I will always remember the day I invented paperclips. It was a cold winter’s evening back in January 1867. I’d collected numeroussheets of paper and simply couldn’t find a piece of ribbon to tie them together, nor something that didn’t make the paper buckle and twist.
I did, however, have a lovely green pipe cleaner to hand, and for some reason I decided to bend it into an odd looking “loop”shape. This I then slipped over the bundle of papers to create what I believed was the world’s first paper clip. I mused that with such an invention I could live for the rest of my life off the free drinks alone…or so I thought.
In 1868 I was reading the US patents office annual report in the volume of patents. It’s a vast book of 14 volumes but it does give a brief note on each patent. I would only recommend this if you have trouble resting and/or sleeping as it’s wonderfully dry and lacking in interest or usefulness. However this year there was an entry from Samuel Fay which made me sick with anger and rage.
The tick-fasten –Intended primarily for attaching tickets to fabric
It was just disgusting. Here was my design used by an American for purposes I couldn’t believe were necessary…well apart from in a cloakroom. Not the usefulness of holding paper together. I had no choice but to try and find a new clip with which to win this paper war.
In 1869 I met with Mr C Thomas and Mr D Artfield of The Gem Manufacturing Company to discuss a new design of my clip. One made of metal; one which would have no other use than to hold papers together.
In 1871 we launched the Gem Paper-Fastener which I designed and Gem were kind enough to manufacture. It was an instant success with lords and ladies clambering to buy the fastener to keep letters and important papers together. William Shelly even dedicated a performance of his poems in London to paper fasteners and Queen Victoria convinced Albert to buy hundreds, despite his having died 10 years earlier. My legacy was one of which I was very proud, until another shock came, again from an American, this time from a company based in Redmond, West Virginia.
1998 saw the launch of something called Windows ’98, which I still believe is used today, some 16 years after its launch, in many a government office. Anyway, along with this “windows”came a new version of an office. An office into which you could type and add things up on via something called a computer. Clearly being so new it needed to be able to help people add and spell. So they took my idea of the paper fastener and came up with the abomination, Clippy.
I took Microsoft to court for copyright infringement (and abuse of stupidity) and eventually got them to stop using Clippy in 2004 but the damage was done. Paperclips had become a laughing stock and sales declined to record lows. It got to the point where people would join paper together and laugh expecting the clip to ask “It looks like you’re writing a letter. Would you like help?”
It was a dark time for me. I am just thankful to Norway for making the paperclip it’s national symbol and Oslo for erecting a 7 meter high paperclip on the campus of a commercial college. I now live in Ekebergparken, where I have free access to international art galleries, as well as museums, restaurants, and a panoramic view of the city. www.visitnorway.com/