Boring objects. #1. The paperclip.

To many people, nowadays, the paperclip is a tool for removing a SIM card or ejecting a CD from an old slot drive.

But it’s actually the solution to a clerical problem that had irritated people for hundreds of years.

Since the dawn of the printed document, there was a need to join paper together, temporarily.

The normal way of doing this was cutting tiny slits in the top left hand corner of each sheet of paper, through which ribbon was threaded, like a shoe lace.

Unsurprisingly, this led to paper getting ripped and secretaries getting cross.

The ribbon’s replacement was accidental.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, an American called John Ireland Howe designed a machine to mass produced sewing needles.

As well as delighting those darning socks and shortening trouser-legs, an unlikely customer was the legal profession.

Now, clerks began to advocate pinning documents together.

But puncturing paper still damaged it.

Norwegian inventor Johan Vaaler was bound to crack this age-old problem and he did this drawing on his degrees in engineering, science and mathematics.

His patented ‘paper clip’ was a bent piece of thin steel wire, with perforations along its length.

The bent metal loop kept pages in order, whereas the perforations allowed the clip to be pressed and bent into the paper itself, holding the document together.

A description that oversimplifies the invention’s brilliance.

Modern paperclips are cheap, bog-standard copies and known as ‘Gem’ paperclips, after the name of the English company that began bashing them out over a century ago.

--

--

--

I turn fluff into concrete. I help businesses communicate the most complicated things clearly and simply.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

What did slaves in the United States do after Emancipation?

Eavesdropping on the Bolsheviks in Surrey

Chocolate:The gift of the gods Chocolate, conceived today as a delectable bar with mighty…

Characterizing Rather Than Defining: Taking a look on the Indigenous People of the Philippines

On what it means to lose the people that remember history

On Pilgrimage in an Age of Violence

How did the fork get its name and Where does the word “fork” come from?

Pythias, The Greek who discovered British Island

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Philip Morley

Philip Morley

I turn fluff into concrete. I help businesses communicate the most complicated things clearly and simply.

More from Medium

Task It! A task tracking app for your daily routine

How Ride-Sharing Apps Changed Local Transport

Increasing Your Office Productivity With Streamlined Android Apps — The 3 Best Solutions — Just…

WM Questionnaire Part-7 Storage Unit Management