It is a sad thing that great personalities only ever receive the attention and credit they deserve when they die, but William Grant Moggridge once again proves that unfortunate tendency of humankind.
Some may not even know who William Grant “Bill” Moggridge is, but that does not take away from the fact that he was one of the most important pioneers of the personal computer.
We say this for a simple reason: he invented the laptop, and not just the idea of folding the screen over the keyboard, but the first human-interactive software too.
Bill Moggridge created a computer with the screen folded over the keyboard back in 1981-1982, for GRiD Systems. It was called GRiD Compass.
That computer ended up flying into space and, eventually, giving birth to the “clamshell” laptops of today, but only after Moggridge himself got fed up with how difficult to use it was.
After going through enough exasperation, the man gathered experts from fields like psychology and graphics design, so as to “build empathy for the consumer into the product,” in the words of Professor David Kelly, with whose design firm Moggridge eventually merged his own.
The joint venture was called Ideo (established in 1991) and worked with Microsoft, Proctor & Gamble, Apple, etc. The first Macintosh mouse and Palm V handheld were just “side-effects.”
Speaking of which, Bill was, most recently, the fourth director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. It was the culmination of a career divided into three phases: “first, as a designer; second, as a leader of design teams; and third, as a communicator.”
Eulogy aside, William Moggridge, whose life expired on September 8, 2012, is the reason we have laptops and, for that matter, the reason everyone can use them as well. We only wish he would have died of old age, if he had to die at all, instead of cancer. Our hearts go to his wife of 47 years, Karin, and two sons, Alex and Erik.