Bill Moggridge Dead At 69: How The Inventor Of The First Laptop Changed Computers Forever

on September 10 2012 3:58 PM
Bill Moggridge Dead At 69: How The Inventor Of The First Laptop Changed Computers Forever
Bill Moggridge, inventor and designer of the first laptop, died on Sept. 8, 2012. He was killed by cancer at the age of 69, according to an announcement by the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, where he worked as director. Wikipedia

Bill Moggridge, inventor and designer of the first laptop, died on Sept. 8, 2012. He died from cancer at the age of 69, according to an announcement by the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, where he worked as director.

Moggridge designed the first clamshell-style laptop computer and was the co-founder of design firm IDEO.

"Bill pioneered interaction design and integrated human factors into the design of computer software and hardware," read his tribute on the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt website.

Moggridge is most famous for designing the Grid Compass computer back in 1982, which was the first iteration of what has come to be known as the laptop. He won the United Kingdom honor of the Prince Philip Designers Prize as recent as 2010, which recognizes outstanding computer design.

"It's also worth noting the obvious-that 28 years later, the thinnest, fastest and most overall advanced components in the world are still inside Moggridge's basic clamshell form factor," wrote Sam Biddle of Gizmodo following Moggridge's award. "Great design doesn't just work well-it sticks around."

Portable computers had been crafted before Moggridge's Grid Compass, but none had stuck quite as well as his 1982 creation. Moggridge himself designed a computer the size of a sewing machine before building the Grid Compass, but the computer was never built, according to the New York Times.

Moggridge was given the opportunity to work with Grid after an encounter with its founder, engineer John Ellenby. The company founder was sitting on Moggridge's neighbor's steps waiting for his neighbor to come home when he met Moggridge.

Looking back at Moggridge's design may seem clunky and thick for the year 2012, but it still features the same form factor present in today's models. Soon after its release, the design was adapted by the military and the NASA in the 1980s. The Grid Compass sold for $8,150 when it debuted in 1982, according to the Associated Press.

The laptop computer was not only a pioneer in the computer industry, but in a general sense as well. Moggridge's computer took a journey to outer space on board the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985, according to the AP.

"I had the experience of a lifetime developing a design that was innovative in so many ways," Moggridge wrote in his book 'Designing Interactions,' which was published in 2006. "I developed the way that the screen was hinged to fold down over the keyboard for carrying. This geometry accounted for only one of the 43 innovative features in the utility patent that we were awarded."

His innovation and talent had been celebrated by those around him from the 1980s throughout the modern era.

"Beloved by the museum staff and the design community at large, Bill touched the lives of so many through his wise council, boundary-pushing ideas and cheerful camaraderie," Caroline Baumann, associate director of the museum, said in a statement to the AP.

Moggridge is survived by his wife of 47 years, Karin, and two sons Alex and Erik.

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