Like the shipping pallet to global trade, so the paperclip to the modern office: one of mankind's great, underappreciated, workhorse designs, a triumph of utility and economy.
When the now-ubiquitous 'Gem' clip design appeared in the 1890s, it was just the latest in a litter of twisted-metal paper-clasping solutions – ranging from the mere fiddly and insufficiently secure, to the paper-shreddingly useless.
The Gem won out with its superior design, and the paperclip hasn't changed since – not for more than 100 years.
As attempts to improve on the clip have failed – typically too bulky, expensive, or prone to tearing pages – the Gem's elegant design is proving perhaps the most economical use possible of four inches of steel that can do the job without compromise.
The clip’s near-infinite variety of secondary uses – lock-picking, SIM-card releasing, idle cuticle-cleaning – may go some way to explaining why the US alone chews through 11 billion a year, more than 35 per person. Technological innovation steams on, but a paper-clip-less office remains hard to imagine.