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Last summer, Microsoft produced a trailer for a faux action thriller, Office 2010: The Movie. The viral campaign, which became a YouTube hit, was designed to promote the latest suite of desktop applications. The film is best-remembered by some for reviving Clippy, the animated paperclip-shaped Microsoft "Office Assistant." About halfway through, a close-up on Clippy's tombstone puts to rest any hopes of a comeback. It's inscribed with the years of his short digital life: 1997-2004.
To savvy Microsoft users, Clippy's grave site evokes memories of other goofy, defunct Office Assistants, the first of which—a yellow dog named Rover—was meant to help users navigate the 1995 software product Microsoft Bob. With the release of Office 97 came others such as Kairu the Dolphin, PowerPup the Dog, The Genius (a caricature of Albert Einstein), Will (a cartoon of Shakespeare), and Bosgrove (a butler).
Many users found them irritating, Clippy especially. "He was a little presumptuous, a little annoying," says Kevan Atteberry, the designer who created him. "People thought, 'I know how to do it. I don't need your help.'"
The 2010 version doesn't include any animated assistants. The dog, the robot, the shape-shifting dot: These characters are long gone. And so, too, is that pesky paperclip.