Laptop Inventor Moggridge Dies At 69
British industrial designer Bill Moggridge is credited with creating the first modern laptop computer, popular with the military and NASA
Bill Moggridge, the London-born industrial designer credited with creating the first laptop computer, died on Saturday aged 69 after a battle with cancer.
Moggridge is best known as the creator of the GRiD Compass (pictured), a device which introduced many of the design traits used in modern laptops, including the hinged case, the flat display and the low-profile keyboard. Moggridge said that when he tested the device prototype in 1981, it was the first time he had used a computer.
The impetus for the project came from John Ellenby, the founder of GRiD Systems, according to Moggridge. Ellenby had met a top-level US government official who told of the need for a device with the power of a desktop computer, but which could fit into a briefcase. That became the guiding principle for the Compass project, which GRiD Systems introduced in 1982 for $8,150 (£5,000).
The GRiD Compass was popular with the British and US military, which used it during the 1983 invasion of Grenada, according to The Independent. NASA also took Compass into orbit on Space Shuttle missions.
Moggridge was born in London in 1943 to Henry Moggridge, a civil servant, and Helen Moggridge, an artist. He studied industrial design at the Central St. Martins College of Art and Design in London, where he founded Moggridge and Associates in 1969.
In 1979 he opened a new firm, ID Two, in Palo Alto, California, where he worked with Apple, Microsoft and other companies on experimental projects. In 1991 he merged his firm with those of two other designers to form IDEO, an influential design agency whose products included the Palm V handheld computer.
Throughout his career Moggridge was known for his focus on the human or “empathic” element of product design, something now highly developed by companies such as Apple. Moggridge is said to have pioneered a design process that involved anthropologists and psychologists as well as engineers and designers.
This focus led him to increasingly focus on the design of software and interfaces rather than physical objects, something Moggridge wrote about in his 2006 book Designing Interactions.
Moggridge was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt design museum in 2009, and took over as director of the museum in 2010. He was awarded the Prince Philip Designers Prize in 2010.
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