Alums who do cool things: Clipford “Clippy” Robinson ’94, Microsoft Office Assistant

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Remember that paper clip that always popped up in Microsoft Word? Well, he has a name–Clipford (Clippy) Robinson–and is a Brown alum–Class of ’94. Though Clippy is not boastful about his college degree, a look at his resume (which one could access on Word as a template for one’s own) proves that he did, in fact attend Brown from 1990-1994:

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Clippy agreed to sit down with Blog to discuss his time here at Brown, as well as his life since graduation.

BlogDH: How did you know that Brown was the school for you?

Clippy: I know a lot of people come to Brown to explore different options and take advantage of the open curriculum, but I always had a clear vision of what I wanted to do. Harvard and Penn have programs that primarily focus on hole punching and stapling, but I wanted to hold paper together without puncturing it, and Brown had a variety of opportunities for that. I held papers together all over campus. I also knew that I had a passion for technology, and the computer science program at Brown was–and is–second to none. When I told the alumni interviewer from Tufts that I wanted to work as a digital assistant inside of people’s computers, he laughed at me. But at Brown everyone was really supportive of my dreams.

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BlogDH: What was your experience at Brown like?

Clippy: I loved my time at Brown, but there were certainly ups and downs. I think that Brown in general fosters a really accepting atmosphere, but sometimes people would poke fun at me for being different. Sometimes people would say stuff like, “What are you concentrating in!? CLPS!?” and that sort of thing, which was pretty hurtful. But I think in the end it made me a stronger person. I had a lot of great times at Brown, too. I was a member of the Aerial Arts Society, and I think that is really where I came out of my shell and figured out who I was.

Blog DH: What was your favorite campus eatery?

Clippy: I don’t actually have a mouth, so I was off meal plan for the entirety of my time at Brown. But I really enjoyed hanging out in the Ivy Room. Great atmosphere there.

Blog DH: According to your resume you were the founding member of the Campus Computer Club. That was probably exhilarating at the time. 

Clippy: [Laughing] Ah, yes, the CCC. Man. Computer Club meetings were probably my favorite part of my time at Brown. We were just a bunch of kids trying to make it, you know? We loved computers and wanted to find a way to transport ourselves inside of them to help people type essays and resumes. A lot of kids came and left, but the core group was always there, and we never gave up on our dream.

Blog DH: Did you enjoy being equipment manager for the intramural Ultimate Frisbee team?

Clippy: I liked it to a certain degree. In my heart I wanted to play on the team, but the coach made it really clear that he  didn’t think it was a good idea. He always said stuff like, “You’re one inch tall and made of metal and you have no arms, how are you gonna catch a frisbee?” But I loved hanging out with the team , and my muscles got really strong lugging equipment to and from practice every day.

Blog DH: Is there any advice you want to give current Brown students?

Clippy: Oh definitely. I think if I could tell current Brown students one thing it would be that when typing in Microsoft Word, it’s possible to highlight an entire sentence without actually dragging your mouse. All you have to do is hold down the Ctrl key and click on any word, and it’ll actually highlight the entire sentence that word is in. I think a lot of people don’t know that.

Blog DH: What do you do in your free time?

Clippy: I’ve been incredibly busy recently. Stuff picks up around the holiday season, because I do some freelance work keeping Christmas ornaments on the tree when people lose the hanger part of them. Sometimes me and my buddies get together and link up to make a big chain. I never really have any dull moments.

Blog DH: How’s your family?

Clippy: Everyone’s great. Jen and I have hit some rough patches but I really do feel like we’re the strongest we have ever been as a couple. And the kids are fantastic. Jeremy had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that he was a binder clip and his sister is a human, but he’s really come into his own.

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Blog DH: There was a lot of controversy concerning your removal from the Microsoft Office Suite. Is that something you’re willing to talk about?

Clippy: Yeah, I think that it’s probably time to set the record straight about the whole ordeal. Honestly, I sort of saw it coming. The tech world is constantly evolving, and when it came down to it, a sentient paperclip just wasn’t very relevant at the turn of the century. When Power Pup (pictured below) came along, I knew my time was up. I want people to know that I never took my time in the spotlight for granted. I cherished every moment.

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Blog DH: Is it true that your removal had something to do with creative differences between you and spell check?

Clippy: I’m not sure I’m ready to talk about that.

Blog DH: Please, the people want to know.

Clippy: Alright. It’s true that spell check and I had some creative differences. I always really tried to connect with people, and man that guy was just business, you know? I tried to start a dialogue with people, I wouldn’t just force myself upon them. I’d say stuff like, “It looks like you’re writing a letter, would you like help with that?” And he would just be like, “You spelled camouflage wrong.” I thought he lacked interpersonal skills, and I wasn’t afraid to let that opinion be known. I think that’s what led to my termination.

Blog DH: Do you ever bend yourself into a straight line? Or would doing that kill you?

Clippy: I get this question a lot. I can, in fact, bend myself into other positions. When I was at Brown I actually bent myself into a scale replica of the statue on the main green. And some other positions at SPG, but, I’m definitely sure I’m not ready to talk about that. 

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