Wednesday, June 03, 2009

History of the paperclip has a picture history of the paperclip. Somewhat surprisingly, the most successful paperclip design, created in the 1890-s, was never patented.

Today's equivalent of the paperclip would be an e-mail attachment protocol that binds together the text of the message and the file attached. Given how many times people forget their attachments while sending e-mail, the modern "paperclip" is not as good at providing visual clues of its function as the old one. That is, it's easy to forget to attach a file and not to spot the mistake, while it's almost impossible to forget a paper attachment without realizing that the paperclip is missing.

Speaking of visualizations, Google's Timeline search option helps quickly identify relevant time frames for history-related searches. On the graph below, the first spike shows inventions for the original paperclips; the second - WWII operation "Paperclip"; the third - stories about a dude that managed to trade a paperclip for a house.
To me, the picture also tells a story of how over time an object (paperclip) evolves into a metaphor ("cheap as a paperclip").

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