Objects, like books, keys, cars, retain their name, but as the eras move forward, the objects improve. Not so for the paper clip: the little gizmo is over 100 years old and was so perfectly conceived, it looks now the same way it looked like then.
In the years since, the Gem clip has faced competitors offering notches, points, and eyes, but it is still the best-selling form of paper clip. Many of these other paper clips improve on aspects of the Gem clip, but they also raise new problems. Ridged clips, first patented in 1921, grip paper more strongly, but also are more inclined to tear it. Clips with a bent-up lip are easier to slip on, but they make stacks bulky. Other competitors address problems that -- frankly -- aren't that problematic. A "time-saving" clip patented in 1992 has two loops on either end, but the time lost by office workers locating the correct end of the clip doesn't seem to be keeping anyone up nights. And the Gothic clip, patented in 1933, has a pointed inner loop and longer "legs" than the Gem clip, making it less likely to bend and tear paper. It is used by some libraries and archives, and it is in many ways a genuine improvement on the Gem shape, but for most of us, the occasional rip or indent in that top sheet of that stack of invoices just isn't that important. Sometimes, the best design is the one that is -- like the Gem -- just good enough.
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