as a user-friendly troubleshooter for people using Office applications including Word and Excel. For instance, typing an address followed by “Dear” would cause Clippy to pop up with and a variety of pre-determined messages, including “Hey! It looks like you’re writing a letter!” before offering to help walk you through the process.
While Clippy was intended to be helpful, it was widely regarded as a failure by many users, developers and tech reviewers alike. By the following year, Microsoft product managers who knew Office Assistant had failed publicly “executed” Clippy at the Professional Developers Conference held in Denver, demonstrating how to get rid of it using a Visual Basic code. Upon execution, the paper clip said, “I’m melting, I’m melting” and then disappeared. In July 2000, it was first parodied on the webcomic User Friendly.
To prepare for the launch of Windows XP in May 2001, Microsoft announced that Clippy would no longer be needed since the new operating system would be so easy to use. They launched a campaign with actor Gilbert Gottfried as the voice of the paperclip, allowing people to vote on Clippy’s next career choice as well as a song titled “It Looks Like You’re Writing a Letter.” The campaign was covered on Cnet and the Guardian. Over the next several years, angry threads about Clippy appeared on a variety of message boards including the Straight Dope, the Open Office Forum and the official Linux forums. In 2003, a Stanford student named Luke Swartz completed an honors thesis on why people hated Clippy, finding that its joking behavior greatly affected people’s perception of it. The following year, Clippy began appearing on YTMND with the first instance earning nearly 4000 views.
In 2009, tech blog Technologizer compiled a history of Clippy, including older versions of the office assistant that were patented but never hit the public. Thirteen years after its original release, TIME declared Clippy one of the 50 worst inventions of all time.
Return of Clippy
Microsoft News Center – Farewell Clippy: What’s Happening to the Infamous Office Assistant in Office XP
The Straight Dope – If that motherf****ing PAPERCLIP FROM HELL pops up one more time…