RIP Bill Moggridge, design father of the laptop

William Moggridge, designer of the modern laptop
Wiliam "Bill" Moggridge is the man responsible for designing the folding screen and clamshell design of the modern laptop.

The pioneering industrial designer passed away last weekend at the age of 69.

Moggridge invented the notion of (and coined the term) interaction design—the idea that software and hardware and other products should be designed to satisfy people’s needs and desires.

He also co-founded the renowned interactive design firm IDEO, which continues to champion human-centered design. “If there’s a simple, easy principle that binds everything together,” Moggridge says, “it’s probably about starting with the people.”

Background

In 1979, Moggridge began designing the Grid Compass for a startup firm called Grid Systems. It is widely considered to be the first real laptop.

Early “portable” computers were 26-pound sewing machine-sized beasts. The Grid Compass, however, was truly a breakthrough in mobile computing, with a 12-pound weight and unique fold-over display that made the device more compact. NASA and the military were the primary users of these $8,150 laptops. (With its magnesium case, the durable Grid Compass even made it into space!)

Grid Compass
Laptops have been shrinking incredibly since the Grid Compass was released in 1982 but, in the three decades since then, the basic form hasn’t changed very much from Moggridge’s original conception. That’s the sign of a true design genius.

Awards

Moggridge won the United Kingdom’s oldest design award, the Prince Philip Designers Prize, in 2010 for the Grid Compass. He was also named a Royal Designer for Industry and won the 2009 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement.

From 2010 until his death from cancer on September 8, 2012, the British designer was the director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. The museum says Moggridge “enhanced its profile as one of the world’s leading authorities on the role of design in everyday life and develop and present exhibitions—both real and virtual.”

Described as tenacious, open, and empathetic by those who knew him, Bill Moggridge will long be remembered as a trailblazing designer and the father of the modern laptop.

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For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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